National Geographic Photographer || Author || Speaker || Creator of images, stories and events to inspire wonder and concern about our living planet.
410,229 followers183 following225 posts
I share this image in celebration of Earth Day. One day, after overnight rain had drenched California’s Big Sur coast, sunlight and morning clouds blended land, sea, and air together, enabling me to capture this landscape as a dynamic visualization of a living Earth. The first Earth Day in 1970 marks the birth of the modern environmental movement. It’s more important now than ever. We all need to stay engaged, and the best place to start is in our local communities. That’s where everything begins.
Blazes of blue lupines blanket the hillsides and valleys of the Central Coast of California right now. It’s the best wildflower bloom we’ve had in years because of the abundant winter rains. For this image I used a polarizing filter to express more detail in the sky. To learn more about how I photograph landscapes and wildflowers in creative ways, tune in this Sunday April 23 at 9:00 am PDT on CreativeLive.com to see my free online course “The Art of Seeing.” I created this course with Creative Live, which will stream it live—and free—for 24 hours. If you cannot tune in at that time or if you want to own a copy of the course, you can buy it directly from Creative Live. If you’d like to join us for a future workshop session, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be on our emailing list.
(Tap for sound) Hi Photographers, Tune in this Sunday April 23 at 9:00 am PDT on CreativeLive.com to see my free online course “The Art of Seeing,” if you’re interested in learning creative techniques for photographing plants. I created this course with Creative Live, which will stream it live for 24 hours. If you cannot tune in at that time or if you want to own a copy of the course, you can buy it directly from Creative Live. If you’d like to join us for a future workshop session, write to us at email@example.com and ask to be on our emailing list. Video by @ChristineEckstrom
Photo by @FransLanting My home along the coast of California is situated in prime cougar habitat, and for a number of years I’ve deployed camera traps to document this elusive cat. One of my favorite locations is an overgrown trail that comes out of a steep wooded canyon and passes right next to our land. One morning a wary male passed by an old oak tree festooned with lichen. The look in his eye epitomizes the character of this cat. Cougars were nearly wiped out along the coast of California near Santa Cruz where I live, but since they were given protection in 1990, they’ve rebounded. They now occur even at the edges of towns and cities, but they are very good at avoiding people. The comeback of cougars in California is a success story, and it shows what can happen if we’re tolerant of apex predators and if we’re protecting enough wild land where they can survive. Stay tuned for more images that celebrate wild California.
As strong winter storms are giving way to gentle spring squalls, the time of big surf is nearing an end--for now. Here’s a testimonial to the force of the Pacific Ocean as it culminates in a huge wave breaking at Mavericks, not far north from where I live. It takes courage to ride these mountains of water. Stay tuned for more images of spring along the California coast.
After abundant winter rain, streams in the Santa Cruz Mountains are full of fresh water. I made this image standing in the middle of a creek using a long exposure made possible by a neutral density filter. It’s one of the techniques we demonstrate during our spring workshops held at our studio in Santa Cruz. If you’re interested in joining us for a future workshop session, sign up to be on our mailing list by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned for more images of our lovely California coast.
It’s spring in California and the poppies are blooming—and blowing in the wind. This is a glorious season along the coast, especially after the welcome winter rains we’ve had this year. From the air the land is emerald green right now. This is also the time of year when we host photography workshops at our studio in Santa Cruz at the edge of Monterey Bay, where I’ve lived for more than 30 years. We organize field trips to some of my favorite places and help unleash everyone’s creativity. It’s rewarding to me to see how I can make a difference in how other people see and interpret the world with their cameras. Stay tuned for more images from the Monterey Bay. @thephotosociety@natgeo@natgeotravel@natgeocreative#California#SantaCruz#MontereyBay#Wildflowers#PhotoWorkshop#Orange#Beauty
Emperor penguins raise their young on the sea ice surrounding Antarctica where there is no vegetation or rocks with which they could build nests. When the young are just born, parents brood them on their feet. But a few weeks later the chicks start wandering around on their own. I came across this one, maybe a month old, at the edge of a colony, where it was awaiting the return of its parents. Without a nest site to come back to, emperor penguins and their offspring have evolved an amazing ability to find each other by sound. Imagine the cacophony of parents and chicks calling each other. It’s remarkable that this all works out. Truly a wonder of nature! Stay tuned for more amazing tales from the Southern Ocean.
It’s always rush hour on the beaches of South Georgia Island where awesome numbers of king penguins are going into the water to start fishing offshore. It’s a testimonial to the richness of this Southern Ocean ecosystem and the importance of this island at the edge of Antarctica as a sanctuary for marine life. Check my posts @FransLanting to learn more about the amazing life history of king penguins on this spectacular island.
Young albatrosses take many months to mature before they’re ready to take flight and head off to sea. These black-browed albatross chicks have a long way to go before they can lift their wings and become the supreme flyers sailors have admired for centuries. They’re all sitting on mud nests built by their parents, who are searching the open ocean for squid to take back to their downy offspring in the Falkland Islands. I love albatrosses! To me they are among the most amazing creatures on the planet. I never get tired of watching them and photographing them.
Photo by @NASA Celebrate Earth Hour! Turn off your lights for one hour at 8:30 pm, your local time, on Saturday March 25, to show solidarity with Planet Earth and demonstrate our global commitment to fighting climate change. Landmarks all over the world will go dark including the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Sydney Opera House, and the Las Vegas Strip. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Earth Hour, an initiative that was first organized by the World Wildlife Fund in Australia and has grown into a worldwide movement. Join in! We can all be heroes for our planet. This image is the perfect symbol for island Earth, our home.
A handful of visitors is vastly outnumbered by the astonishing concentration of king penguins that gather on South Georgia Island’s Salisbury Plain every year. Brown chicks are mixed with adults ready to start a next breeding cycle. Check my feed @FransLanting for more amazing images and stories of this Antarctic wildlife spectacle.
This male elephant seal is exhausted. He’s lost a lot of his body weight after weeks of fighting and fasting on a beach on South Georgia Island in the Antarctic. If you’re born as a male elephant seal you’re in for a life of all or nothing. Males weigh up to 4,000 pounds; they bulk out like prizefighters to gain a physical advantage over rivals who fight each other intensely to take control over beaches where females haul out. A handful of males get access to most of the females; all the other males are out of luck. Pups are born a year later on the same beach where they’re conceived. Check my previous posts to see how adorable the pups look during their first two months. After that they turn into super-size seals. Stay tuned for more tales from South Georgia, the island of superlatives.
Eyes full of innocence light up the face of this elephant seal pup which is less than two months old. Yet it’s already been weaned by its mother, who nourished it for a month with milk that is one of the highest in fat content of any animal on earth, and now it’s languishing on the shores of South Georgia before it takes a plunge into the cold waters of the Southern Ocean. Elephant seals dive deeper than almost any other marine mammal; some of them go farther down than 7000 feet. It takes more than big eyes to survive down there. Watch out, young seal! Stay tuned for more stories about seals and other wonders from South Georgia, the island at the end of the world.
Happy days are back again for elephant seals on South Georgia. After the island’s massive populations of marine mammals were discovered by sealers in the 19th century, a slaughter began that led to the killing of millions of fur seals and elephant seals, which continued into the 20th century. But today all seals are protected, and elephant seals blanket the beaches in enormous numbers again. Check one of my earlier posts on this feed that shows how many elephant seals and king penguins can be found together here. This young elephant seal is a “weaner.” It’s been pumped full of fatty milk by its mother for a month, and now it’s gaining strength by splashing around in shallow water before it heads offshore into the rich waters of the Southern Ocean. Elephant seals are amazing divers. They go deeper than almost any other marine mammal except for sperm whales. Some seals equipped with depth recorders have been known to go farther down than a mile. We are grateful for this recovery and hope that it can inspire the next level of protection for wildlife in the Southern Ocean.
It takes two to tango, but three is a crowd and four even more. Courting king penguins attract interlopers. Here a male is warding off rivals to protect the female he’s interested in. Another female stands by on the left, watching the outcome of this scuffle on South Georgia, the island of kings. A special message for photographers in the UK: I will be presenting at "The Photography Show" in Birmingham this Sunday March 19 at 3 pm and Monday March 20 at 11 am. This is a brand new show based on my exhibition, "Dialogues with Nature," which was launched this past summer in the Netherlands. It gives an overview of my career featuring images from five of my signature projects produced over a period of 40 years. You'll see classics, but also previously unpublished images and lots of stories. I hope to see you there! @thephotographyshow@thephotosociety@natgeotravel@natgeocreative#Nature#Penguins#picoftheday#naturelovers#attitude
The outcome of king penguin love is one fluffy chick, which takes a year to mature. This one has survived the long cold winter when parents barely come back to feed their offspring. A thick brown feather coat helps with survival. When whalers first reached South Georgia, they were amazed by these penguin chicks, and thought they were a different species than their parents. This chick has only a month or so to go before it will take its first plunge into the frigid waters surrounding South Georgia, which are brimming with sea life that sustain spectacular numbers of penguins, other seabirds, and marine mammals. This is truly one of the great wildlife sanctuaries on the planet. Stay tuned for more stories about the future of South Georgia and the king penguins who live there.
King courtship is a ritual affair with solemn greetings and ceremonial behavior that makes it easier for males and females to bond with each other. Here a male is draping his bill around the neck of a female who indicates with her bowed head and drooping flippers that she’s willing to go along to the next stage of coupling commitment. Stay tuned for what happens next. Follow me @FransLanting for more images from South Georgia, the island of kings.
It’s always rush hour on the beaches of South Georgia Island. In this time lapse, masses of king penguins are coming and going into the water with a few fur seals mixed in. Check our other posts @FransLanting to learn more about the amazing life history of king penguins on this spectacular island near Antarctica.
King penguins molt before they start a new breeding cycle. On South Georgia Island masses of kings gather along glacial streams where they stand for several weeks while they shed their old feathers. During their molt, they cannot go to sea to feed because they are losing their insulation. So all these birds are fasting. They’ll drink water or eat snow, but that’s it. They lose a lot of weight but at the end of their molt, they look like brand new birds with striking yellow-orange neck patches that indicate they’re ready to breed. @natgeo@thephotosociety@natgeocreative@natgeotravel#Penguins#Nature#WildlifePhotography#picoftheday#Wild
A mass of king penguin chicks has turned their backs against a snow squall on South Georgia Island near Antarctica. They were all born the year before, and during the summer months their parents fed them as much as they could before the food chain collapsed at the end of the season of plenty. During the long winter months the parents go way offshore and the chicks barely receive any nourishment. Yet amazingly many of the chicks survive this ordeal, and now they are awaiting their parents to come back to nurture them to independence. I’ve shared the epic survival story of emperor penguins with you before, but to me, king penguins are just as unique in their adaptation to extreme circumstances. Stay tuned for more amazing stories from South Georgia, the island of Kings.
A mass of king penguins has gathered in shallow water just off South Georgia Island. They’re busy socializing and cleaning themselves. There’s a lot of commotion when this many king penguins get together. Soon they will head to sea for a feeding trip into the rich fishing grounds that surround the island. I made this image at the beginning of a new king penguin breeding cycle, and all the adults are looking their best. Stay tuned for more stories from South Georgia, the island of kings.
I recently returned from the Antarctic and will be sharing some images and stories this week. Perhaps my favorite place in that part of the world is South Georgia Island. Its beaches are always packed with wildlife dependent on the rich marine resources of the Southern Ocean that surrounds this remarkable island. In this image you can see multitudes of elephant seals and king penguins mixed together. The seals were just finishing up their breeding season. For the king penguins it is a more complicated story. You can see adults in their immaculate plumage as well as fluffy brown chicks. More about them in a next post!
This jaguar is an embodiment of explosive strength as it is stalking a caiman in Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland. Jaguars are jungle cats throughout much of their range in Central and South America, and it is difficult to get more than a glimpse of one of these powerful spotted cats as it blends in with the surrounding forest. But in the Pantanal, jaguars come out into the open more often, because their favorite prey, caiman and capybaras, are often hanging out on river banks.
Fifteen years after I photographed Zawadi when she was just a cub, I crossed paths with her again in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, when she was an old female. She still lived in the same area after all those years! Zawadi was also named “Shadow”— and like her famous mother, Half-Tail, she was featured in the BBC’s Big Cat Diary television series. Millions of people saw her grow up. A leopard doesn’t change its spots they say, and it’s true. Match up the spots on Zawadi’s face in this picture with the other photo I posted yesterday of Half-Tail with Zawadi when she was only a few months old. The spots stay the same over time. Most leopards don’t reach 15 years of age in the wild as Zawadi did. It’s tough being a leopard, especially as a lone female. You have to cope with lions, hyenas, and people too. I followed her for a while and then lost her, the way you always lose leopards eventually—in thickets, where they slink out of view.
Here’s a famous female leopard named Half-Tail, grooming her cub named Zawadi. Half-Tail was one of the first leopards in Kenya’s Maasai Mara to tolerate people and vehicles near her. That’s how she became known as an individual leopard. She became a star when the BBC started following her for its “Big Cat Diary” television programs. My friend and colleague, wildlife photographer Jonathan Scott, was a presenter for that series, and he knew her very well. Thanks to Half-Tail, millions of people got a better sense of what it’s like to be a leopard. She got her name because she lost a portion of her tail in a baboon attack. Half-Tail raised her cub, Zawadi, in public, and that in turn helped Zawadi herself to be more accepting of people in vehicles. In this image, Zawadi is only a few months old. Stay tuned for a next post that shows Zawadi many years later.
The most powerful cat in the Americas is peering out from a cover of grasses along a river bank in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands. Jaguars grow big here because of an abundance of prey that includes capybaras and caiman which they stalk along the rivers. They combine the stealth of a leopard with the strength of a lion. But unlike lions, they’re solitary. In parts of the Pantanal jaguars were persecuted by ranchers and they were practically invisible, but in a few places where they are not harassed, they can often be seen in the open—evidence that protection works.
Leopards are feared more than any other animal by bonobos and chimps, because they can climb trees, unlike lions and cheetahs. Any sense of a leopard nearby will send a group of bonobos or chimps into a frenzy. Their social defense of banding together and creating a screaming commotion is usually enough to keep a leopard at bay, but at night, leopards have the advantage of being unseen. Our fascination with big cats is based on a deep ancestral fear and an admiration for a formidable adversary. @natgeo@natgeotravel@natgeocreative@thephotosociety#Leopard#BigCatsWeek#Botswana
Kanzi is a uniquely talented bonobo. He was born in captivity and learned how to communicate with humans at an early age, mastering a vocabulary of symbols developed by Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh at her research facility. Over a period of 30 years, Kanzi has had many complex conversations with Sue that reveal his emotions and his ability to empathize with others. When I spent time with him, I was struck by his social intelligence. He was totally tuned in to the intentions and emotions of people around him, including me. Along with common chimpanzees, bonobos are our nearest of kin, but we have not exactly treated them like family. In the wild, bonobos, also known as pygmy chimps, only occur in a remote part of the Congo Basin, where they are threatened by civil unrest and the bushmeat trade.
Baring your teeth at someone is normally a sign of aggression. But here, Lana, a captive female bonobo, was doing it as a way to provoke a reaction from me. Bonobos and humans are so closely related that we share many facial expressions—and an ability to use deception to get what you want. That is exactly what Lana was doing here. She was feigning aggression to get my attention—and to me, that is evidence of a social sophistication that crosses species boundaries. I spent several days observing Lana and others in her family group for a series of intimate portraits to help people understand how unique bonobos are. For more images and stories see my book, “Bonobo, The Forgotten Ape,” co-produced with Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal. @natgeo@natgeotravel@natgeocreative@thephotosociety#Attitude#GreatApe#Bonobo#Aggression
This is Lana, an intelligent, feisty, female bonobo making eye contact with me. Bonobos are our closest relatives on the great tree of life, along with chimpanzees. She’s a captive bonobo, and I spent time with her for a series of portraits that reveal personalities and attitudes, to combine with the images that I made of bonobos in the dark jungles of the Congo Basin. Lana has lost most of her facial hair, and that makes it easier to see ourselves in her. After all, we as humans are truly "naked apes,” as Desmond Morris once called us in his classic book by that title. For more stories, see my book, “Bonobo, The Forgotten Ape,” co-produced with Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal. Our book aimed to help people understand how unique bonobos are and how they differ from chimpanzees. @natgeo@natgeotravel@natgeocreative@thephotosociety#Attitude#Ape
Bonobos are our closest relatives on the great tree of life, along with chimpanzees. In the wild they only occur in a remote part of Africa’s Congo Basin where they are threatened by the bushmeat trade and civil unrest. I spent time with bonobos in the dimlit jungles of the Congo and combined that work with intimate portraits of captive individuals to reveal their personalities. This image shows a female named Loretta in a pensive pose. She became the cover for my book, “Bonobo, The Forgotten Ape,” co-produced with my friend, Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal. Our book was the first extended profile of bonobos for a popular audience, and helped people understand how unique bonobos are and how they differ from chimpanzees. I share this image in celebration of the upcoming World Bonobo Day, February 14.