Why would someone be interested in becoming a conservation photographer? The answer is simple. Conservation photography gives your work as a photographer extra direction and meaning. Instead of taking pictures of nature and wildlife that are just pleasing to the viewer, getting involved in conservation photography will give you the pleasure of knowing that your images help with protecting and preserving the environment.
But how does someone become a conservation photographer? What are the specific requirements for people who would like to get involved in this sort of photography? And how can you create imagery that makes a real difference? – Boyd Norton’s Conservation Photography Handbook, published last month, provides answers to these and other questions.
In 2010, Norton was named “One of the 40 most influential nature photographers from around the globe” by Outdoor Photography Magazine. In 2015, he received the Sierra Club’s prestigious Ansel Adams Award. Over the course of fifty years of photography, writing, and activism, Norton has become a widely respected voice when it comes to conservation issues. He describes his latest book as “a call to action, providing the tools and encouragement to become a conservation photographer”.
The book is divided into 15 chapters, covering such diverse topics as “Equipment Choices”, “In the Field: What Do I Photograph?”, “Wildlife”, and “Video (or Cinematography) 101”. Most of the content is oriented towards photography beginners. Norton walks you through the essentials of what you need to know in order to start with conservation photography, which means he covers topics like composition, color, and lighting that you will find in many other digital photography books. Only a few chapters provide information about the specifics of being a conservation photographer. From an advanced photographer’s perspective, that’s the biggest dilemma of the book. If you already know how to take compelling pictures, Norton’s Conservation Photography Handbook will provide you with too few insights into the business of conservation photography that would justify buying the book. While some of the chapters like “Working with Organizations (Or Creating your Own)” or “Interviews with Conservation Photographers” offer information that you might not find somewhere else, the book as a whole covers too many topics that will be irrelevant for advanced photography amateurs. Although Norton stresses the point that “the big difference [in conservation photography] is what happens after the images are made”, he doesn’t spend much time explaining how that effects the life of a conservation photographer. Instead of walking the reader through the different steps of post processing with Adobe Lightroom, I would have liked Norton offering more advice on how and where to get your images published for achieving the maximum impact for the cause you care about.
Other than that, the book is well structured and contains lots of beautiful and instructive images. Norton excels when it comes to using examples from his own work in the field and he makes a compelling cause for becoming a conservation photographer. Stories like the one about his involvement in saving Hells Canyon on the boarder of Oregon and Idaho are powerful examples of how conservation photography can make a difference. Although only a few people on this planet might have the chance of spending six days with musician Pete Seeger on a raft trip that would then further public awareness for saving the canyon and river, it becomes clear that conservation photography can add a new meaning to you being out in the field making photographs. The Conservation Photography Handbook is available on Amazon for $25.08 (paperback edition) and $19.99 (Kindle edition).