How can I get involved and help support marine conservation and protect our oceans?
If you’re asking this question, you’ve taken the first step. The first step is to care, and it seems to be the most difficult one. There are so many ways and small changes you can make in your life which can have an impact on how our environment is affected. Here are a few suggestions: reduce your consumption, refuse single-use plastic, read labels, buy local, don’t support fish farms, educate yourself on where your food is coming from. Another big thing you can do is show your support. You can do this through, donating to a reputable cause, supporting campaigns, and signing petitions. Become a member of the Tide, which is a part of SeaLegacy, the non-profit I co-founded, to keep updated on current issues and actions you can take to help. Even just talking about issues and sharing articles and links on social media with your friends and family can have a positive impact. This keeps the people around you informed on the issues may help them take the first step as well. So, get involved, and get talking, as your actions and voice can have a bigger impact than you think.
How can photography help conservation efforts?
Photographs tell stories. I believe this is their most significant impact. Visual storytelling is a powerful tool, that gives a voice to those who can’t be heard. Photos capture iconic moments in time and allow people to bring back images of what is happening all over the world. A single photo can transport someone to places they never dreamed of seeing. Photography bridges the gap between story and image, as it encompasses both. The experience of viewing an image can spark an emotional connection. You can change people’s behavior, by changing perceptions, through an emotional connection. I want to connect people to not only a single species at risk, but an entire ecosystem. Photography gives a face to people, species, and environments at risk and provides a platform to been seen and heard.
What sparked your passion for conservation and ocean protection?
I grew up on Baffin Island in an Inuit community and spent all of my time playing outside in the snow. It was during my childhood that I fell in love with the polar regions and I was determined to protect places like these and share images of these places with the world.
What is your advice to an aspiring wildlife photographer?
Be patient. Spend time in the field and double the time you think it will take you. I try to make images, not take pictures, I do this by envisioning a shot, and planning for the light and action of your subject. While I’m in the field, I stay in one position and stay still, but I let the animal know I am there. I let them sense my presence and determine what kind of encounter we have.
I want to purchase a new camera; what would you recommend?
I shoot with several different camera brands, models, and types. My general advice would be to invest more money in lenses compared to camera bodies. Camera equipment is obviously an important facet of photography, and I make sure to always have a wide range of camera lenses to be prepared for any type of subject. If I had to narrow it down to 3 lenses, I would stick to a 16-35mm wide angle lens, a 24-70mm for portraits, and a telephoto such as a 70-200mm.
How can I become a National Geographic Photographer, what does it take?
It can be a difficult and complicated journey to get to where I am. It’s important to be professional, patient, and persistent. You get out there and do it. All you need is a camera and work ethic…and time. Read lots, study the images of photographers you respect, learn how to treat animals and the wilderness with respect, and start shooting. A career shooting photos for publications like National Geographic doesn’t come easy. It takes years—and most likely decades—to be called upon by premiere magazines for assignments, or companies for commercial shoots. It’s not easy to get to the top, but the journey is the rewarding part anyway. Being a National Geographic Photographer means dedicating a lot of time and failing constantly, it also requires you to find motivation in failure. I find that I fail 98% of the time and I am continually picking myself up to get the shot that I had envisioned. Its unpredictable, exhilarating, and rewarding. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Put in the hard work, the dedication, and the long hours, and you will find success eventually. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to shoot for National Geographic.
What kind of cameras do you use?
I use a wide array of camera gear from different manufacturers, Nauticam for underwater shoots, and Red Digital Cinema and DJI for my filmmaking needs. But the brands of cameras I use mostly doesn’t matter. All brands, from Canon to Nikon to Hasselblad to Leica feature the tools you need to get the shot. It’s the individual photographer’s vision and talent that makes a great photo. Lenses are more important than camera bodies, as the purity and clarity of the glass used in each lens makes a massive difference. Otherwise, it’s just a shutter and a sensor opening and closing at a prescribed duration. I do require very durable equipment, as the situations I work in are extreme, and that’s not hyperbole.
What kind of scuba equipment do you use?
Once again, I use many brands and kinds of diving equipment, and they are dictated by each specific shoot. Waterpoof and Aqualung are two brands I use in general, but it all depends on where in the world I am diving and what is needed. I’ve used highly complex rebreathers and free-diving gear, but mostly use standard scuba gear and a dry suit.
Can I work with you?
As honoured as I am that many people reach out for this, I already have a trusted team of skilled employees, both for my needs on assignment, but, SeaLegacy, the non-profit which I co-founded is frequently seeking interns. We maintain a pretty large pile of resumes for unpaid internship positions and occasionally hire based on someone having a very distinct skill set and being able to work ultra-hard.
Have you come close to dying before?
Yes, in 2008 I wanted to be the first person to film breeding elephant seals under water. This was in South Georgia, Antarctica. The males weigh between 7000-10000 lbs and can be 20 feet long. I just swam up to one in the water, and it came over and spent the next five minutes trying to kill me. It was trying to crush me. I thought “So this is how it’s going to end.” I’ve always been kind of curious. I thought I was done. Luckily, my assistant was down the beach and he came running. He gained his attention and waved him off. I’ve also been attacked by walrus and chased by polar bears but, generally, any time there has been an incident it’s been my fault. For the most part, the animals I’ve photographed have been kind and peaceful when I’ve respected their space.
Can you come to speak at an event?
For speaking engagements, I am represented through Worldwide Speakers Group. Please contact Nanette Hinkle at (703) 373 9806 or [email protected] to book an event.