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
Outdoor Photographer: Afghanistan has never been the safest place to travel, but after 9/11 it became even dicier.
Wald: Ninety-five percent of the coverage about Afghanistan we get is all about the war. While that’s incredibly important, it’s also important to know more about the country. There are multitudes of languages and ethnic groups in the country, as well as mountains, forests and wildlife. The diciest part was getting to the area where we were to do this wildlife survey. Once you’re in the Wakhan, it’s pretty safe. It’s remote and has never been a front line of battle. It's above 12,000 feet with just small tribes living there. I went back with Dr. Schaller to the Tajik side of the border in 2005 to do more wildlife photography, then back into this area to do more cultural work.
Outdoor Photographer: How did the remoteness affect your equipment?
Wald: On those trips, I was predigital, but even if I had been shooting digital, I’d still have shot film on this particular assignment. We were off the road for two months. I don’t have the experience to keep digital equipment charged for that long. There were a couple of times when we had five days of snow with no sun. If you’re using solar panels to generate electricity, that’s a big problem. We had a satellite phone and a little video camera, and just keeping those charged was challenging.
I had one Nikon F5, three Nikon F100s and a Nikon F3, which I often carry as my ultimate backup. The wear and tear on the equipment is tremendous; we were traveling on yaks and horses, and there are no roads.
Outdoor Photographer: What kind of lenses were you working with?
Wald: I had a set of Nikkor lenses—a 17-35mm, a 24-85mm, a 35-70mm, an 80-200mm and a 300mm. Since we were out doing a wildlife survey, I also had a 500mm ƒ/4 AF-S Nikkor and a 600mm ƒ/4 AF-S Nikkor. The Marco Polo sheep were extremely shy, and since there are no trees in the landscape of the Pamirs, it’s really hard to sneak up on them. I also brought a doubler, a tripod and a Nikon Speedlight.