I spent last weekend shooting in Venice Beach, California with friend and fellow photographer Art Wolfe. Art was looking for dogs for an upcoming book project and I was looking for anything that caught my eye. I stumbled upon the above scene and quickly composed an image that I felt told a great story–the surfer who rides his bike to the beach to surf. It’s a great environmental shot with many sale possibilities. Taken, mastered, catalogued, and out of mind.
Then two days ago I was driving to Colorado to catch a flight with the family to Mexico, when this image came back to memory. I was listening to the BBC World News station on my satellite radio and heard a piece on some students who were graduating as journalists in an area of the Gulf of Mexico that is being affected by the BP oil catastrophe. The journalist asked the students what their thoughts were about the issues facing them as they begin their careers during a time when there is no shortage of material. One of the students posed a rather provoking question, “How can a company with so much technology behind it, so much that they can capture oil from 5000 feet below the ocean, not have the engineering to fix any problem in an emergency?”
I immediately thought of one of my favorite lines from the movie Jurassic Park, when Jeff Goldbloom stated, “They were so busy trying to figure out if they could, that they never stopped to think if they should.” Which lead me to thinking about that what we are doing to the environment, and the part I play in it. I am a nature photographer who tries to do his part for the environment: I recycle everything that I possibly can; I use rechargeable batteries in all of my gear; I purchase eco-friendly products. But I know I am burning tons of those dinosaurs; I fly a lot. So often that over the course of the last two weeks I have been in seven different cities and one international destination. I can’t even imagine how many gallons of jet fuel have been consumed on my part. Now all of sudden that image of the surfer who rides his bike to the waves had an entirely different meaning to me than it did when I captured it a week ago. It isn’t just a cool photograph – it poses a question about what lengths we as individuals are willing to go to if we are to affect the kind of change that is necessary to save our planet and ourselves.
I don’t know that I have a solution. Photography is my life and I there is no way that I will ever change that, and traveling is an essential part of my work. I am going to have to do more when I am not flying. I am going to have to get the rack for the bike and carry my skis to the mountain. Well, maybe I won’t take it that far, but I will focus on saving and conserving more than ever before. Right after I return from my trip to Mexico.