With a passion for adventure and exploration, this photographer shows off the wild parts of the world to document the relationship between people and wildlife and the environment
By Mark Edward Harris
There’s off the beaten path, and then there’s really off the beaten path. That’s where you’ll often find Colorado-based photographer Beth Wald. The winner of the 2006 Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure and numerous other accolades brings back images of remote areas of the globe, ranging from Afghanistan to the Arctic. Conservation of our resources—both human and geophysical—is at the heart of her work. While she began her career shooting mostly sports-adventure photography, especially climbing, now she focuses on people and places that are outside of the traditional news media’s vision.
Wald shares her vision with aide organizations and magazines, including National Geographic, Time and Smithsonian, and through workshops and seminars, including the United Nations Environment Programme.
Outdoor Photographer: By the assignments you choose, you obviously want to send a message about conservation.
Beth Wald: My photography right now is focused on the connections between humans and nature and landscape. Over the years, I’ve tipped from the sports-adventure side of photography to the more reflective and environmental side.
Outdoor Photographer: What caused the transition?
Wald: I started out shooting as a climber and using photography as a way to keep climbing; that shifted. It’s gone full circle because I studied plant ecology and environmental science when I was in college. I always stayed interested in that even while I was pursuing the more adventurous stuff. As you mature as a photographer, you want to do something so your body of work has some meaning. I think it’s important to try and zoom in on whatever you feel is important, regardless of what that something is. I’ve found ways to use my photography for environmental causes through organizations such as LightHawk.
Outdoor Photographer: What sort of work do they do?
Wald: They’re a group of pilots documenting environmental issues such as clear-cutting, which is best seen from the air. I volunteered and helped them out with imagery. These days, probably 70 percent of the projects that I generate or that I’m assigned are either cultural or environmental. The more adventure stuff has become 30 percent.
Many of the stories I’ve done have combined a bit of the two, adventure and the environment. I did a project for Skiing Magazine last year that was on ski mountaineers who were doing relief work in Pakistan. It’s in the adventure world, but with a more serious aspect.