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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

In The Clouds

A threatened cloud forest in Mexico is the focus of an innovative, new concept in conservation photography

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The RAVE team is composed of an elite group of photographers. Each artist concentrates on the area of photography he or she is best known for, including macro, used in the image above.
This was a diverse group of photographers who came from different cultural backgrounds, generations and styles of photography. So Robles Gil was concerned that those differences could get in the way of their goals in El Triunfo. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.

“I think that sense of purpose sort of bound us together,” explains Dykinga, who stuck to his expertise of shooting large-format landscapes of the old-growth forests. “The whole idea is that the issue is more important than the ego, so all of that stuff was shoved aside, and we just focused on the cause.”

Dykinga also concentrated on capturing the streams and rivers that flow through the reserve, because water is another critical issue. As one of Mexico’s highest-precipitation areas, El Triunfo’s streams irrigate the coast and heartland of Chiapas, supplying fresh water to the entire area. Additionally, the reserve acts as a sponge that traps and releases rain water. This, in turn, nourishes the rivers and streams that feed into a complex of dams, which supply 40 percent of the hydroelectrical power in Mexico.

Along with the ongoing campaign and money raised for El Triunfo, the big-picture concept behind RAVE is catching on. Two more expeditions were completed over the last year. The first was to Balandra, which is located off the Gulf of California near the Baja peninsula in Mexico. It’s one of the last untouched places in the region, but is not an officially protected area. Thanks to the RAVE taken there in September, the local government is looking into an initiative that would protect it. The next trip was to the Bioko Island off the coast of Equatorial Guinea in Central Africa. The goal there is to call attention to the many endangered primates that inhabit the island and begin a large-scale conservation effort.

“Documenting a place to try to transform the way people see it is the highest calling of nature photography,” says Dykinga, who was also on the team that went to Balandra. “It’s for that love of place and the love for the cause that you give back, even though there isn’t a whole lot of commercial value.”

For more information about RAVE, visit the International League of Conservation Photographers website at www.ilcp.com.


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