A Tale of Two Pictures

Several years ago, I was assigned to take pictures of the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). I took plenty of “beauty” shots of course – the kind that help promote conservation by showing people what is truly at stake. But I also took shots of environmental issues, including this one – showing how road culverts tend to dig out their downstream side, making it impossible for salmon to migrate upstream. This is a little-known but major barrier for salmon, and I was happy to be able to document it. (I have to laugh, however, when I see how much I tried to “pretty it up” with slow-motion water, and lush surroundings.)

The next picture, by contrast, was impossible to “pretty up.”  After the devastating “Biscuit Fire” in the Siskiyous in 2002, the Forest Service began logging a wilderness area under the pretense of salvaging “useless” lumber. Journalists and photographers were not allowed in to document this, so with WWF’s help, I chartered a plane and flew over the site. This picture helped show that the USFS was logging illegally, and played a key role in shutting the operation down.For that reason, it will always be one of my favorites, despite the fact that it is neither dramatic or beautifully composed.  To me, it’s value is that it genuinely made a difference… To my knowledge, my pictures have never directly saved a species, nor created a national park – but this one did something good. It should serve as a lesson to us all that our skills and commitment as photographers can have a very real impact. Never underestimate what a camera can do – put yours to work on an issue that concerns you.


    Regarding the photo of the culvert, it was installed wrong to start out with. Streams can excavate the outlet of the pipe, but looking at the photo it was installed to high to begin with. In Washington any roads that cross fish streams needs to have a “fish culvert” on it. With out getting in too to much detail the culvert needs to be installed lower than the stream bed with stream bed material in the culvert as to mimic the stream it self, or we may install a bottomless culvert which is for the most part just and arch. If we need to we will install a bridge, but those are vary expensive. Usually the timber company’s are pretty good at having the right culvert on the fish streams, unfortunately it seems to me that its the county’s and state that have seam to have issues with their fish crossings. As for the picture of the USFS logging, well theres a reason why they are referred to as the Forest Circus.

    Hi Toad,
    Thanks for your comments. You clearly know more about culverts than I do! Either way, careless placement and construction of culverts like this impact fish movement upstream and that’s what I was asked to demonstrate.
    All the best,


    Hi Kevin

    You are right about the careless instillation of culverts impacting fish, and no matter what the

    rules might say or how carefully a crossing is considered sometimes the people installing the

    culverts just don’t give a you know what. Unfortunately with all the work we do to protect fish habitat and the migration of fish in our streams, all it takes is one poorly installed culvert to make it all for not.

    best regards,


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