Seeing the Big Picture
|CORAL has used this photo of mine from Raja Ampat, Indonesia,
in several publications to promote conservation work .
Making an Impact through Photography
It's been a pleasure to share my knowledge and love of underwater photography with you over the past two years. I feel that by now I've imparted all of the wisdom I can give you in this column, and I hope that the advice has encouraged you to get into the water and helped you capture your own great shots.
One of the main reasons I decided to write this column was the knowledge that I was helping out a good cause. Not only was I contributing to CORAL, but I was also helping to inspire readers to care about coral reef ecosystems and their conservation.
That's why, in my last column, I'd like to offer you some ideas for how you can give back, using your underwater photography as a tool to help protect and preserve the wonderful subjects that we all love to see when we dive—the coral reefs, fish, mammals, invertebrates, and all living things that call the ocean home. They all face various threats, from climate change to illegal and unsustainable fishing practices and pollution. There is no question that the ocean needs our help, and that without a healthy ocean, our very existence could be under threat.
|A secretary blenny (Acanthemblemaria maria) peeks
from a hole in an encrusting sponge (I got this shot in
the Dominican Republic). People are intrigued and
inspired by fascinating animals like these.
Thinking locally, it can be very gratifying and effective to share your images with people who never have had an opportunity to see firsthand the fantastic sights that we have been lucky enough to experience and capture with our cameras. Consider sharing your work with local schools or community groups, perhaps in the form of an entertaining slide show about your underwater encounters. The kids will be especially fascinated and—more importantly—interested in learning more. Today's children are going to be burdened with the conservation challenges that previous generations, including ours, have created. You will likely find that they are much more conservation-minded than we ever were at that stage in our lives. The more exposure they have to the natural treasures the ocean offers, and the real threats facing them, the more apt they will be to learn how to protect them in the future.
Thinking in a more global sense, there are a number of exceptional conservation organizations, like CORAL, that are dedicated to protecting the oceans and their inhabitants. Our photography can help these groups to raise awareness with people around the world that you and I will never meet, in literally thousands of different villages and locales where problems like dynamite fishing and dumping of pollutants are daily occurrences. When armed with actual photographs of what coral reefs look like before and after being dynamited, for instance, these groups will be much more effective in convincing local fishermen that they shouldn't bomb a reef to catch the food that directly or indirectly sustains their families.
|My photograph of a hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) in
Komodo, Indonesia, was featured in CORAL's 2010 calendar.
Along these lines, while financial contributions to conservation organizations are essential to their existence and performance, photographers should also consider donating some of their images. People are much more likely to support conservation work if they can see what their money is going to protect, especially when they are introduced to the amazing variety of colorful and fascinating organisms found on coral reefs. I know that when I see one of my images in the CORAL calendar, or in another group's annual report, it makes me feel that I am making a more personal contribution to marine conservation than just donating cash.
Another thing to consider as a useful donation is used (but still fully functional) underwater camera gear. Groups like CORAL have employees and partners on the ground all over the world who are in the water almost daily, doing research and patrolling reefs. Many of these remote stations and conservationists are desperate for equipment that they can use to document changing reef conditions or poaching, for example. Wouldn't it be better for our gently-used gear to be in their hands, doing something productive and noble, rather than gathering dust and losing value on a shelf in our closet?
As underwater photographers, we have been lucky enough to experience some of the fantastic wonders that our ocean has to offer. While we continue to learn and improve our skills, it would be appropriate, and vital to the future health of the reefs we love, to give something back to protect them.
Don't forget to dive safely and responsibly, and, please, strongly consider giving something of yourself (your time, your images, your money, your older functioning gear, or all of the above) to help protect and preserve our marine resources for future generations.
Have fun and dive safe,
To view more of Jeff's work, log on to: www.jeffyonover.com.
All photos in this column are © Jeff Yonover