The Blog Aquatic » wildlife photography http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Photographer Joshua Cripps Shares His Tips for Capturing the Ocean on Film http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/26/photography-tips-joshua-cripps/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/26/photography-tips-joshua-cripps/#comments Fri, 26 Jul 2013 23:15:59 +0000 Lauren Malkani http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6288 photographer capturing the ocean

Credit: Juan Ramon Rodriguez Sosa via Flickr

Photographer Joshua Cripps, winner of Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 Marine Life and Seascape Photo Contest, explains why the ocean makes for dynamic images, how to take better photos and why photography can help save the planet:

What attracted you to photography?

After college, I did a lot of traveling, and my experiences as I journeyed from country to country opened up my eyes to the incredible beauty and magic in the world. But my ability to convey my sense of awe and wonder to my friends and family back home was sadly lacking, and I began to yearn for a better way to share the world as I saw it.

Thus the seed of photography was planted. But it wasn’t until a year or so later, when I got my first digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, that the seed began to sprout. After that, all hope was lost: like a rampant vine, my love of photography grew and grew until it pretty much took over my life.

What do you value most in a photo?

What I value most in a photo is a good story, especially a story of a place I haven’t seen or heard of before. When I see a photo, I want to feel compelled to find out more about what’s happening in the image, where it was taken, how it came to be and what it makes me think about. A good photo should provoke something in the viewer.

What tips do you have for budding photographers?

  • Take a lot of photos. Shoot until you can’t shoot anymore, and then shoot more. Shoot anything and everything that catches your fancy, but always ask yourself why you are taking that photo.
  • Find photos you love. Then figure out why you love them. What are the technical, compositional and processing techniques the photographer used to get you to feel the way you do? Break them down piece-by-piece and figure out why they work.
  • Find photos you don’t like. Then figure out why. Where is the photographer failing? Why don’t these photos work? Join critique groups and ask other photographers to offer you suggestions.
  • Take as many workshops as you can afford. There is no single better or faster way to become a better photographer than by learning from photographers who are more experienced and can help steer you in the right direction for your art.

What attracts you to the ocean as a photographic subject?

Simply put, the ocean is the most dynamic landscape I can think of. It changes from month to month, day to day and even second to second. I’ve been to beaches where within a single 24-hour period, hundreds of tons of sand have been scooped from one end of the beach and deposited on the other, exposing certain rocks and burying others.

When shooting waves, a mere half-second pause between photos can create images of startling difference. The ocean is a place where all aspects of photography come together to create some of the most fun and dynamic image-making I’ve experienced.

Do you think photography can help raise awareness about ocean issues?

Absolutely. There’s no other form of media that has the instantaneous impact of a photo. A photo can be taken in at a glance but can tell a story with a richness and eloquence that words can’t match. Photos help people understand our planet and our ocean and the state they’re in.

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Starfish Galaxies: Joshua Cripps Shares the Story Behind His Award-Winning Photo http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/01/starfish-galaxies-joshua-cripps-shares-the-story-behind-his-award-winning-photo/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/01/starfish-galaxies-joshua-cripps-shares-the-story-behind-his-award-winning-photo/#comments Mon, 01 Jul 2013 18:00:02 +0000 Lauren Malkani http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6225 Motukiekie Galaxies

Credit: Joshua Cripps

During Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 Marine Life and Seascape Photo Contest, we received over 600 entries, showcasing everything from sea turtles to sharks to seashells. Though there were plenty of amazing photographs, only one could be our grand-prize winner.

Photographer Joshua Cripps shares with us the story behind his award-winning photo, “Motukiekie Galaxies”:

What’s the story behind this photo?

I took this photo at Motukiekie Beach on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand during a month-long photography expedition. It’s a remarkable beach full of tide pools, mirror-like sand, massive tidal swings and intriguing sea stacks and caves.

What made you take the photo?

I have a sometimes-dangerous habit of being too curious: “Hmm, what’s just over that cliff?” “Can I jump down into this canyon?” In this case I saw some tide pools right at the water’s edge and wanted to go investigate them, despite the fact that the water was rising quickly and I knew I’d probably get soaked by going out there.

But once I rock-hopped out to the tidal pools, I found hundreds of these 12-legged sea stars clinging to the rocks. That amazing sight, along with the beautiful sea stacks farther out to sea and the moody conditions at the time, left me with no question that I was going to take a photo.

Was it difficult to shoot?

Yes and no. Shooting in the tidal zone is always challenging. You run the risk of being splashed by waves (which isn’t particularly good for your equipment), slipping on wet rocks or having a sneaky wave take you out completely. And yes, all three have happened to me numerous times.

But those experiences have made me more careful and confident in my abilities while shooting the ocean. And thankfully, in this spot the waves were fairly small, especially after being broken up coming through the rocks. So in this case the only real difficulty in getting the shot was dealing with wet feet as the tide rose.

How did you feel being there and taking the photo?

Like I’d found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. From my prior scouting, I knew how much potential this beach had for good photography, but I didn’t know exactly what I’d find when I hopped out toward these particular rocks.

When I saw the hundreds of starfish clinging to the rocks, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Those sea stars—which, being from California, I found incredibly exotic—along with the stormy conditions of the day made me want to create as surreal and alien a photo as I could, so I used some long exposures to render the incoming waves as mist. And when the images on the back of my camera started to match my vision of the scene, it was an incredibly validating and rewarding feeling.

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5 Questions with Underwater Photographer Feo Pitcairn http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/25/5-questions-with-underwater-photographer-feo-pitcairn/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/25/5-questions-with-underwater-photographer-feo-pitcairn/#comments Sat, 25 Aug 2012 17:24:30 +0000 Sarah van Schagen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2421

© Feo Pitcairn

Much has changed since a teenaged Feo Pitcairn took his first wildlife photographs and developed them in his parent’s cellar.

For one thing, he’s no longer using that darkroom; his equipment now includes high-definition digital cameras that produce images with up to 40 million pixels.

His work has been showcased at the Smithsonian, on PBS and in countless books, magazines and calendars. And his film “Ocean Voyagers,” narrated by Meryl Streep, has been converted to 3-D and nominated for an award at the upcoming BLUE Ocean Film Festival.

Most recently, he’s transitioned from natural-history filmmaking back to his first love, still photography, and he’s launching an online gallery to share his work with the world.

A former Ocean Conservancy board member and long-time supporter of the organization, Feo has also witnessed a great deal of change in the health of our ocean during his many years as a photographer. He shares his experiences and insights—as well as a slideshow of beautiful ocean images—after the jump.

How did you get started with photography?

I was taking mainly nature photographs. I got to go to Africa in the summer of 1951. And that was one of those trips that left an indelible mark on me. It was the first time that I had gone into a natural landscape and witnessed wildlife roaming around in a natural landscape, and it was just such a compelling experience for me.

We were with knowledgeable people out in these wildlife preserves, and I started to learn about ecological systems. They explained how everything that we were looking at had a relationship, and that was a very exciting concept to me. I think to some extent that early experience influenced me in terms of what I try to do photographically.

If a photo is worth 1,000 words, what kind of stories do you aim to tell with your imagery?

Feo PitcairnMy aesthetic response to landscapes and seascapes has generally been taking the wider view … This is a complex ecosystem, and you’ve got to have a full picture of the whole. That’s kind of the science-oriented idea of it.

You may not fully understand how it works, but there’s something that you intuitively recognize when you’re in an untouched ecosystem that’s working. It’s just so beautiful. You just have this sense of wholeness and completeness.

I’ve always felt that for anything worth doing, something in the heart has to be stirred. This is what I try to convey to others so that we can start using our minds to do something to protect these special places.

Have you traveled to and photographed places that haven’t been properly protected?

It’s interesting … When we were working on an exhibit for the Smithsonian’s Sant Ocean Hall, the committee that I was working with expressed the concern that maybe I was portraying the ocean as too beautiful. And my response to that was, well, no, I have not photographed old tires extensively underwater.

But we need to inspire people with what the ocean can be. So my focus has always been on that small percentage of the ocean where these beautiful, fragile places still exist.

I think it’s useful to show the harm and show the contrast, but I leave the photographing of old tires to others.

Do you have a favorite place to photograph?

I love photographing the ocean both topside and underwater, but the kelp forest environment to me is an amazing place. Fortunately, we as U.S. citizens are the beneficiaries of really wonderful kelp forests along our coasts.

That’s an environment I really love. It feels so three-dimensional. It’s kind of like walking through a forest, but in this case, of course, the forest doesn’t have any gravity so you can move through it any way you want. You can go up; you can go down; and around every corner of kelp, there are new discoveries.

It’s such a rich ecosystem that’s full of life. That is, at least, in places where the kelp forests have had some degree of protection, where they haven’t been overfished.

As you think of your full body of work and what’s to come, what do you hope is the legacy you leave?

I feel mission-oriented … I want to capture these places. As you know, the world is changing quickly, and sometimes I worry that maybe there are already some things in our photo library that are like dinosaurs, that don’t exist anymore. It’s a terrible feeling, but it’s also an important record.

With this new fine arts site, I’m thinking even more selectively about what I want to achieve. If you have an image that is really going to be lasting, it needs to resonate with what I might describe as the human spirit. It’s not only compositionally pleasing, but in the final analysis, it’s something that has meaning.

Kelp forest, Ship Rock, Catalina Island, California Kelp forest, Ship Rock, Catalina Island, California Kelp forest, Ship Rock, Catalina Island, California Granite Point, Point Lobos, California Point Lobos, California Sally Lightfoot crab, Fernandina Island, Point Espinoza, Galapagos Misool, Raja Ampat, Indonesia Misool, Raja Ampat, Indonesia Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska Pedersen Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska Pedersen Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska Sardines, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Whale shark, Kona, Hawaii Pampano school, Marchena Island, Galapagos ]]>
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Tips for Watching Wildlife: Keeping the “Wild” in the Experience http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/21/tips-for-watching-wildlife-keeping-the-wild-in-the-experience/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/21/tips-for-watching-wildlife-keeping-the-wild-in-the-experience/#comments Thu, 21 Jun 2012 18:57:04 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=938

Remember, wildlife like this Nazca booby will be watching you, too! Credit: Glory L. Moore

One of my happiest family memories comes from a trip when my son was six years old. We arrived at a popular bay on the big island of Hawaii known for its plentiful green sea turtles. I’ll never forget the look on his small face when he popped up out of the water, pulled his mask off, and said in astonishment, “Mom! A turtle just swam along right next to me!”

Being a conscientious little dude, he got a bit worried, because signs on the beach warned visitors to keep their distance from the sea turtles, listed as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

We tried our best, but several glided right up to peer at us when we hovered motionless in the water. We’ll always cherish the rare thrill of being so close to wild things in the ocean. But did we do the right thing?

When you’re viewing wildlife – and wildlife is viewing you – following specific guidelines will ensure that you have a terrific experience. It’s about using good sense to protect yourself as well as the animals and the habitat they call home.

For example:

  • Learn a little about the specific species you expect to encounter before you go, including time of day when they are most active.
  • Check out rules and laws about how close is too close, and instead of chasing wildlife, move parallel keeping a reasonable distance.
  • Never touch babies—that sea lion pup on the beach may not be an orphan, its mamma could just be out fishing. (Concerned? Let wildlife authorities know.)

For a detailed handbook on viewing wildlife (available in Spanish), visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Sanctuaries Program’s page on ocean etiquette.

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