Conservation through Photography
Thomas D. Mangelsen
Photographer Q & A
Describe the moment or event that inspired your decision to become a photographer.
There wasn't a single moment or event, but a growing desire and passion to capture what I was seeing and experiencing in nature. Since I couldn't draw or paint, I thought about photography and bought my first camera in 1969 when I was 23, a 35mm Asahi Pentax Spotmatic.
What is your favorite photography tip to share with other photographers?
Much of my inspiration has certainly come from other nature photographers, but also photographers like Edward Weston, William Albert Allard, Jim Richardson and Eugene Richards. But long before I bought a camera—and still to this day—old-master painters like Monet and the work of more modern-day painters like Bruno Liljefors, Andrew Wyeth, Bob Kuhn and Robert Bateman have captured my attention and influenced me the most. My simple tip to other photographers is to study the works of all artists and try and develop one's own style.
Favorite photography book and why?
In Wildness is the Preservation of the World by Eliot Porter and Henry David Thoreau is one of the seminal color photography books whose combination of images and words inspired millions. It is a glorious book that continues to impact the way we view nature today.
Most unusual item you keep in your camera bag?
A plastic corkscrew—you never know when you might need one—and TSA doesn't take it away.
What's the best advice you ever received from a fellow photographer?
To buy a Fuji 6x17 Panoramic Medium Format View Camera for wildlife—a camera normally used for studio and landscape photography. Although challenging to use for wildlife, it became my favorite camera especially for animals in their habitat. My most recent book, The Natural World, was a collection of 20 years of imagery from locations around the world using this camera.
Name a geographical place that you'd love to return to or go to for an assignment.
The Serengeti in Tanzania.
What photography project or assignment has been most meaningful for you and why?
Going on assignment for National Geographic as cinematographer and associate producer for the NGS television special Flight of the Whooping Crane, which was nominated for an Emmy. This was the culmination of almost ten years of photography and filming of this beautiful and highly endangered crane (fewer than 60 birds existed in the wild). I spent three seasons radio tracking and following a family of whoopers from Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico to their breeding grounds in Wood Buffalo Park, Nunavut in Northern Canada.
What current projects are keeping you engaged in your conservation efforts?
Current ongoing projects include using my imagery and voice to point out wrongs that should be righted in regards to how we as a country treat our wildlife, especially large carnivores like wolves, bears and cougars. Wolves that were reintroduced in 1995 and are re-colonizing the Rocky Mountain range have been protected under the endangered species act but now are being delisted. The wolves are again being hunted in Idaho and Montana and are soon to be killed as vermin in Wyoming and most places outside of Yellowstone National Park.
There's also a movement to delist grizzly bears in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming by those states' game agencies, the fish and wildlife service, many sportsmen groups and gun lobbyists. Grizzlies will then be managed by the individual states that would then open up trophy hunting seasons on the bears.
Cougars are already being "managed"-killed by the hunters in 13 Western states for "sport," leaving hundreds of orphaned kittens in the wake. My photographic emphasis is not only on exposing these issues but also the senseless killing of bison that wander outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks.
Another outrageous wrong is the annual fall elk hunt in Grand Teton Park, which endangers not only the people visiting the park, but grizzly bears who have learned to follow the sounds of guns shots to find leftover gut piles, elk limbs or full carcasses all filled with poisonous lead and the possibility of encountering hunters—one of the most dangerous situations for bears and man.
If you could publish a book on any photographic subject, what would it be?
Sports Illustrated swimsuit models with polar bears!
What's in your camera bag right now?
- Nikon bodies: two D3Ss, a D3X, and an empty spot for a D4
- Lenses: 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 200-400mm
- A 1.4x and 1.7x teleconverter
- 600mm (in the Lens Trekker 600 AW II)
What do you love about your Lowepro bags?
Lowepro bags are tough, virtually indestructible and weather proof. Padding is substantial for shipping or as checked baggage inside a Pelican case. Backpacks are comfortable—especially for someone who has a bad back. The insides can be organized easily in different configurations, customizing the bag to the equipment needed for different occasions. The rolling case is great as a carry-on and holds the most important camera bodies and lenses I need.
Visit Thomas D. Mangelsen's web site and stock site for a comprehensive look at his out-of-this-world imagery of the natural world. Follow Tom on his photographic journeys via his Facebook page. And read more about The Cougar Fund non-profit he co-founded.
Thomas D. Mangelsen's Lowepro gear:
Thomas D. Mangelsen:Web Site
Thomas D. Mangelsen is one of the world's premier nature photographers. For 40 years, he has traveled the seven continents photographing the natural world. Tom was honored with the Conservation Photographer of the Year by Nature's Best in 2011. He has been recognized as one of the 100 Most Important People in Photography by American Photo, Legend behind the Lens by Nikon, Outstanding Nature Photographer of the Year by the North American Nature Photographer Association, and given the BBC's prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. His most recent book, The Natural World, received the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Coffee Table Book. Mangelsen's work has been exhibited throughout the world and is featured in eight Mangelsen-Images of Nature galleries across the United States. He takes an active role in supporting conservation groups such as the Jane Goodall Institute, is a founding Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and co-founder of the Cougar Fund.