Suzi Eszterhas: "The Life of a Wildlife Photographer" | Talks at Google
Thank. You for having me. So, as Peter, already told you I'm a wildlife, photographer. Which. Pretty much means I have the best job on earth in, many ways in, some ways maybe not so great as Peter. Mentioned the financial side but in, terms, of adventure. And joy I've got a pretty good gig with what I do I. Travel. The world taking, photos, of animals, I do. This for, magazine. Publications. And book, projects, and my favorite, projects, are for. In-depth, stories, where I spend. Time with one. Animal or one species anywhere, from a few days to a few weeks to a few months and in, the case of cheetahs 18 months so a lot, of my time goes, to, spending. Long hours with, my subjects, and really. Creating. In-depth work that maybe. We haven't. Seen before a very, rare imagery, and it's having, these special, times with animals, and long. Time, with animals that really makes this possible I make. My living from a few different sources as I mentioned, I do magazines, that you books I also lead tours as a, wildlife photographer you, have to kind of have a lot of balls in the air and you. Know whatever comes down is, great and you're lucky some things work, some things don't but there's. No wildlife photography, career where you can just do one thing anymore where you're photographing for one publication, you've got to have a lot of different projects, going on but. The one commonality, is, that I focus, on baby animals, so I, specialize. In documenting, family life of wild. Animals, and. That. Is something that I was, born, passionate, about according, to my mom she. Always says that this. Job, you. Didn't pick this job it shows you ever since I can remember this, is all I wanted to do I don't know what it's like to, live, life and not, one of photograph, animals. I was. Definitely a, strange, kid. I, didn't, quite fit, in in school I wasn't. Wasn't. Exactly popular with the boys super stylish as you can see. But. I was, passionate I was madly passionate. About, animals. About nature, this is this looks somewhere really exotic but, it's actually a zoo. But. I am dressed for safari just in case and, I, spent my life dreaming, about places, like the African, savannah, and. I. Told. My, parents that I was going to go live in a tent in Africa, and I think they thought I would grow out of it and. I never did and. So. I, grew. Up in the Bay Area I grew up in San Rafael and. Then I went to Boulder for a couple years and then finished, my school in Santa Cruz and, Santa Cruz was a great, place, for me to start, off as a young, nature. Photographer, I did, a lot of local. Work obviously. I didn't really have when I graduated, college. You can't just graduate. College and say, I'm gonna be a wildlife, photographer it's, a bit like saying I'm gonna be an actor or a musician you. Need a day job so. I. Worked, at the Santa Cruz SPCA, as the. PR, director which, basically meant I got to hang out with puppies and kittens all day which was better than my, previous job of waiting tables so, it's pretty happy about this and I, held this job for. Six. Years and in. That, six year time I managed. To get. My schedule, to be four. Days a week and then I would go out and shoot for four three days a week and I, really, really worked on my portfolio, mostly. Local, at the time as. I started, to. Work. With local subjects, I started, to realize. How important, that connection, was with animals, in terms of, focusing. On one animal in depth, sometimes, one individual, but certainly one species and, saw.
The Value in that and I started producing material. Again. Mostly focused, around baby, animals, and I. Started to hear for the first time that, you. Know you can't make a career in focusing on baby animals I mean first of all you can't be that photographer that's just you, know pie in the sky dream but. Particularly, when I threw in the baby animals, you know people sort of pooh-poohed it baby animals are not something, that people. Really sort of held in wide respect, it was sort of like oh that's for kids and you. Know you'll never make it and and. So. I heard that from the very beginning, and, in honestly, I was so driven and so passionate. About my. Subjects, that I just didn't care it just completely disregarded I almost like didn't even hear it and. And. That. Drive that that you, have to have that to make it in this industry you, have to be completely. A hundred percent driven. You need that tunnel, vision you, need that ability to, not pay. Attention to rejection, and not pay attention to what people are saying and. And. That extreme, dedication. Photographing, wildlife is not always easy, it. Takes a lot of a lot of patience, which I'll talk about more, in depth later but it also takes. A lot of skill and there's a lot of things that you wouldn't necessarily. Realize. In it there's, different ways of approaching different subjects, some. Of the animals you have to hide from so, I I started, using blinds, a lot also, called hides. Dressing. From camo from head to toe for certain subjects, and. Being. In a blind is really interesting, you you, see you sit in there all day sometimes, you're in a like crunched-up little position and you're, waiting for something to happen and, sometimes it's hot and sweaty in there it's. Muddy and it's it's generally not a fun. Experience, so everybody has all these these. Ideas, of wildlife photography, being super, sexy. You get to go to all these places and, gallivant. Around the world and you're with wild animals all the time and the truth of the matter is is you're doing stuff like this sitting. In a blind you, know hours, and hours of boredom, I wouldn't, be honest if I didn't admit that I get bored and waiting. For something that may or may not happen, after, you spend a 13 hour a day and, then, if you actually think about like what happens, in those thirteen hours you can't always sometimes you can read a book but sometimes you know in this case it's too dark inside to read a book so. You sit in there and just try to get into the Zen space and, working. With baby animals, there are particular, if you're at like a den site for example you can't cause, a lot of disturbance, often you just sort of go, in really very. Quietly. And slowly in the morning and then you pull out when the Sun Goes Down and, you don't, go in and out there's no like going in and out to tepee privilege, so, you you. Do things like carry around a big. Huge, red water. Bottle, that is your pee bottle that, is a nice, color. That you could never mistake, as your water and I, mean this is your life this is this is what you're doing and you make that mistake once you, accidentally, drink out of it once you never do it again you cover things with stickers do not drink various. Things that you just don't think about as as life, as a wildlife photographer. And. Some. Of these places that you go are, sort of like these legendary, when I first went up to Alaska and, had, the ability to travel, you start you, read about working, with these dangerous, animals, on foot and you know grizzly bears can kill you and they charge and, and. Then you start sort of realizing, that yeah, it. Animals. Like this can be dangerous but a lot of that is sort of this almost, urban, legend, mythical, folklore, working. With grizzly, bears has actually, been some of the most peaceful, experiences. I've had working, with any subject, and. I learned this really early on and grizzly bears were my first sort of large carnivore, working, around getting. To to. Know how. To work with them and I was with a bear guide who taught me a lot he was a bear hunter, and, we. Carried bear spray at the time and what. I realized, is is it knowing, animal, behavior, is ninety, percent of, this job and, I, this, was good for me because it, was always 90 percent of my interest, the photography, kind of came second, it was the animals that came first but.
Knowing, That actually, part of the skill, or. The majority of the skill, knowing, what these animals might do in terms of keeping you safe but also in terms of what they might do in getting, the right photo, the next time, anticipating. What they're gonna do next so. You know, historically. You'd think okay working with mom and Cubs. You know with grizzly bears is something that is is quite, dangerous, but. Really if you know their behavior, you keep your distance you're respectfully. And you know signs to watch for, I. Use, a lot of long lenses, it can be an incredibly, peaceful experience. Where you're not in danger and, they're not stressed, and that's one of the most important things when I work particularly since I work with baby animals, is not, stressing, my subjects, out because. Obviously, this is a really tender. Sensitive, situation, when you're working with animals, and they're young and. Some. Of these, these. Young animals that grow up around people, this is a sub-adult. Grizzly. Bear that grew up around people and, we. Have various strategies when working with grizzly bears if they get too curious, so, you have bear spray around your belt but you don't want to use the bear spray unless you absolutely have to so. The Bears will, come up and get curious about you and they'll, kind. Of like try to sniff your backpack, or, whatever they, want to do and you, obviously, will slowly back away and. Try if you're with other people you try to sort of stay together as a group but. And then, you know sometimes, the Bears that have grown up around people they're, not really easily faced so you might do something like shake a rain jacket at, them which, makes a loud noise and then they usually run away or. In. This bears case he had heard a lot of rain jackets, he was not fazed by rain jackets, at all so. He just kept coming and coming and coming and then, finally, I just took my baseball cap off my head and bonked him on the nose with that and that was the end of that so, you, know it, a baseball hat is what what, it takes for this you know large, and dayne of dangerous, carnivore, to to. Go running away so, some, of some, of it the job has really been dispelling. A lot of those myths, and I'm not saying that these aren't dangerous animals, but there are very peaceful ways, of working with and, coexisting. One, of the other, exotic. Places I got to go was the Arctic, this. Is my, first experience with really extreme, conditions, I went up to document. A climate change study, and part. Of that was actually the. Scientists, were darting mothers. And Cubs as they came out of their den and, so. You, know the scientists, had a cub that was getting a little too cold it was tranquilised, whose body, temperature, was dropping and, he's like are. You okay with warming him up I'm like sure, not, gonna say no to that I. Had. A job on a ship, in Antarctica, I, worked, on a staff for two expeditions. And, that was you, know a little, bit of it was a fun job it didn't pay well but I got to photograph, penguins, on my off time and then was. Assisting. With zodiac loading. And unloading on, on my work time but. For me as a young wildlife, photographer, starting out it was a job that was a dream job because, I had a paid trip to Antarctica and I got to photographing, animals. I was, already selling pictures at, this point and I had already established a, relationship with, an agent and when. I got home from that my, agent, sold one of my photos to the cover of Time, and. It was a really interesting point in my career two things happened one I. Had. I I, knew that the job didn't pay that well at the time I was fifty, thousand dollars in credit card debt and that was from just like trying to get started there was there was no you know you can't get a business loan as a wildlife photographer and, there was no family money so credit. Cards to me were worth, gold and, so. I put everything on a credit card to buy all the gear and do, some of the first travel that I did, so. I knew that this was not a high paying job but I hadn't, really realized how bad, it actually was, and so. When. I got this message from my agent that this had sold I thought you know I'm gonna be rich this is amazing, cover, of time worldwide, rights I'm gonna be a rich girl, and.
I. Had, these numbers in my head and in the end it was $1,500. Split between the two of us, and. That was a major eye-opener, for me and, then the other eye-opener. That came with the time cover as well was, you. Know you you get the cover of Time and so a lot of people, start talking about you know okay well the photographer, has arrived you know they've had the cover of time and, for. Me it was the first time I really realized, I'd obviously, being a woman in a male-dominated field. I had. I had been a minority, and I had experienced. Some of the challenges, faced with that. But. This is when I really started to hear discussions, about me said, in front of me of you. Know she'll be barefoot and pregnant in five years or, she's not gonna last she'll have kids. You. Know she's a woman she's not going to go to tough places and. And. It really this. The conversations. After this time cover came out were. Quite eye-opening for me in terms of exactly. What an old boys club I was dealing with. So. I. My. Big break came I had. A really interesting point in my life I had. Been. Saving, money instead, of paying off my credit card debt which I should have been I was. Saving money to, do. A dream project which would was, to go to Africa and photograph, a cheetah. Cub family. And I wanted to follow Cubs that were out of the nest like six weeks old or so and. I'd. Put money aside for that and I had made some relationships. With, people in, Africa. About, certain. Places where cheetahs were found and I had convinced. These lodge owners to let me know when there was a litter of cheetah cubs out and. It had been a couple years since, I had had any. Correspondence. With them and at. The time I was still working my SPCA, job those part-time but I was I was still working it and I was feeling a little demoralized. About my. Career and and whether or not it was gonna actually work for me and there, were other challenges. In my life as well I was I think, everyone. Every. Woman at some point has a bad boyfriend and this was my time to have a bad boyfriend I had this, guy for seven years that I shouldn't have been with and and. Life, just was not really going well and Bing. Comes into my inbox, and email saying there's cheetah cubs come. To the Serengeti now and, I. Decided. Overnight, to radically, change my, life so I dumped. The boyfriend, I drained the savings account I put everything in storage and I picked, up and I went to Africa and, I thought I'd stay two years and I wound up staying there sorry I thought I'd stay two months and I wound up staying three years and it, radically. Changed, my life. The. I. Wound, up spending eighteen. Months working, with cheetahs, five. Different families. This. Is a family I worked with when I, actually found. The mom when she was pregnant and. Worked. With these guys they're about four days old and I started getting imagery. That, was really, unique and what. I would do in order to get this imagery is I would go out and I would find, my cheetah, family in the morning and I would stay with them all, day long until sunset, and then I had. One of those old-fashioned GPS point devices, not like you know the Garmin where it tells you like turn right to go to the cheetahs there, wasn't anything like that but. I would plot in points, at the end of the day and so the next day I would go back and try to find them and I did this over and over again every day and. I. Got to know quite, a few different females, very, well and as. A result, their Cubs grew, up around me. And. Started. You know doing things like playing on my car on the tire and then I. Had. A cheetah jump on the hood of my car this. Is a cub that sort, of grew up around me and then, he eventually progressed. To the point where he would, stick, his head in my, window that was, open and, she does a very docile they're not like, lions or leopards where they're gonna Bowl, on attack you so you don't have to be terrified when this happens but you. Know stuck his head in the window and pawed my shoulder, to try to get me to engage, in play.
And. You. Know I of course as a wildlife photographer we don't touch it's, not something that we do it's it's a real ethical nono, so I didn't. Play. Back as much as I wanted to, I didn't play back or I would just be sitting there in my car and he'd, be on the roof and his tail would drop down and leg graze my neck and it, was quite a heavenly, experience. And. Then followed the mom when, they went out hunting. This. Is a shot that was incredibly, difficult for me to get I think I tried for about 12 days or so and she. Finally. Had, a, hunt. That was in the open and in the in a right situation, for photography. And, and just being able to capture, these animals at. Such high speeds. Is is something, that's challenging but also really exhilarating watching. A cheetah move and you can see here and her movement her tail, is like a rudder and she's using it to turn as this gazelle, zigzags, and tries, to escape from her. So. Just really, incredibly. Special, times with with, my cheetah families. And. Then, I found myself at the end of those 18. Months I found myself thinking. While I'm in the Masai Mara which is one of the wildlife. Mecca's. And. So. I thought we'll turn my attention to the 1.8, million wildebeest that, were pouring in and they, do the great migration. Worked, with leopard. And, then. Spent a few months working with a lion pride this is one of my top-selling, images, this is a a, male. Meeting. His cub for the first time and again. This went back to, knowing. Wildlife, behavior, knowing what might happen next so I had, done a lot of research I had talked to a lot of different biologists, and I knew that when I found the Cubs they were about two weeks old and I knew that at some point mom, would take them out it were more. Like mom couldn't keep them in and they'd, be so rowdy they'd come. Out she couldn't do anything about it and they would meet the rest of the pride and that would, be when they met dad so I anticipated. This moment and just hoped that it would happen and in, a good situation for photography. And on a day when I could find them because. You. Know lots of times I would go out looking for my subjects, and not be able to find them and look all day and have no success so. Luck. Plays a huge, part in it anticipation. Plays, a huge part but luck as well and. Then. That patience. Game of. There's. A lot of the big cats that I work with aren't very shy because they're used to people on Safari following, them around but. When you start working with some of the nondescript, animals, like these jackals, you, start following them and they're like whoa you're, supposed to ignore me what's going on and.
They Don't like it one bit so, for this family it took 17, days to habituate them, and what that means is basically to get them so, that they're not shy, anymore and, that so 17, days until I got my first photo and that's, just moving my sheep a little bit closer to them every day a. Lot. Of people asked what my life was like living. In the Mara and this is the car that I drove is a little Suzuki when, I first got there I had a Land Cruiser and the Land Cruiser is a lot it's. A lot to handle it's a lot on my, own with, my physique. To. Even. Just you know change the tire you mean you grew up in Marin and you, call triple-a, there's no true there's no triple-a out there so, you've. Got to do everything on your own so, this was a car that I could that. I could handle, doing, some small repairs on, and also a, great car for driving around following wildlife because I could get into little places, as well, people teased me because it was like a toy car but it served me very well and, then. My camp. This. Is my very. Fancy, bush shower at, first I just had the the. Rubber bucket, and tied, it up in the trees and then I had my, camp guy make, me this I did, hire a security. Guard for camp, and. He became, sort of my camp guy and helped me with stuff around. And. Then, I, had. This. Tent for, three years. So. It's bigger than the kind of tent you'd go to you're somebody in. But. You. Know still pretty basic there was a cotton side cop. Inside, and I had the basin. To wash with, as. Well no toilet living without a toilet for three years is quite an experience. And. Then, I had no power for the first year and a half I ran everything off my car batteries, and then, after. A year and a half I got solar panels put, in so. I don't know if you noticed in the previous shot but there's a little friend up, in front but, while I was working in the, Masai Mara the Rangers. Got. To know me and they asked, me if I would take. Care of an orphan servile kitten named, moto I named.
A Moto which means fire and, I. Was pretty isolated, and, kind of lonely in camps so I I loved, the idea of having a, little, something, a little being to to, love and take care of so, I. Said, yes and the intent was always to return him to the wild. But. He was two weeks old so he needed a lot of time with a mom of sorts, so. When. I first got him he was not doing well he was emaciated and, he was not feeding very well and a rehabber. Had told me that I just needed to hang out with him in bed and I couldn't at the time I was working on my hanging to done and I was too, busy I couldn't just hang out in bed for days with him so I sewed, little, kangaroo pouches, into shirts, and. Tucked. Him inside and buttoned, him up and I would take him in my Jeep every day we'd go out to the hanging it down and he loved, it in the pouch he, was super. Happy in there. He would just snooze away in the pouch he peed on me a lot in there but other. Than that it worked out really well and then he bonded, with me from, being, so close to me for days and hearing my heartbeat and feeling my skin then, he, started. Feeding very, well. He. Also loved, being brushed with an old toothbrush, that I had around so. And if you think about it it was perfect it was you know the, exact shape, and. Size. And texture as mom's tongue would have been he absolutely. Could not get enough of this so I did this every day and. Then. And. Then the really tough part came where I had to teach him how to kill rats and. That. One was rough, so I started. I went. I took him from milk formula, to chicken, smoothies, so. I actually got a blender, and started like blending. Up chicken, breasts with the milk but. Then I had to get him onto something, it's not like he'd find raw chicken breasts around in the Mara so I had to get him on to something natural, so I said. To the Rangers, I put, up like, a bounty on, rats. And said you, know if you can, bring me a dead rat the only rule was no poison was allowed then I'll you know give you a certain, amount of money so like the day I put the bounty up the next day I had like seven dead rats with people's names written. Out of like who I owed money to and, and. Then, it, got the mistakes got higher because he, immediately, got, the hang of like what, a rat like. What the taste is and he got the taste for it but he didn't know quite. What to do with them in terms of killing him and what mom would do is she would take, something. Named or crippled back to the nest, for them or take them out to something named or crippled and so I knew, I had to give him something maimed or crippled so it sounds really horrible but I had. To say well you know give you double the amount of money if you sent if you give me a crippled rat so, I got these brown bags with with crippled rats. Inside. And the first crippled, rat I gave him it took him 45. Minutes, to kill it and he, killed it by just like beating it to death on, the on the floor of my tent it was like a crime, scene there was blood everywhere it, was terrible, but he eventually got, the hang of it and became, the most amazing. Rat hunter. And. He thrived, and he did very. Well he. To, the to, the day that, he left he, actually, loved, being, in my car I think it's from all the time in the pouch there. Were no fences in my camp so he was seeing all those wild animals around but. He. Loved for, some reason he loved looking. At the animals through the window so, he'd always try to hop in my car whenever, he could to go out on a game drive with me so sometimes, I would let him he. Did go back to the wild he just disappeared, one night he, used to by, the time he left he was pretty feisty. And, had, reached sexual maturity and, was very aggressive but. He still was coming in every night and he would like cuddle up to me and purr and lick me for a few minutes every night and then he'd go off hunting again, I left, the zip open in. The tent so it was like a cat doors actually worked as like a snake door - unfortunately, and he was supposed to be good at catching snakes but he wound up being a miserable snake, hunter so, that. Didn't work out so well but he would. Just leave come back as he pleased and then one night he didn't come and I just kind of felt the worst but I saw him a week later and he, was absolutely fine so he just returned to the wild which is exactly, what I wanted him to I don't know what I thought like maybe there'd be some like dramatic goodbye, I'd. Never done anything like this before is, grew. Up with puppies and kittens you know and. You. Know when they leave you usually say goodbye like you put him to sleep and you say goodbye I thought there'd be like goodbye good luck but none, of that. But. He I was, very happy that he went to the wild that was the the point the whole time. So. I'm. Not gonna get to doom and gloom but one of the things, that. This, experience, also gave me was my first experience, with conservation, and conservation photography.
So One of the things that I realized, is that there was poaching going on absolutely. Everywhere. Where I had been but I had never seen any signs of it because as as a sort. Of tourist you don't but, then I would come back and talk to the Rangers and they talk about catching, you, know eight, poachers, on inquiry hill and I'm like wait a minute I was on in Gori Hill yesterday and, and so, I started sort of marvel at how, invisible. Poaching. Was and and, I started to ask. Could. I come, with you on some of the anti poaching jobs, and of course first the answer was no again. That went back to being a woman that it wasn't safe to be a woman and you, know the nice thing about, Africans. And and their sexism is that they're pretty point-blank they don't try to hide it they're like no it's because you're a woman and there's no place for you whereas, in our culture, we try to hide it a little bit more but they don't they just come right out with it and they're like no but. After two years I convinced, them to allow, me to come and they. Did so I spent three weeks shadowing. These guys and they. We. Go out on these some. Of them were just patrols patrolling, for snares and then, others were a little more exciting, than that and they were actual ambushes, so we would go and we would find the. Meat hanging, in a, camp where the guys were sort of packing it in and out coming back and forth they had to walk two days with the meat so, we'd see where meat was hanging, and drying in the trees and you'd know they were gonna come back so we'd lay in the grass and wait all night and there, was some times when I'd go out with them and nothing exciting would happen and just lay there all night and like I you know would chew on your shoe or something and that was like the only excitement, guys, never came and then, there were other nights where stuff. Would, happen, so. With. These raids. The. Most most, of what these guys were doing is commercial, meat poaching, and. It was going at a really, rapid rate so, they. Estimated, that year, 180,000, wildebeest, have been poached in the Serengeti Mara ecosystem, and and. That year was the total population was 1.8, million so in. Terms of the sustainability of the trade and in, the and how the. Volume that we were dealing with it. Was it was pretty out of control. A, lot. Of it was going on at night and so. The night ambushes, that would happen, it, was really difficult the guys didn't have night-vision equipment they.
Had, A lot of them there were some ak-47s. In the mix but a lot of them just had old rifles, that they hadn't shot in like 10 years very. Underfunded, they had a couple handcuffs, the rest of them used some, twine that, they put guys together with on this raid there, were 52 poachers. That night and we, had 40 guys on, foot and six vehicles and. You. Know the, poachers came in we watched them coming down from the escarpment for a couple hours and then they came in and all hell broke loose people were running everywhere, chaos. And in the end 12 were captured, so, it's a very challenging, thing. And it's also a very demoralizing, thing for the for, the Rangers themselves, to here you know they were out 52, poachers and they got 12 it's. Not exactly a. Rate that they could be proud of there are days when we would go around collecting, snares, and there would be at, the end of the day over 300, snares so, huge. Huge volume. So. After, my time in the, Mar I started, doing a lot of work in jungles. With apes and. Apes. Are really fun there they're pretty, exciting, to work with I always. Sort of describe chimpanzees, as like schizophrenic. They're, like one second they're like calm and then the night second they're just completely. Psycho, and the. The. Alpha, males are the worst at it unfortunately. And I. Was warned, so this this guy his, name is Kakuma and I was warned, when I started, working in this area that Kakuma. Might. Give. Me a little grief when he met me and I, didn't really know exactly what, that looked like but the. Ugandan. Research assistants, had said you know if he charges, you, you. Need to kick at him and then, he'll stop and, so. Trying. To describe what it's like to be charged, by a chimpanzee. Is really difficult they. When. They start charging they get into, this first of all they get bipedal, and second. Of all their, hair stands up on end and it's pilo erect and it looks like they've been electrocuted. And it's from all the aggressive hormone that's just, pumping, through them and then. They take branches, with them usually, as they're running so they're like carrying the forest with them they, throw rocks often, and they, beat the ground and. And. I, tell you when when a chimp. Like this comes, straight. At you. You. Would have to be like superhuman. To be able to kick at it I I could, not kick, at him when he did this and so as a result of, me not kicking which. Everybody found hilarious except. Me is Kakuma. Gave, me a bit of a slap as he went by he just went and slapped. Me on the, hip and then kept going which. Was quite alarming. It, didn't really hurt but it was pretty terrifying, and then. All, the guys thought it was hilarious, the, the head researcher wasn't. So excited, about it the guy from Harvard because, obviously you don't want to have any physical contact. Aggression. Tends to build in chimpanzee, societies, so it wasn't, the greatest thing that happened but. It. Was terrifying to say the least, so, Kakuma. Who was like this big huge, brutal, alpha, male is the polar opposite of this guy this is Alonso and when. I first entered this field, I had, heard people talk about animal crushes, and I, had thought you know these people are so bushed out they have spent way, too much, time with animals, until. I developed, my first animal crush which, is with, lanzhou & lanzhou. Like, stole, my heart immediately, he's, I mean, you have to middie he's a pretty, sexy looking chimp and he, also.
He's. Very charming. He's, grown up around people so. He has absolutely, no fear of people and he likes, to look at you with these gazing. Eyes and then, he does this thing with where he pulls he puts his arm out and he puts, his palm and it's it's like grooming solicitation. It's what chimpanzees, when. They say to each other grew me so. He would come up to me and do this and of course you know we don't touch we can't do this but I desperately, wanted, to groom lanzhou, and there was another American research, student, there at the time my, friend Jess and. So. One. Day I I confessed, my. Crush for lanzhou and she's like oh my god me too he's, such, a good-looking chap and, so then after that we kept like I saw lawn today that you did not wait, so we had this thing going about, Lonzo, but, you. Animals, do get, under, your skin sometimes, launch is one of them that did. So. Then, I moved on to, photographing. Orangutan, sand this is something that is very, close to my heart. Orangutan. As many, of you probably know are, in peril, from palm, oil which is in a lot of Western products, that we use food, products and toiletries, and so, I set, off on a quest to photograph, an orangutan, rescue. And the. Orangutangs, that we found that, needed to be rescued, were. In a patch of land that, was. Fragmented. And was, surrounded by, clear-cut, and so there was no way these orangutans could. Live on it and. I went out with, these. Guys this. Was the rescue team that I went out with and. We drove, into the village they, dropped me off at, a little, guest house where they thought I'd be more comfortable staying they, went into the village to stay at somebody's house and at, 10 o'clock at night one of them came back looking absolutely terrified, saying they were fleeing because they had gotten death threats and that, I had hide there because, it wasn't safe for me to leave with them and that they didn't think anyone knew I was associated, with them but I shouldn't leave my room and. They. Would send an unmarked car for, me the next morning so it was quite an, eye-opening, experience in. Terms of what these guys are dealing with, and. You, know I'm sitting there having to like text, my fiancee, saying you know the. Number for the State Department and my passport copies, are on the desk and blah blah blah I didn't know it was going to happen nothing, happened, everything was fine they sent an unmarked car I got, out of the village without any problems, but. The palm oil industry is, something that is is absolutely it's, like big, tobacco or a big oil in this country it's, quite corrupt and it's, quite scary for, the locals that have to deal with it so. We moved to another village, stayed. In an. Islamic, community, and for. Me I was. With those 12 guys and what was great is the Islamic. Faith, is obviously very modest, so. Because I was a woman they gave me the bedroom which, is great except there's no bed, and. But it was super. Comfortable. Nonetheless, and. I stayed in this house. The. Bathing was, not ideal. The. Bathroom, for. Sure showering. And, whatnot wasn't, great. But. This, is often, the conditions, that were in as wildlife photographers, were either you, know in the bush or were often. In villages, that are incredibly, impoverished and, we don't. Complain and we're just really grateful about everything that we're given. Particularly. These, guys because, these guys are risking, their lives a lot, of them are informants, and they're actually stitching, out people in their community. About. These. Orangutangs, being, sold so one of the things that happens with the rang attends that are on palm oil plantations, is that the, babies are sold on the black market as, pets and there's a lot of money involved in this so the informants, are usually stitching, them out when, they know a baby's and in somebody's house that's going to be sold so. We did rescue an orangutan, on this this. Parceled. Piece. Of forest and. Took.
Her To a, national. Park where she could live safely and have, enough food the big thing about being on a palm oil plantation, is that they can't survive they can't yeah orangutans, can't live off palm, and. So they slowly, starve to death if they're not shot by the palm oil plantation, workers so. She was released so that was a. Happy. Story. And. Then. I have. Worked a lot with some some. Much. Lighter hearted, goofy animals, sloths. Are one of my favorites I've spent, close. To eight years working, on sloths, and. Recently. Did a sloth book and one of the things that we the, sloth researcher, and I really wanted a document, is these. Are these swimming sloths that. Live on an island off of Panama, about three hours offshore, and it. Was quite, an adventure going, to photograph them and I, had never done any underwater photography. Before so I was pretty intimidated by this whole thing I'd never used an underwater, housing and so, photographers. Like like any other field. When you don't know how to do something you do you practice, so, this is the the. Pool in my backyard, and. This teddy bear has been various animals. For me he's posed. As penguins, and trees he's posed as koala, Joey's, getting a surgery in a hospital, just, trying to figure out techniques, of how I would shoot something so I stuck some floaties, on this teddy bear in. Order to figure out how I was going to shoot the. Cover of our book. And then. There. Is India. And, India. Was a. Project, that, what. For me took two and a half years, of negotiating, with Indian. National Parks and the, government, and that. Was to try to photograph a wild tiger Den and I. Had one, huge. Disadvantage. And. That. Was being a woman and. India's. Is one of the worst places that. I've worked in in terms of being a woman and it. Is, I'm. Very careful when, I travel, to other cultures, I always, dress. According, to the way I should be dressed and I act the way I should, be acting. If, you're a woman traveling alone I think that there's no other way to do it, but. It was quite difficult for me because I just was not getting any headway and then one.
Of My closest, Indian friend said to me you, just need to hire a male project manager and stop. Trying to go to the meetings yourself and just have him do everything for you and that solved, absolutely, everything it's it's one of the few places, where. I've. Actually, gone, into, government meetings and I've been told that I can't go into the meeting because I'm a woman, and. It was a government official that told me that. So. It's, a challenging. Environment for. That respect, I absolutely love, the Indian culture I love the Indian people and I loved working with my, Indian, Tiger, done so this was in a place called band of gar National Park and. This. Was a very, special project for me not just in terms of how, rare it is to get permission to work with a wild tiger done but the fact that this female, was super, relaxed, and eventually. Her cubs also accepted, me as well that this is the natal den where she gave birth. So. You can see in the next image that's where her going back up and she stayed in her natal down for about the first month, and then. Moved her. Cubs to an even. Better place for photography. And this, shot was really. Interesting, because she had moved to, a place that was, quite high actually, it was like cave. She, liked to lay out on the front of the cave area, and in. Order to get the shot I had I was working on elephant, when you work with Tigers, you're on elephant, back usually, in India and there's a long. History of. Good. Relationship, between elephant, Tigers and in, the national parks and the tiger reserves and so. I'm on this elephant back and and. So I had, to stand up in order to get the shot and my elephant. Mahute, Bora, is holding. On to my legs and he's like please don't fall please don't fall please don't fall and, I stood there and was, able to get these photos. That kind of gave you that feeling of being in the den and that was just because mom liked. To cool off up front so again, luck playing a huge part of it as well. And. Then. I did. A lot of work on on the Cubs as as they grew up. So. One of the things that I just. Like to end on I. Know. I've talked. A couple times about being, a woman in this field but it's being, a minority in the field has been something, that's incredibly challenging. And it's slowly changing, there, are more and more young, women, getting. Into nature photography, than there used to be when, I entered, it was very much an old boys club it's still very much is there's still a lot of sexism in the field there's a lot of sexual harassment, as well but. Things, are changing and I. Decided. Two. Years ago to start, my own nonprofit, so. I started, something called girls you click and it's, dedicated to trying, to encourage, young. Women to, enter, the field of, nature, photography, either. As a profession, or as a hobby or. As a part of another job but, just trying to get girls into. This and get them outside with a camera, and that's been incredibly rewarding working. With the girls we, provide free workshops, for teen girls and then we have most a lot of the top names in, nature, photography, that our women are working as instructors, so it's something that is incredibly, close to my heart that I'm very proud of and, that's called girls who click and. That. Is. That's that's, all I've got for you yeah. Thank. You. Any. Questions, I'm. From India and it's incredibly, disappointing, to hear that experienced. Apologies, on behalf of my country men and women. If. It makes you feel any better I have. Tried getting, permission to, user. Over to take photographs and I've never gotten permission so far yeah even being a, man.
Yeah, In, this, the. Question I had was from. A conservation, perspective. Increasingly. Many more people are visiting national parks and they're, taking pictures. Of wild animals yeah, so there's a lot more information in. Social, media a lot more images, in pictures so people kind of tend to lose perspective. That. There, is extreme threat and danger, for. Some of these animals, like tigers for example. Today. You. Go to ranthambore or, bond alert and, you spend 2 or 3 safaris. There you go two or three safaris into the forest it's a guarantee that you will definitely see a tiger and, many of them carry good equipment and they shoot pictures but. The truth is they're only about 2,700, Tigers in the country that's, the largest tiger, population, in the world yeah there's. So much images, out there people, kind of don't have that perception that, this resource, this natural history is pretty. Much under severe threat I need, to do something about it what is your perspective on that I think. I mean. It's. That's definitely, one. Way to look at it, the. Other way so first of all I think there's, a lot of validity in that and, what I would say is a, lot. Of this is how you use the pictures and one, of the things with. Girls who click and also the way I operate is. Not. Just collecting pretty pictures and using, these pictures, for conservation. So I do a tremendous, amount, of work with conservation, organizations, and raising money, and. Also awareness. And, so, trying. To use, your pictures, to, elevate, awareness rather, than just let's, just say you're posting these photos on social media. Than just posting a pretty photo of a tiger trying. To also post, maybe. Not every time but at least sometimes. Everyone smile post some really critical information, about, how, many Tigers are left and also what I try to do is when I do post about conservation, I try, to tell people what they can do because, otherwise people wind up feeling a little bit helpless it's very easy right now on this climate to feel helpless about a lot of different things that are going on so, giving people something to do some direct action they can take and your, photos can actually. Butyl. They can bring that home even more than if you posted that let's think of posting, that without an image right not that many people would see it because it's just text but, if you post that with a pretty photo it gets shared and it gets shared again so, I think a lot of it is how you use, the photos, but, that's one of the things that I really, am trying to teach the girls and girls who click is that this, is not about just collecting, pretty pictures, this is about doing something good with your photos that's going to benefit the world and the animals that are in it so.
Yeah. I mean that that that is a fair point we see that also a lot you're absolutely right about Tigers but we also see that with lions people. They. Didn't realize until, you, know 10 years ago it, kind of came as a huge shock to the world that lion numbers, have, dramatically. Plummeted, because, people when they go on safari they see Lions, everywhere, but, what they don't realize is that outside of the national parks Lions, are almost non-existent, and it's, only in those little pockets so you get, this false impression that Africa is teeming with lions when you go over there on safari and you would get that impression with. The Tigers as well so again I think it goes back how you use the images yeah. Thank you. Thank. You so much for coming here today um so kind of just not even to reframe that but kind of build. On that last question there so, I'm auditioning. And. I, guess Dee sense is descent, sizing, it from, other people or them feeling it's not as though it's I. Guess, big, of an issue you. Just mentioned the tourism, in the parks in Africa and whatnot you kind of feel that because of this awareness and now kind of a. More. Of a movement to kind of go and visit those in person that you're seeing kind of in a culture the actual habitats themselves, I actually, went on safari like a few years ago and notice I mean just the sheer number of cars and the, difficulties, that kind of causes, for the Lions themselves and if they're all concentrated, that area do, you see that kind of this awareness is actually my backfire in the sense that all this tourism there is gonna continue. To destabilize their, environment. Yeah you, know that's a real catch-22. I definitely. Witnessed. That firsthand, and, continue, to witness that all over the world you see tourists. Irresponsible. Tourism not just tourists behaving badly but. The infrastructure, that's set up for tourism not. Being ideal or being too crowded or not being green and, it. That, is a problem the flip side of it is that if we if we cut, off areas. To tourism or if there aren't enough people seeing, them we, as human beings tend to not care about something unless we can enjoy it you, know that's why wilderness, areas in this country haven't, really ever worked. You know wilderness areas are a great idea and concept there's, no roads going through them, the. Problem is is people can enjoy them people tend to forget they exist and they don't care about them whereas you know a threat. Happens in Yellowstone, the whole world cares because it's so many people have been there and they care about it so it is, I think a real catch-22 the answer involved, is obviously. It's a no-brainer is controlling. The tourism, and controlling. The numbers and that's, a huge problem, it's one, of the biggest things right now with Jaguar tourism. In Brazil, a place where I used to take people when I first started going we'd. Have three or four boats around a Jaguar sighting maximum, and last. Time I went there were 30 and. So. That, kind of uncontrolled. Growth is, is, going to kill it for everybody it's not good for the Tigers and it's terrible for the tourism so. I think a lot of visit about is about controlling, it the problem comes is that you have these economies, and these. Local, areas that are so impoverished, that, everybody wants to get in on it rightfully so, but. It's very, difficult to control that growth it takes it has to come from a government level, and a lot of these governments, are just not willing to do that so but, SWANA is, kind of an interesting example of controlled, tourism, however, that's on, available for the elite and for the wealthy so. There's. Kind, of catch-22, in all of it but I think that's a really. Fair point but. We have to control it yeah, whether.
It's You know photography, or art, or. Writing. Some sort of create and creative, endeavor. Developing. Your creative talent, there is that developing. Your your personal style and, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about maybe, how other photographers, have either influenced. You or, changed. Your, your own style or you, you know perhaps. Saw. What they were doing and try to, kind. Of build on that or maybe you know however that might be that I hoped, you kind of develop your own creative, style yeah so. When. I was little I I grew up watching nature documentaries. And also. Reading. Magazines, but I really, loved nature documentaries. And when I was in college, I, worked. I did, a semester abroad program. And I had the ability to work with a film, crew from the BBC for about two. Weeks as, a sort, of apprentice. Of sorts and they allowed me to go back and work with them on two. Occasions and, I. Learned. A tremendous amount, from them. Particularly. About wildlife behavior. And about respecting. Animals, and about. Working. With individuals, and developing, relationships of, trust between. Yourself. And the animal but also, habituating. Animals that are shy and I. Took from, that a huge. A huge amount of my work is based on the way a cameraman, operates. Versus, a stills photographer, in fact a lot of people have told me God you you work a lot more like a a film crew would then then. It stills photographer, just in terms of the sheer amount of time that, I take with my subjects, and also. How. In-depth and how much care I take and not. Offending. My, my, animal subjects, or not, threatening, their trust so. Cameramen. Have been hugely. Influential. I I, wish all, stills. Photographers. Had spent, time with cameraman because cameraman, for, the most part are really there. In the trenches more than still photographers, in terms of how, much time they have to spend waiting, for a shot and, how. Much they have to get into the animal's head but. That's also something that I'm most interested in so, most of my early, people, that I admired, with, the exception, there's, there's. A, female. Nature. Photographer, that I admired growing, up named, Tweedy Roy who, is a, huge, mentor of mine to this day and is. Someone that I'm privileged, to call a friend and she entered the, industry. When there were like, almost no women, and, she stepped. Foot very. Bravely. Into, a, world where, women. Were really not welcome, at all and I, and I really admire her for it so I grew, up admiring her, stuff as well. Going. Back a little bit to, conservation. Issues um you've, had a lot of contact with local, people. Who seem. To really care about these issues whether it be Rangers, or people who are out, there to protect the, orangutangs, near, the palm oil, plantations. And could. You talk more about what, drives, them is it, government. Initiatives that pay those, people as a, way to basically help. Protect. The. Preserves. Or is it just. Their interactions, with the animals, that they feel like. Compelled. To protect them just, to get a sense of like what. What. Works and what doesn't, I'd like the local level I think it depends, I mean it depends, on the. Conservation, initiative, I can think of ones that I've worked on where, it, has not been driven by money at all and the guys are just totally. In love with the, wildlife and care, passionately about, what they're doing and then, I can think of others where it's like they're just going through it blind, and they just want the money and, they're doing maybe doing a good job but, the passion is not there so.
It's. It's. All across the board I think, that. Any program. Not, any but many, programs, that do bring. In together money, and conservation. They, work because. Local, communities, need the money in many, of these countries, and. The biggest problems like like the poachers that I showed you photos of those, are what Korea people in the, Serengeti, National Park, and. One. Of the reasons why they're poaching in the Serengeti National Park is because, they used to live in the Serengeti, National Park they. Were hunters and gatherers and, they got kicked out by the government when, it was made a national park, and they're. Not employed by the National Park the National Park employs people from the cities instead, of employing local walk Korea people so, they have absolutely, no economic benefit, from the park at all so, they go into the part to get what's you know sort of rightfully, theirs and, there's. No qualms about that because, they're, not getting any benefit, so. Why not so the the conservation. Programs that employ people and give them a livelihood I think for the most part really do work I know there's some situations. Where money doesn't work in conservation but. I think they're few and far between. I. Didn't. Quite catch a few like writing, articles to go with your photographs or how do, you sometimes how, you display the photographs or you sometimes, try and find a reporter, to go work, on it with you or or I'm just what do you prefer you think you'll be more doing more writing with the photographs, so. I don't, like writing I grew. Up with two parents that were journalists, they were writers and I don't know maybe that gave me a distaste, for it but I was, just not, in a terrible way I'm just that you know they were writing, a lot particular than my father but I. Writing. Is something I've never enjoyed and it's never come easily to me it's something that you know usually I read. It and put it on the back burner. I write. For children's, books that's that's, very different it has been challenging, for. Sure writing, for a three-year-old is not easy especially when, you've never had a three-year-old but. In. Terms of writing for adults it's just, not something that interests, me the other thing is to I know a few, writers and, also, a lot, of the magazines I work with use, writers of their own, they're freelancer, staff so what I generally do when I pitch a feature to somebody is I, pitch story ideas with it to, just. Make it a prettier package for them so that the editors don't have to do as much research on their end and very often they go with one of the points that I pitch and they'll, assign a writer to it and then the writer almost, always gets in touch with me which. Is very common, because photographers. We have all these direct experiences. With the situation, are with wildlife so they'll interview me either, as a direct interview or just to get more information to write their story. Yeah. Give them the photos plus ideas, exactly. Yeah. So. Many of the animals that you photographed, are endangered. Yeah and I, think there's a pretty good awareness of how climate change is, endangering. Those animals, especially you know polar bears etc, yeah but, habitat. Loss and, invasive. Species, and other. Encroachments. Because of the, huge monoculture. Seems. Like it's equally threatening. And I. Wonder, if that's, an angle that you're. Trying. To approach definitely. I mean habitat, loss for, so many of the animals that I showed you know ranked ons are like the extreme example, for it but, habitat, loss is is something, that can affect that is affecting I think every endangered, species that you saw photos of it's, something that's very challenging. To capture, in an image, you. Know we. We do see images of it but it's. Difficult to to, visually, capture, that you, know the biggest thing in Africa, is, you. Know areas. That have been just. Grazed and, they're. Deserts.
Essentially, Because of so. Many years, of. Improper. Grazing, there's, and then prey loss is as bad, as habitat. Loss if not worse particularly, obviously. For the Predators but the, prey loss is is huge, when, you are working in impoverished, countries. Basically. Outside the National Park you don't see many things alive. So. Again. I think there's, so many a, lot, of people when that the death penalty was, recently. Announced. By Kenya for poachers, people, were gonna get the death penalty for poaching. And I had so many friends, on Facebook celebrating. This and to, me it is a terribly. Tragic. Sad sad, situation. Because, most of these poachers, that are doing the poaching, they're, low on, the, scale you've. Got the, person above them and then a middleman and then usually someone in the government that's getting all the money those, aren't the people that are gonna get executed, it's the guy at the bottom. And. And. So, it's not necessarily, like the, photos you saw today, aren't like guy. Going to get meat and give it to his children it's much more commercial, than that it's like a drug trade it's big but. He's. A very very. Poor man who, does not have many. Opportunities if, any, besides, poaching, for making money so. It's very easy for all of us to see it as black and white in this country, what. Can what, should Google be doing beyond, what, they are doing. Should. Tell me that. I. Wasn't. Saying in the realm of conservation. And of, arts. Education for kids and. Women you, know I think, anything. That corporations, first of all one. Of the things that I, so. I do so much kids between, my children's, magazines, the children's books the girls you click and to. Me the, biggest problem in our society, is disconnection, with nature I mean it is it is so shockingly. Present, and in, such, a serious, issue because it touches on local issues and global if, a kids not connected, to nature here they're not gonna care about lions in Africa. So. I think that, just, establishing. A strong connection, to nature from. The youngest, age possible. Is so. Critical. I I work, and I have a print shop I sell photos to children's, hospitals, and to moms I purposely. Have an economical. Line of prints so, that moms, on low budgets, can afford to buy my work because I believe, it's important, for, those photos, to be on the nursery wall for kids to see them on the wall because honestly. I'm, not sure those kids are gonna be taken anywhere where they're gonna see birds and squirrels let, alone larger, animals, than that so I think, that, anything, that corporations. Can do to to get kids, outside and, to get them connected with nature is is, is. Really, really, important, in the most basic level because. I think with our conservation yes, and fundraising is really important, and working with adults is really important, but, so much of it is is we're preaching to the choir because, we're reaching people who already care, the, the biggest, thing and, it, boggles. My mind because, so many huge, conservation, organizations. Do nothing, with children, anywhere. In the world and that if we're just totally, missing the boat, all.
I Have to do is look at young kids on their iPads and how. Much time they spend a day outside. With their feet touching the ground for, many children at zero I think. I mean I don't know the actual numbers but I think for the majority of children it might be zero, so. I think, that is the biggest threat in this country right now is that that, connection being, gone I. Can't. Imagine my childhood, without nature. It. Was such a part of it and I just lived in the hills in San Rafael I didn't live anywhere exotic. So. In. Terms of what else Google can do I think. I'll leave that to you to to. Figure out thank. You thank you for having me. You.