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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How To Be A Conservation Photographer


Do you want to make a difference with your pictures? Take a look at these tips to get you started.

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Lushly forested mountains are punctuated by a wasteland of now-defunct shrimp farms in Khao Daeng, Thailand. Shrimp farms are a leading cause of habitat loss for fishing cats.

Gear has exploded all over my tiny 600-square-foot apartment in Boulder, Colo. Boxes overflow with DSLRs, infrared triggers, bags, recorders, microphones and that SteriPEN water purifier that I know might save my life someday. Somewhere in this sea of packing material are my husband and 10-month-old puppy, but all I can hear is a muffled call for help.

In just a few weeks, I leave the frigid Colorado winter behind for the balmy climes of southeastern Thailand. My fellow journalist Joanna Nasar and I run CAT in WATER, a media expedition to document endangered fishing cats. These water-loving cats, resembling a leopard that shrunk in the wash, have rarely been photographed in the wild. At an estimated 10,000 cats and falling, their prognosis isn't good.

Right now, we have $10,000, two months, 9,000 blog views and more than 130 funders helping us give the cat a media blitz to end all fishing-cat media blitzes. Life wasn't always this way. A few years ago, I was where a lot of people are now—wanting to help with conservation photography with no idea how to get started.

My life in conservation photography began as a scientist, documenting time spent working in the wilds of Alaska, then came years of basic photographic growth, thanks to the help of Outdoor Photographer and other magazines. A graduate program in environmental journalism, internships and projects funded on a student salary soon had me in the company of the International League of Conservation Photographers and published on the pages of Smithsonian and National Wildlife.

Conservation needs a faster timeline than the years of career growth that I've bumbled through, though. So here you go, conservation collaborators. Let's speed things up a bit. Take a gander at these five conservation photography project ideas. Check out some tips on how to get them rolling, and see where you end up. After all, what really turns your photography into conservation photography is the way that you use it after you've pressed the shutter.

Project Idea No. 1
A Local Rarity

Challenge: Find the most endangered location or animal near your home. It can be in your city, state or even region as long as you're willing and able to get out to it with relative ease. Current gas prices being what they are, it helps with the bank account, too.

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