Thursday, December 9, 2010

Belly Crawling for Conservation

By Clay Bolt

A few years ago I became fixated on one simple, elegant statement in Piotr Naskrecki’s landmark book, The Smaller Majority. Simply put, the author writes that 99% of life on planet earth is smaller than a human finger with most being smaller than a fingernail. This immediately sent my head spinning. I looked out onto my backyard and began to wonder what might be out there to discover, photograph and share with the world. It didn’t take me long to realize that even in an area with a temperate climate such as where I live, this statement inevitably holds true. As a macro photographer, my obsession with insects, plants and other small creatures suddenly found a renewed sense of purpose.

Considering humankind’s obsession with discovery, it surprises me that more photographers aren’t as obsessed with macro photography as I am. What other discipline of nature photography offers so much in terms of an opportunity to make fresh new imagery, which may in fact, also represent behaviors and species completely new to science? Going a step further, these images can also make a tremendous contribution to conservation due to the well-documented fact that invertebrates and other small creatures are tremendously important to the well-being of every eco-system in the world.

The July-August 2010 issue of Audubon Magazine contained a fascinating article on the All Taxa Biological Inventory (ATBI) project currently being conducted in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Due to the variety of species being found and its inherit biological richness, the article compares the GSMNP to the tropics. Kevin FitzPatrick, a photographer and iLCP member who has spent the last several years working for the ATBI recently shared with me that researchers believe that they have discovered an estimated 1,000 new species in the park over the past 10 years. What else is out there waiting to be discovered is anybody’s guess but most believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg.

I’ll leave you with this: What if every major nature photography “star” decided to focus their cameras on their own backyards over the span of a year? Can you imagine the incredible new insights and imagery of our natural world which would result from such an experiment? All of us who have a passion for nature and photography should be out getting our knees and elbows dirty from time-to-time. There is so much to see with such little investment if we can only slow down, and change our perspective. It will change the way that you see the world.

Clay Bolt is an award-winning natural history and conservation photographer whose work has been featured by The Nature Conservancy, Outdoor Photographer Magazine, The Telegraph UK, Outdoor Photography (UK), Garden & Gun, Partnership for the Blue Ridge and Wildlife in North Carolina Magazine. In 2009 his work was highly commended in the CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year awards in London. Clay was a major photographic contributor to the book Conserve A Legacy: Natural Lands & Waters in South Carolina (2010) and is a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

Although Clay Bolt has photographed nature around the world, his passion and focus continues to be educating the public about the importance of protecting and cherishing the wild places, plants and animals of the Southeastern, United States.

1 comment:

Denis Palanque said...

Hi Clay,

It's a pleasant surprise to read your post on this blog.
Like you the miniature wide world around us is a continuing source of inspiration for my photography.
I had the opportunity to work with a scientist from the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris (Christine Rollard) on the program The All Taxa Biological Inventory (ATBI) last summer. This araneologue made me discover the riches of the world of spiders. Unexpected discovery for me as the world is rich and eight legs variéré, even in Europe. The book is in production and hope it will allow people who are afraid of spiders to look them with different eyes, without hate and full of curiosity.