Nature photography explores the wonders of our planet. The scope includes landscapes, wildlife, insects, and plants. While its intention is to portray the beauty of our environment, it can also serve another important purpose – namely, that of documenting, recording, verbalizing, and triggering nature conservation, wildlife protection and environmental action. How? This article shows you how you too can make a difference by photographing beautiful landscapes and wildlife.
1. Nature Photography Exposes Species Close to Extinction
As frightening as it may sound: our planet is now in the midst of a sixth mass extinction. Dozens of plants and animals are disappearing every day at 1,000 times the normal rate. Scientists estimate that by 2050, between 30-50 percent of all species are going to be extinct. And that is a pretty scary thought.
In the midst of this mass extinction, nature photography can play a major role in documenting endangered species and highlighting the issue at hand. Through creativity, nature photographs can visualize scientific fact. In particular, several ways that nature photographs can make a difference include:
- Revealing human-animal conflict around the globe and helping to prevent it
- Documenting animal behavior and migration patterns
- Exposing poaching attempts and illegal hunting
- Documenting the last of a species for scientific visualization purposes and historic records (see Joel Sartore’s Photo Ark for inspiration)
- Raising awareness on habitat protection for this species
- Vocalizing the restoration and rehabilitation of endangered species at animal sanctuaries, NGOs and wildlife centers
2. Nature Photography Captures Changing Ecosystems
Remember the documentary Chasing Ice? Therein, photographer James Balog and his team create a multi-year visual chronicle of the planet’s glaciers. They set up cameras across different continents to take photographs of glaciers intermittently over a period of several years. What are their findings? Well…for danger of spoiling the documentary, I’m not going to reveal too much 🙂
The bottom line of the story is: our planet is changing at a rapid rate. The Amazon Rainforest is burning. Australian bushfires are raging with over 1 billion species falling victim to the fires. Our glaciers are melting. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. This makes nature photography more critical than ever in keeping records of our biodiversity in its present state and illustrating the changes that are taking place in the long-term.
3. Nature Photography Promotes Sustainability & Conservation
One of the biggest benefits of nature photography is that it can serve as a means to educate others about the beauty and vulnerability of flora and fauna. With the onset of social media, it is now easier than ever for local photographers to make a global impact around the world. Our voices resonate louder, and our power to make a positive change on both a local, national, and international scale is stronger than ever before.
Often times, people are not aware that certain species even exist and may be endangered. Many issues that involve a certain species are only revealed when taking a peak behind the scenes. Topics like wildlife tourism, habitat destruction, poaching, and plastic pollution risks have gained substantial importance as a result of photography. By depicting the repercussions and consequences the aforementioned practices, industries can be pressured to become more sustainable, laws and regulations can be introduced, and companies with cruel practices can be boycotted. Hence, nature photography can be a powerful tool for promoting sustainability and conservation through education.
4. Nature Photography Unites Communities to Act
Photography has always been a very political art form, even when it comes to nature photography. This can be evidenced in the work of famous environmentalist, Ansel Adams. In his work, Adams employed the beauty of natural landscapes to make a statement about their value for humanity and culture. Hence, when creating an image, we are simultaneously making a public statement that can greatly support groups in raising their voices against ill-intentioned actions.
Most of us are familiar with the term “together we are stronger”. This also applies to protecting landscapes and wildlife. With economics playing a major role in environmental decisions, nature photography is key to uniting communities to act on behalf of the planet. Volunteering, petitioning, protesting, restoring, and innovating as a people are just a few of the actions that can be incited with a powerful photograph. An image can move us to care. And it can unite us with other people that do so, as well.