Shout-Out for Nat Geo photographer Paul Nicklen

Paul Nicklen is a hard working photographer for National Geographic.  I met him last fall while he was working on a Spirit Bear photo project on the BC coast. He told me that his work keeps him away from home for about ten months of every year.  That sounds tough. I imagine one of the greatest pay-offs for him are the intimate glimpses of our world he is witness to. Here’s an example:

This video has had nearly 2.5 million hits on Youtube.  To put that into perspective, a study done in July 2009 showed that only 0.3% of videos had more than 10 000 views. Considering these statistics, the success of Nicklen’s video is nothing short of flabbergasting.

Then again, the life that he leads is kind of flabbergasting too. I imagine the number of people who live like Nicklen is roughly equivalent to the number of videos on Youtube that get 2.5 million views. That is, vanishingly few.

Nicklen’s photos reach millions of people and tell stories about Earth and its creatures that very few people would experience otherwise. I think that is an important contribution. And I am thrilled that his video is so popular. Hopefully, it indicates that a lot of people are more interested stories about the spectacular menagerie of life on Earth, rather than watching videos about the latest pop culture fad.

The pages of National Geographic are the closest that many people will ever get to a wild toothy predator.  Yet, even these second hand experiences move people and subtly change their way of thinking about the world, which is important.

Even though it seems like a glamorous lifestyle – traveling the world taking photos – I think Nicklen’s work is demanding. Aside from being away from home  most of the time, I am guessing he faces challenges and risks that most folks would not subject themselves to. Apparently, his doctor thinks he has life long medical problems from too much cold water exposure from his work at the poles.

I have worked with many film and photo crews while guiding on the west coast and have concluded that they must be some of the most patient people anywhere. They work hard in difficult conditions. Quite simply, it ain’t easy to create National Geographic caliber images.

For example, this is what Nicklen said about creating these narwhal images:

What people don’t realize is the days, weeks, sometimes months it takes to get those images.  To get the narwhal pictures…took me 15 years of trying to figure it out: working with the Inuit; buying a little ultra-light airplane; flying out into the remote pack ice in the arctic and finally -in one day- getting all those images that told that narwhal story.

Paul’s recent book, Polar Obsession, is gorgeous and is also a reflection of his remarkable tenacity.  But it is also a testament to his passion for the arctic, Antarctic and the creatures who live there: and a plea to ensure they have a future.

I am obsessed about getting the story out – that the polar regions are melting three times faster than anywhere else on Earth. We’re losing the ice and when we lose the ice we stand to lose an entire ecosystem. So, my journey is urgent. It is very pressing that I shoot these stories and get them out to the public now.

So here’s a shout out to Paul Nicklen who’s passion and remarkable photography are making a difference in our world.

To see another interview with Paul – and the source of the two quotes above, click here.

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