Art Wolfe takes to HD television to visually show off the beauty and wonder of our planet
By Mark Edward Harris
Wolfe: They’re shooting with Canon XL H1 cameras—high-definition digital video cameras. I have two cameramen; one goes out and shoots B roll such as avalanches in Glacier Bay, while the other is with me.
I’m taking the crew back to places I knew could pay off with great subjects and, just as important, at great times of the year. You can be at the right place at the wrong time. I have a crew of three people and a relatively short window—basically 10 days—to shoot each episode. I have to choose locations that can deliver on multiple levels.
We’re bringing out subjects that you won’t necessarily find on other nature shows. I’ll be talking about the aesthetic of a location. For the environmental component, we don’t just discuss what can be lost, but more importantly what can be done to help.
For example, we were with Russ Mittermeier in Madagascar. He’s president of Conservation International, and he showed us the efforts going on to save the remaining forests there. There are virtually new species of lemurs and birds being discovered every other month. It’s an exciting place for wildlife biologists right now because so many new animals are being discovered. So it’s vital to preserve the habitat.
I think the mantra through a lot of the show is how ecotourism is showing local villagers the value of the land. It’s much better for them to preserve the forest than to cut it.
Outdoor Photographer: So they can use what they have to make a living?
Wolfe: Exactly. Like in the Amazon, for instance, some of the native people there who may have been hired by logging companies to cut the forest are now working in the lodges and guiding people to look at the animals. Once they realize that people are willing to pay a lot more money to watch a primate urinate out of a tree rather than cutting the tree down, the tree stays.
That’s what we’re finding to be true in a lot of places. If villagers see the value of the forest remaining intact, then the forest generally does stay intact.
Outdoor Photographer: So there’s a very positive spin to these issues on the show, rather than saying, "The last time I was here, there was three times as much forest." Wolfe: The show is first and foremost about photography. Then virtually everywhere we go, there’s an environmental component. We don’t beat people over the head with it. We try to find good things to say, and if the news isn’t good, then we say, "There’s a lot of work to be done here."