What is one of your favorite subjects to photograph and why?
I'd have to say that one of my absolute favorite subjects to photograph are owls. To me, these are the ultimate predators. They are the predator that preys upon other predators as the peregrine falcon knows all to well. Even when they are nothing but a ball of feathers in the nest, they stare is still that of a stone cold silent killer of the night. Finding and photographing these birds is never easy.
To locate a nest is an epic search. To happen upon these birds in a situation suitable for photography is incredible luck mixed with a heavy dose of skill and a test of how good of a naturalist you are. Each image of an owl that sits in my library of images is hard one and prize that I cherish with stories and emotions to back it up.
What is one of your favorite photo locations?
Of all the many locations that I have been blessed to see, experience, and photograph as a professional wildlife photographer, still to this day the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has to be my all-time favorite location. To be more specific, Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons – both of which reside within the GYE as we call it.
This is a land of profound beauty and rugged wildness. From grizzly bears to sage grouse, from gray wolves to gray owls, this area has it all. As far as the lower 48 states goes, this is the only ecosystem where every single species that lived in it before Columbus set sail across the great unknown of the Atlantic, can still be found there to this very day.
Can you describe the experience or "spark" that first got you hooked on photography?
It would be incredibly difficult to pin down that one moment when things just clicked for me, when I knew photography would become a driving passion and force in my life. Since I was a small child my life revolved around the outdoors. I was one of those nerdy kids that wanted field guides instead of Nintendo games for Christmas. On top of that, I’ve always been an artist. From pen and ink drawings to music, art and the outdoors has long been what has defined who I am.
If I did have to narrow down things to a certain moment in time when a spark lit a fire in me, it would probably be when I read Ansel Adam’s autobiography and came to understand how pivotal of a role that his photography was in protecting wild spaces such as Kings Canyon. The notion that photography could be used as tool to help show and educate the world about what was at stake, what we were losing, and what we were driving to extinction was a revolutionary moment for me. By this point in my life I was already very much “into” photography. But it was here when the realization that I could weave together my passions, convictions, and artistic vision to work towards something larger than myself, that I knew photography was going to become my life’s work.
Describe any exciting projects or programs in which you've been involved?
I have been pretty fortunate in terms of exciting projects to be involved with. Most recently I just finished up a two year project with local biologists on seals that have begun wintering on the beaches in North Carolina. This is a new phenomenon that has only been going on for about a couple decades now. While working on this project, I had the exciting opportunity to make a truly ground breaking discovery when I found a small island in the Pamlico Sound with 38 adult harbor seals hauled out on the beach sunning. Until this moment, it was thought that only seal pups came as far south as North Carolina, and that adults were a complete rarity. This find could hold the weight that changes much about how we perceive the movements of seals in the Western Atlantic Ocean.
Aside from my work with biologists, and some really cool and fun magazine assignments that I have been fortunate enough to undertake, I have also had my moments of fame on television – twice now. With one of the television shows, a film crew basically followed me around on one of my photography workshops. The second however was an opportunity to co-host an episode the award winning photography television series Wild Photo Adventures. I have also been contacted by a crew working on an IMAX documentary on hurricanes – which may prove to be a lot of fun.
What do you believe is currently one of the most important conservation issues?
I would have to say climate change is one of the most important conservation issues facing this planet today. This one is setting itself up to slap us in the face big time. Every ecosystem, from high mountain cloud forests, to coral reefs stands to be significantly impacted. Looking over the course of the history of life on planet Earth, there has been 5 great extinctions. Though we tend think of asteroids and dinosaurs, most people simply don’t realize that the real killer each time was the change in the climate associated with these major events that drove the lion’s share’s worth of species extinct.
What is a fun fact about yourself that many people may not know?
When I was 19 years old, I sold off everything I owned and decided to hitchhike around the country for a summer. From sea to shining sea, I traveled across the United States camping out in National Parks and National Forests, meeting people, and drinking right out of the fountain that is the American experience. It was fantastic and life changing.