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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nature & Nurture

Unique perspectives on outdoor photography and the importance of preserving our environment

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Sandhill cranes congregate in sunrise fog near San Luis Valley, Colorado.

Nature photographers not only are major contributors to the profession of photography, but also to our growing understanding of the natural world. Many photographers have taken it upon themselves to lead through example and practice, spearheading conservation efforts and capturing the physical world in its pristine state. Others have chosen to inspire through their imagery and words, passing on the lessons that they have learned to future generations of photographers by teaching and writing. With luminaries such as Heather Angel, the late Peggy Bauer, Tui de Roy, Pat Leeson, Kathleen Norris Cook, Kathy Adams Clark and Connie Toops, to name just a few, there are extraordinary nature photographers who have become driving forces in the world of photography and conservation, and while they’re linked by a common gender, their imagery transcends to push the boundaries of modern nature photography while bringing much needed attention to a changing environment. A number of women are continuing this tradition today, and here they share some of their thoughts about nature, photography and protecting a changing world.

Wendy Shattil also composed this image of a young red fox, which helped to make her the first woman awarded the Grand Prize as BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
Conservation Through Action
Wendy Shattil
For nearly 30 years, Wendy Shattil has explored, photographed and written about the natural history of the United States. Traveling with her partner Bob Rozinski, she has dedicated her life not only to showcasing the wonders of the natural world, but the threats facing it as well. Together they have produced 12 books and have had images appear in hundreds of publications. They’re internationally known for their pioneering work documenting the natural diversity of life found at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge located just outside Denver, Colo.

The crowning achievement in Shattil’s photographic career occurred when Sir David Attenborough presented her with the Grand Prize in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, the first woman so honored with this award. And while Shattil has always been a nature lover, she didn’t embrace photography until she took a course in scientific illustration at the University of Arizona. She finally had found the perfect avenue for connecting her love for nature with a purpose—to document nature and share it with others. Before long, she found herself as the photographer for an archaeological dig at Tel Gezer in the Middle East.

Shattil doesn’t hesitate to admit how difficult and challenging it is to be a “full-timer” in this profession. During the first six years of her photography partnership with Rozinski, it was a part-time venture. “Bob and I both had full-time jobs,” Shattil recalls. “Nevertheless, we spent an average of 40 hours each week on our photography. Every weekend and vacation we were in the field photographing, and every weeknight we kept busy submitting images and conducting lectures.”

Of course, Shattil’s favorite moments are when she’s surrounded by nature. “I feel I’m a part of nature and not simply an observer,” says Shattil.

Whether it’s spending four hours sitting on a rock in the high-alpine tundra photographing a pika or spending 22 hours in a tiny plywood blind photographing bald eagles along the Rio Grande, these are the experiences that make it all worthwhile for this conservation-minded and well-focused trailblazer.

To see more of Wendy Shattil’s photography, visit www.dancingpelican.com.


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