Jun 7

To celebrate the launch of the inaugural Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award at this year’s Wildscreen Festival, Arkive is getting to know the award’s amazing team and jury, who are themselves international photography professionals. Here we meet Neil Aldridge.

Neil Aldridge is the Technical Consultant for the Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award. As a conservation photographer his images have won awards all over the world, including the World Press Photo environment category, the NPPA Best of Photojournalism award for environmental storytelling and the overall title of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. His work has also featured in Wildlife Photographer of the Year and he has twice been a winner of British Wildlife Photography Awards.

Neil is also a lecturer in Marine and Natural History Photography at Falmouth University and a trustee of the charities Animals Saving Animals and Poaching Prevention.

The return of the rhino | © Neil Aldridge

As a conservation photographer, was there a defining moment that led you to start documenting conservation issues?

I grew up reading Getaway Magazine in South Africa and I remember being inspired to want to tell stories with my camera, not just take single shots. But it wasn’t until I began researching African wild dogs while training as a wildlife guide at Antares in South Africa in 2005 that I realised telling conservation stories and engaging people in these issues was how I could best contribute to saving species and protecting our environment. It took me another three years to save up the money and throw myself into the world of photojournalism. I’ve not looked back since.

How does imagery help in conservation efforts? How do you think photo stories with a clear narrative affect audiences compared to single images?

While some iconic single photographs do tell a story in one shot, the most effective way to draw an audience into an issue, to make them care and, importantly for conservation, to make them take action is to take them on a journey – to show them what the issue is, where it is happening, why it is important, who the people are at the heart of the issue and what the solutions are.

When a company builds a website, they talk about the journey they want to take their web visitor on from when they land on that site. As a storyteller, it’s the same principle. By thinking about narrative, I’m thinking about where I want my audience to go when they open a magazine onto the first page of my photo story. This may sound logical but it’s not as easy to deliver as it sounds. Where narrative-led photography really is helping conservation efforts is the ability to connect the audience with real people – whether it’s rangers, researchers, vets or even the unfortunate villager who is having her livelihood impacted. Now that we have learned to stop banging the drum just about the big iconic animal and embrace the people who can save it, we are switching more people on to the importance of saving our natural world – because they can see that human lives depend on it.

Living with foxes | © Neil Aldridge

Over the years there have been a variety of photographic styles to document conservation stories: from hard-hitting and emotive imagery, to those showing the wonder of the natural world and the diversity of species. What do you think the role of conservation photography is in 2018 and going forward – to shock audiences or to send out positive messages about conservation and the environment?

Both. People take in information in different ways, even within audience demographics. Personally, when I’m looking at a story or watching a documentary, I’m still grabbed by the hard-hitting moments that some people find too much. Those are the moments that stay with me. And with the state that our planet is in, I don’t think that we can afford to filter or totally dumb-down our messages. People do have the choice to look away or turn the page if they want to, so I would rather see photographers still taking the pictures that have the power to stop an audience in its tracks. But, that’s the beauty of creating photo stories. You can include hard-hitting imagery alongside the solutions, the beauty of nature and the wonderful people dedicating their lives to stopping atrocities happening. That is what I have been trying to do with my work, I then work with an editor to decide what the best mix of images may be from a wider set to achieve the right impact and reaction.

The ‘plastic issue’ has clearly galvanised public opinion. What do you think are the other important environmental issues and challenges we now face?

I could sit here and say climate change or habitat loss but fundamentally our attitude towards the natural world has to change. How have we evolved to a stage where we think it’s okay to sell keyrings with live baby turtles sealed inside? We will never beat the trade in wildlife or protect key habitats and the species that depend on them if there is not the appreciation for what functioning ecosystems can do for us. Yes, policing illegal trade or logging is important but it’s like sticking a plaster over a gaping head wound. The real change has to come from ordinary people putting pressure on the decision makers to change policies – policies with a focus on sustaining life, not making short-term profits and winning votes. The plastic issue has been a positive example of this, but it’s still up to us to keep the pressure on governments to stay true to their words.

As a lecturer in photography are you seeing a shift in the topics that your students want to document or the stories that they want to tell?

I’m constantly amazed and inspired by the passion and broad knowledge of conservation topics within our student group at Falmouth. I get to learn about places, species and issues that I didn’t fully understand. But perhaps the biggest shift I’m noticing is in how young photographers are telling their stories and engaging their audiences. That’s what is really exciting. Yes the traditional, strong magazine stories or documentary films are there but we’re seeing installations, apps, 3D imagery and VR pieces. It’s an exciting time to be a young storyteller.

Underdogs – African wild dogs © Neil Aldridge

How can photography galvanise the younger generation into action? Is social media having an impact?

If I knew the answer to this I could be making good money advising major organisations on their engagements strategies. It’s a tough one because yes, smart devices have made it easier than ever for people to take and share incredible photographs of the world around them, but at the same time they are driving shorter attention spans, addiction to endless browsing and opening people up to targeted marketing and promotional campaigns with budgets that conservation causes just can’t compete with. But yes, the potential is certainly there for galvanising and mobilising people into action. I think we have seen some of this potential already in the activity that was stirred by the plastic scenes in Blue Planet 2.

Which environmental campaign has had the greatest impact on you?

I used to work on a BBC learning campaign called Breathing Places that drove action off the back of the UK-focussed BBC nature shows like Springwatch and Autumnwatch. The message at the heart of that campaign was ‘Do One Thing’. It was so straight forward, so simple for people to engage with. We just wanted everyday people to do something for nature, whether it was planting a tree, making a bug hotel, joining their local wildlife charity or getting out for a walk in the woods. As with everything, it was impacted by funding cuts when the BBC hit a crisis. I feel that we need something like Breathing Places to harness all of the positive energy that is created by the content we as photographers and filmmakers are producing.

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Thanks to Neil for taking the time to share his thoughts. We’re really excited to see him and all the incredible photo stories at the Wildscreen Festival 2018!

You can find Neil on InstagramTwitter and Facebook, or visit his website conservationphotojournalism.com

May 25

To celebrate the launch of the inaugural Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award at this year’s Wildscreen Festival, Arkive is getting to know the award’s amazing jury, who are themselves international photography professionals. Here we meet Britta Jaschinski.

Award Winning Photographer Britta Jaschinski

For over 20 years, Britta Jaschinski has been devoted to documenting the fractured existence of wildlife, which suffers in the name of entertainment, status, greed and superstition. Britta was born and raised in Bremen, Germany but is now based in London. Her passion to protect wildlife, takes her across the globe to investigate the relationship we have with animals and to highlight what we risk losing. Britta is the winner of numerous awards, including GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year twice, and several times finalist and a winner of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year. She is a sought-after speaker at photography festivals and her work has been published and exhibited worldwide, with more than 25 solo shows so far.

Smuggeld Across The Globe ; Confiscated At Borders And Airports. © Britta Jaschinski

Britta is the co-founder of Photographers Against Wildlife Crime™ – an international group of award-winning photographers who have joined forces to use their powerful and iconic images to help bring an end to the illegal wildlife trade.

What was your exposure to photography growing up?

I was more influenced by fine art. Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut of the Rhinoceros and his drawings of plants and bird wings fascinated me and I reckon you can actually see that in my work. Later, during my BA in Photography, I studied photo journalist like Don Mccullin and James Nachtway. My first hero in wildlife photography was  Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols.

What in your opinion makes a good photo story?

Firstly you should ask yourself if you actually have something to say. Something you feel passionate about. A situation you like to change or improve or just simply share with the world. If you know what you are talking about, you are halfway there with your story. Make sure you have researched into what you like to document – become an expert in it (at least for the duration of the project). Then think about your approach and the style you like to apply. Look at good photographers and how they have achieved telling a powerful story. Each photo should be strong enough as a stand-alone shot but they all need to work together and compliment each other.

Seized Wildlife Products, Fish & Wildlife Service, Denver, Colorado, USA, 2016. Wildlife Or Commodity? © Britta Jaschinski

You’re co-founder of Photographers Against Wildlife Crime™, what events prompted you to begin this campaign?

We are loosing wildlife at an alarming rate. Scientist believe we are living through the sixth extinction – only this time, we can blame ourselves for it. I felt frustrated, angry and scared what the future holds. Photography is a powerful tool. Looking at history, even one photo can bring change.

Smuggeld Across The Globe ; Confiscated At Borders And Airports 2016/17, Rhino feet, 2 adults and one baby. © Britta Jaschinski

How would you like the stories told in Photographers Against Wildlife Crime™ to be perceived and how will this book help to bring an end to illegal wildlife trade?

I have had the honour to work with some of world’s best photographers, authors and journalists. Together we can tell the world how it is and give a voice to the voiceless. With our iconic photos we show what we stand to loose. But we also want to celebrate the heroes who protect our wildlife and fight for our wild spaces.  Our work is proof that photography matters and without photographers, filmmakers and journalists the word’s conscience will wither. We will get our message where it needs to be heard – the consumer of wildlife products. We have connected with opinion sharpers who are spreading the message and we will also reach out to politicians responsible for the environmental and wildlife policies. Together we can change consumer behaviour to end the demand in our lifetime.

© Britta Jaschinski

You are on the jury for Wildscreen’s inaugural Photo Story Panda Award. Why do you feel it’s important that Wildscreen is including stills photography within the Panda Awards and the Wildscreen Festival?

There are not many photo competitions that cover conservation and environmental photography, but it is so important right now. If we cannot shed light on what is going and send strong messages across the globe, we will loose much wildlife forever. This is a real tragedy and any small wheel can make a difference in raising awareness and to bring change.

Pangolins are thought to be the most trafficked animal in the world, and face extinction as a result. Their scales here were smuggled under the disguise of fish scales. © Britta Jaschinski

If you could give 18 year old you one piece of advice for building a career in photography, what would it be?

Find your own style, your own niche and become an expert in it. Don’t take photos you have seen before – find new ways and different approaches – be inventive and daring. Surprise people. Teach your audience new things and never give up. Stick to what you believe. Don’t whine – pull up your sleeves and crack on!

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Thanks to Britta for taking the time to share her thoughts. We’re really excited to see her and all the incredible photo stories at the Wildscreen Festival 2018!

You can visit Britta’s website brittaphotography.com

May 18

To celebrate the launch of the inaugural Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award at this year’s Wildscreen Festival, Arkive is getting to know the award’s amazing jury, who are themselves international photography professionals. Here we meet Jasper Doest.

Jasper Doest

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born and raised close to Rotterdam in The Netherlands and that’s where I still live.  I cover nature and conservation stories, always aiming for a creative angle to make an emotional link with my audience.

As a WWF ambassador and a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP), my photographs have received multiple awards and appeared in numerous international journals and books, including National Geographic Magazine, GEO and Smithsonian Magazine.

Through my photography I’m able to give a voice to the ones that are often overlooked. As our future is on the line, we need people to start caring about our environment on a daily basis. Photographers can give a voice to the ones who cannot speak for themselves. Photographers can initiate change. That is my motivation and joy. It’s within the power of photography.When I look back at images of my childhood, photography always seemed to play a role in my life. Firstly my dad liked photography, and by the age of four I had my own Kodak Instamatic. However it wasn’t until the age of 20 that I purchased a SLR camera with my first salary, working as a laboratory assistant; I really enjoyed taking photographs, but this first camera soon ended up in the closet. When I decided to continue my studies I took a weekend job in an electronic warehouse, accidentally ending up in the camera department. I had no knowledge about the cameras whatsoever, but decided I needed to acquire some to help people choose the right camera. And from that moment on I was hooked!

My parents raised me with a lot of respect for the natural world. When I started out with my photography I tried many disciplines, but I found most enjoyment when I was working with the natural world. I therefore decided to take a biology degree, to enhance my knowledge about the subjects I was photographing. The study for that degree took me to the Arctic region, where I took an image of two Arctic fox kits that won a major award in the Netherlands. That’s when I decided I had to follow my heart and become a full-time professional, dedicating my time to documenting the utter beauty and fragility of the world that surrounds us. That was ten years ago and that’s what I’m still doing now.

How do you think photo stories with a clear narrative affect audiences compared to single images?

Both have a purpose I think. Within a photographic narrative, there are always a few keystone images that carry the story. These often work quite nicely as strong single images as well. However, I believe a story with a clear visual narrative provides a deeper understanding in the issue. And while a strong single image seems to stick in one’s memory a bit better, it’s often the bigger picture that a narrative story provides that really plants a seed deep in one’s conscience having a long term impact.

This photojournalistic way of storytelling about wild animals and stage we’re in as a planet is relatively new to ‘wildlife photography’ and it comes naturally with the sense of awareness that we’re getting about the planet. We’re finally starting to see the consequences of our behaviour and it is our responsibility as photographers running into these conditions to communicate about this. And there has been some critique on this ‘trend’. I think it is wrong when we start analysing this being a trend and that in the past it was all happiness and now we’re seeing drama entering the wildlife community. It’s not about that at all. Yes, nature is beautiful…and something that should be celebrated, but we have been celebrating the natural world for years and meanwhile we’ve differentiated ourselves from what our ancestors called ‘home’ hundreds of years ago. Many people today don’t seem to realise that nature is our home and something that should be taken care of. And the stories that we see in the photojournalistic categories display why there is an immediate urge for these stories as we are exploiting our planet to a degree where there is no way back. And the consequence would be that there is nothing to celebrate in the future.

Your images are always artistic. Do you plan your narrative and aesthetics of your images/stories before you go into the field?

I do believe the aesthetic part is still very important while building visual narratives as it is the aesthetical part that leads the viewer to the content. One doesn’t go without the other.

There is not a lot of planning involved other than making sure I’m in a place that is an important piece of the puzzle. While there I can only anticipate to what is being offered to me as I’m not in control. And once I get back at the office, the big puzzle begins, trying to build the narrative with the individual pieces and if there are pieces missing I know where to go to try to get them. But the visual approach is not something I plan, I like to just go with the flow.Photography has taken you across the globe, have you stumbled upon any particular stories that you feel aren’t being told? 

There are many stories that deserve being told and that aren’t really getting any attention. But it’s important to find something that really fits with you as an individual. The issue should personally affect you. So sometimes I see a good story but I know it isn’t for me. It’s sad, but I can’t  focus on everything I run into. Fortunately I see more and more photographers working on these important issues.

You spent some time visiting landfill sites across Europe, with some disturbing behaviour changes in white storks. How did that change your approach in conveying human impact to audiences who aren’t particularly exposed to nature or environmental issues?

I finished that work in 2014 and have raised my voice about the (plastic) waste crisis and sustainability ever since. Before that particular story I had the feeling my personal voice and my visual work weren’t running parallel and that story gave my photography a purpose. The images allow me to raise my voice about something I personally care about and fortunately that hasn’t gone unnoticed. The work has been widely published and I have been able to talk about these topics to leaders of industry and national governments in Europe. These platforms allow me to communicate outside the wildlife photography circle, which is very important to me. Not that I don’t enjoy talking to an already converted audience, that’s important too…but it sometimes feels like preaching to the choir, while there is still a lot of work to be done outside that green circle.

Wasteland

Over the past years I’ve spent many weeks on landfill sites and recycling centers in Southern Europe. I was working on a photo story about white storks and noticed large flocks of birds foraging on mountains of municipal waste. A scene I can not explain, but a story with desperate need to be told.Being confronted with the enormous amounts of waste we produce on a daily basis is truly horrifying. Walking through fields of empty bottles, plastic bags, food leftovers and toys still brings me to tears. I lie awake at night, embarrassed to be part of our consumer society. We have to turn the tide. This story is not about storks anymore. It is about us. Look into the mirror and imagine all fables about storks symbolising new life being true. Well…than this is how we threat new life, longevity…our future.We are all connected. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat unite us in caring for our world. The International League of Conservation Photographers ILCP is dedicated to furthering conservation and the health of nature through photography. We do so by sharing our pictures and stories of what we hold most dear – – our connections to the land, water, wildlife and all of nature.*click on HD for higher quality screening*#1frame4nature #1f4n #challengetochange #sustainability #recycle #notimetowaste #conservation #conservationphotographers #plasticwaste #plastic #wasteland #canonnederland #shareifyoucare

Posted by Jasper Doest on Monday, 6 March 2017

You are on the jury for Wildscreen’s inaugural Photo Story Panda Award. Why do you feel it’s important that Wildscreen is including stills photography within the Panda Awards and the Wildscreen Festival?

I think it’s time to start looking outside our individual boxes. And while film and stills photography are two completely different languages that allow you to connect with someone’s emotions in a completely different way, it’s good to understand that the two can complement each in the mission of raising awareness for the story topic. We’re all visual storytellers and we need each other. So to me it makes perfect sense that Wildscreen has decided to include stills photography within the Panda Awards and the Wildscreen Festival.

What advice would you give an emerging talent photographer starting out on their journey today?

Try to find something that makes your heart beat faster, a story that really affects you personally. Something that wakes you up at night and is still dominating your thoughts the next morning. If you do so it doesn’t take any effort to walk the extra mile and take your work to the next level.

Lastly, if you had the opportunity to create a photo story of any animal or aspect of life on Earth that you want, what or where would it be and why?

Since working on my latest story I have become extremely fascinated on the human perception of animal life. People are strange…they are the only species I can think of that actually destroys its own habitat. And while I would love to work on any animal in true wilderness, it’s the intersection between humans and the rest of life on Earth that really has my attention as I try to bridge the gap between the two as we have been separating us from the rest of the planet for way too long now.

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Thanks to Jasper for taking the time to share his thoughts. We’re really excited to see him and all the incredible photo stories at the Wildscreen Festival 2018!

You can find Jasper on InstagramTwitter and Facebook, or visit his website jasperdoest.com.

Revisit the Arkive blog soon to meet the rest of the Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award jury.

Sep 22

At Arkive, we are ever grateful for the support we receive from individuals whether they be photographers and filmmakers who donate their work to make Arkive possible, conservationists & researchers who passionately pursue the science and stories behind the world’s most threatened species, or teachers who bring the WILD into their classroom everyday with Arkive.

But there may be a special group that we cherish support from the most … children! Or, who we like to think of as the “conservationists of tomorrow”. Each time the Arkive team has the chance to connect with children, whether in the classroom, at an event, or on the web through our games and mobile apps, we feel renewed and inspired in our mission to share the wonders of the natural world through the most powerful and compelling images and films that exist.

But sometimes, just when you think you have reached the point of complete inspiration from those youngest members of our society, they completely blow your socks off.

The Afternoon Explorers!

The preschoolers (students age 3-5) of Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School of Chicago, IL, USA, did just that when they decided to dedicate their annual school fundraiser proceeds to Arkive this year and raised

 $317.69

That’s right. Approximately sixteen students, 5 years old and younger. raised over $300 for Arkive in support of our mission and to help keep Arkive a free and growing resource for all. The only thing better than raising this enormously generous sum for Arkive is the way they did it.

Akiba Schechter is full to the brim with students who are eager to dive into the natural world, learning about both species that live in their community and across the globe. Through a program called the Afternoon Explorers, the students decide which species and habitats they want to digitally explore and spend weeks diving into the photos, films, stories, and scientific information learning everything they can.

Then, at the end of the school year, students channel all the knowledge they have gained through their worldly explorations and interpret it through artwork which they sell at their year-end culminating event called the Afternoon Explorers Boutique. The Boutique is a chance for the students to share their wild journeys with family, friends and the local community and to sell their artwork with proceeds benefiting the students’ charity of choice. Lucky for us, Arkive was their chosen charity for 2014.

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Why was Arkive chosen this year? According to one of the teachers leading the Afternoon Explorers, Emily Bradley Schoenberg,

“Arkive has given the children an amazing window to the world around them and has inspired them to think about the Earth and all of its creatures and how some are endangered. It gives them a sense of responsibility to care for those animals and the environment to make sure they are safe.”

Here’s a taste of some of the incredible items made by the explorers for the Boutique.

Picture1

Afternoon Explorer Boutique items – all hand made by the Explorers themselves

And even better, every single item was sold! The team here at Arkive cannot thank the Afternoon Explorers enough for using Arkive as their window to the natural world and for so generously naming Arkive as the recipient of this year’s Afternoon Explorer’s Boutique.  Keep on exploring!

Liana Vitali, Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

May 7

How do you prepare for a Skype interview with one of the world’s leading wildlife photographers – or photojournalists (a big difference as you’ll soon read) – Steve Winter, whose breathtaking images of big cats around the world have resulted in positive conservation gains for species?

At ARKive, it’s a no-brainer. You turn to your audience of incredibly passionate nature fans who are bursting at the seams with meaningful questions on all things wildlife imagery and conservation. A few weeks ago, we asked you to send us the one burning question you would ask if you were about to Skype with Steve Winter. He is currently in the throes of capturing emotive images of the illegal tiger trade in India. Working with author Sharon Guynup, Steve has chronicled everything from the tiger black market to tiger sanctuaries ill-equipped to handle today’s sophisticated poachers.

A tiger photographed inside Bandhavgarh.

A male tiger in Bandhavgarh National Park, India
(Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

We randomly selected five of your questions and each of them buzzed through my head in advance of the interview last week as I patiently waited for Steve’s Skype name to turn from translucent to green. It turned green, he called, and the interview was on…

“If you don’t tell the story, all the pretty pictures in the world won’t do a thing.”

Rafael asked, “How did you wind up on the wildlife and conservation photographer path?”

While Steve was very happy to answer this question, he was adamant about making one thing very clear from the beginning. “I don’t want the label ‘wildlife photographer’. I more consider myself a photojournalist with a conservation concentration. Being a photojournalist, you have to tell the story of the photography, the people, the environment and the animals. If you don’t tell the story, all the pretty pictures in the world won’t do a thing. All the incredible beautiful parts of the wild and species we work with doesn’t make a difference unless you tell the story.”

I had never heard this concept explained quite so elegantly before and I couldn’t help but completely agree with Steve.

Tourists at the Tiger Temple in Thailand view a “tiger enrichment” show. Young tigers entertain tourists daily, but adults rarely leave tiny, decrepit cages and are often beaten. There is documented proof of sales to tiger farms in Laos that illegally traffic tiger parts. (Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

Tourists at the Tiger Temple in Thailand view a ‘tiger enrichment’ show. Young tigers entertain tourists daily, but adult tigers rarely leave tiny, decrepit cages and are often beaten. There is documented proof of sales to tiger farms in Laos that illegally traffic tiger parts.
(Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

So, how did Steve end up sitting atop the back of an elephant in India taking pictures of one of the world’s most threatened big cats? He explains, “I got a job with Merck Pharmaceuticals photographing species in the Costa Rican rainforest and it changed my life 180 degrees. I didn’t know anything about being a wildlife photographer and I viewed what I was doing as photojournalism. I always wanted to be a National Geographic photographer but never thought in a million years I would be a wildlife photographer. I started as a photojournalist and having a concentration on the natural world happened in Costa Rica while working for Merck. It’s where it all began.”

“Camera traps are so worthwhile because you can put them places you can’t go.”

Sascha asked, “When is the best time of day to photograph a tiger?”

Just as Stefano Unterthiner answered in our last wildlife photographer interview, Steve said, “It’s the same as most wildlife photography – early morning and late evening but also whenever a tiger is moving. Tigers are cats so they sleep most of the time and they will be moving by the time you’re allowed to go find them in the tiger parks and up to the time you are forced to leave the tiger parks at dusk.”

Steve then went on to explain more about his technique in capturing powerful images of such an elusive species. “It’s one of the reasons camera traps are so worthwhile because you can put them places you can’t go. For a normal story, depending on the species, a camera trap will encompass 10 to 20% of the images, sometimes more for the rarer animals. They give you an opportunity to investigate and understand an animal’s movements and behavior. With that knowledge, which is given to you by scientists, researchers, and local people, you’re able to find locations similar to where you might set up a blind or hide. I use camera traps and a wide angle lens at a close-up, intimate location similar to where I would focus my long telephoto lens if I was using a standard camera. Using the camera trap, I center on a spot in the frame using an infrared beam to get the animal front and center. I know exactly where the animal is going to be.”

Mirchani Tigress cubs at the Patpara Nala waterhole and fence traps.

A camera trap captures 14-month-old sibling cubs cooling off in a watering hole. Bandhavgarh National Park, India.
(Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

Camera traps were the tool of choice used to capture the incredible, iconic Hollywood cougar image which, Steve shared, took 15 months of trials and preparation to achieve!

“There are just so many moments out in the wilderness that transcends anything in your life.”

Claudie asked, “For you, personally, what is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in a tiger?”

Steve didn’t hesitate a moment before answering, “Everything.” He then continued to say two of the most profound statements of the entire interview, in my opinion.  “There are just so many moments out in the wilderness that transcends anything in your life. It brings you closer to the whole universe, not just the animal.” He went on to tell the story behind the cover image for his new book, Tigers Forever, a pictorial and factual tribute to the tigers of India and Southeast Asia, the life they live, and the threats they encounter every single day. “The cover picture of my book, Tigers Forever, marked a moment in nature for me. I waited 24 days for the image, much of it on top of an elephant and the other part in a jeep. Just the fact that everything came together…it really was a moment, just 10 seconds! I got five frames and one of them was the moment.”

Tigers Forever cover photo

A wary three-month-old cub briefly investigates our intrusion before ducking behind his mother. This tigress gave birth in the same remote cave where she was born.
(Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

He then described the transcendental experience of seeing a tiger in the wild. “You look into a tiger’s eye and it’s primeval. It takes you back to caveman times in your brain because it’s an absolutely amazing animal to me. I don’t like to have favorites because they are all special and have their own uniqueness to them. You become close to any species you work on for months or even years.”

“Just like an old western movie on horses, branches try to knock you off the back of a running elephant.”

Azhurel asked, “What’s your scariest encounter?”

Luckily, Steve shared that he hasn’t encountered any scary moments while working on tigers in India. However, he did recall a very scary moment while on assignment in Kaziranga National Park, India.

“I was on an elephant photographing rhinos but we were attacked by a rhino. The elephant tried to defend himself and was bit by the rhino. The elephant turned 180 degrees away and ran towards the forest. In the commotion, we lost the gun.” The rhino continued to chase the elephant, with Steve on top, for at least 300 yards into the forest and the only way the rhino relented was after repeated jabs with a long bamboo pole that Steve’s camera was attached to.  “Just like an old western movie on horses, branches try to knock you off the back of a running elephant!”

“It’s vital that we help when we can to bring the public to the story.”

Bernie asked, “In your words, how does wildlife photography support species protection and conservation?”

And in Steve’s own words, he answered, “How can you work on something without wanting your pictures to make a difference, support education, and give people a reason to care?  As a wildlife photojournalist, you don’t want the conversation to end on the pages of National Geographic magazine. You want the conversation to begin. Telling the story is important but in the end you want it to go further. Fundraisers and giving images to scientists and organizations you work with helps. It’s vital that we help when we can to bring the public to the story. That’s what protects the species.”

A male tiger crosses open grasslands in early morning. Bandhavgarh National Park, India.

A male tiger crosses open grasslands in early morning. Bandhavgarh National Park, India.(Photo by Steve Winter/National Geographic)

“In India, it’s difficult and I’m doing what I can there. Our book, Tigers Forever, shares the story with the public and our 10 years of efforts there. The book isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning.”

So, why not start your own journey now! Have a look at the ARKive tiger page with nearly 200 images and film clips as well as a full biological fact-file. Or, learn how the kids of India are doing their part to make a difference for tigers. Finally, you can pick up your own copy of Tigers Forever with 10% of the proceeds donated to Panthera, the world’s largest big cat conservation organization.

Liana Vitali, Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

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