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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.

Labels: Locations
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Wild evening primrose blooms in the clay-like soil of Wyoming's Red Desert, arguably the largest unfenced land left in the Lower 48. Images from the desert will be part of a Congressional reception in Washington, D.C.
Project Idea No. 3
Flower Power

Challenge: Create a series of floral portraits comparing past and present plant communities in your city. Give flowers their glam time with a studio setup that pits native plants against invasive ones. This project is especially well-suited to photographers living in the urban jungle.

Add A Factoid: Couple your images with interesting factoids about each plant, such as how much water it takes to sustain them, medicinal properties or what kind of critters rely on it to survive.

Example Fact: The last time someone found the queen-of-the-prairie—a pretty, rose-like flower—growing in Indianapolis, Ind., was in a small damp spot at the edge of Water Canal and 52nd Street. The year was 1935.

Key Partners: Universities and museums with historical plant collections abound in most urban areas. I once used this tactic to gain access to specimens of caddisflies, a funny little aquatic bug that likes to build "houses" out of materials ranging from sand grains to algae and even, if provided, flakes of gold.

The Setup: You'll need white foam core or black velvet to act as your backdrop. Arrange a plant in the middle with a light or synced-flash system set up on either side of the plant at about a
30-degree angle. You also can use a ring- or twin-light flash to illuminate the subject. If using a white backdrop, you bounce a third light off the back foam core. If studio setups aren't your thing, try laying the flower on a flatbed scanner and covering it with a piece of cloth for a more old-fashioned feel.

Rip Ear, a wild male fishing cat. Images from CAT in WATER raised money to protect fishing cat habitat in Thailand for a year.
The Product: Propose an exhibit with your partner museum. Contact a local botanist studying urban plant communities and strike up a partnership to document more flowers, as well as collaborate on presentations to scientific and artistic communities. Scientists make great grant writers, and foundations love projects with outreach components, so there even may be opportunities to jointly raise funds. Another option is to submit your images to www.meetyourneighbours.net, and become part of an international project that's gaining notoriety documenting backyard wildlife.

Project Idea No. 4
Photograph A Love Letter

Challenge: Tap into your sensitive side. Write a love letter about your favorite place. Then turn words into images.

Preparation: After you read this, close your eyes. Think of a place in nature that you love and ask yourself why. Imagine all the things about it that pull at your heartstrings. Is it beauty? Is it different? Does it challenge you? Do you feel sorry for it? Is it your escape? Read a little Aldo Leopold, Pablo Neruda or Edward Abbey to get in the zone.

Extra Advantage: Stop preaching to the choir. A major challenge with conservation photography is the difficulty of reaching people who don't already care. People may not all be nature lovers, but chances are, they can relate to the way nature makes you feel.


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