How Excio is Celebrating 50 Years of NZ Conservation Week

Together with the Department of Conservation we are celebrating 50 years of Conservation Week in New Zealand which is such a significant milestone.

We have so many wonderful reserves and parks in New Zealand, making it one of the best places on our planet where people can get as close to nature and wildlife as they want whilst also playing a part in taking care of it for generations to come.

"Boozer Hut is one of several historic huts that used to shelter miners working the sheelite mines of the Richardson Mountains, near Glenorchy in Otago. The miners were known for their hard work and hard drinking. Mining ended some decades ago, and since then several of the huts have been restored. The surrounding mountains are now protected as part of the Whakaari Conservation Area." By Shaun Barnett

Our children are taught to be involved and help the conservation efforts from kindergarten, the message continuing through school and university, and reinforced throughout life with local campaigns, TV, and radio stations. We celebrate every achievement from how many kiwis we saved, to finding Takahe a new home. (If you don't know about the AirNZ campaign, you should definitely watch it here).

But as photographers we must ask ourselves 'what impact does our photography have on nature and wildlife?' Is it a positive impact or negative?

If you are a wildlife or nature photographer you most likely have at least a few dozen decent photographs that you have (or could) share on social media or sell as prints. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself if your photographs do enough in terms of conservational efforts? Do they tell a story? Do you tell a story? They may be generating a few hundred likes or followers on Instagram receiving “Great photo!” type comments, but do they actually inform people about conservation, about wildlife?

In her eye-opening article last week, Excio member Ann Wheatley shared her thoughts about Nature First principles and how nature photographers are unwittingly contributing to exactly what they're trying to prevent.

"After an unusually long spell without rain Tasman District, in New Zealand's South Island was tinder dry. This is the smoke plume of a tragic forest fire that began on 4 Feb 2019 in Pigeon Valley and was still burning underground on 25 Feb. This image was made on Stringer Road, overlooking the Redwood Valley area, six days after the fire began. Parks and reserves in the Tasman and Nelson areas were closed and a machinery ban and State of Emergency were in place." By Ann Wheatley.

As photographers we can use our camera as a tools. Since we are usually close to nature, finding ourselves in some magnificent, unusual, and sometimes even hard to reach places, why don't we take a photograph and then add a story to it that makes an impact?

To make nature and our conservation efforts matter, we need to start “exploiting” our photographs, we need them to tell wider stories to a much wider audience.

At Excio we are very proud of our members taking a responsible approach to photography and sharing messages that are making an impact as more and more people around the globe see their photographs every day and read the stories behind the images.

"If it were not for the Honey bee where would we be? They are tireless workers selflessly giving all day everyday to pollinate our plants to enable us to grow food and survive." By Vicky O'Connor.

Our champions in capturing our beautiful nature and wildlife are Fairlie Atkinson, Judi Miller, Kim Free, Daniel Winstead, Peter Laurenson, Shaun Barnett, ER Imaging Photography, Vandy Pollard, Journey by Story, Graham Jones, Carole Garside (YorkshireKiwi), Vicki Finz, and Greg Arnold to name a few.

"Kakapo / night parrot were voted New Zealand Bird of the Year in the 2008 Forest & Bird annual poll. A favourite as one of New Zealand’s unique treasures and for its fight back from the brink of extinction. With a population of fewer than 160 known surviving birds (in April 2017) Kakapo is listed internationally as a critically endangered species. They are vulnerable to predation, disease, genetic inbreeding and infertility. Kakapo can be found in one of three primary sanctuaries." View Journey by Story collections to listen to the birds' sounds.

You may remember our interview with Fairlie Atkinson who uses her photography to help reserves.

"Taken at Nga Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae. This is part of my Nga Manu Series where I create portraits of native birds at the reserve and donate a percentage of sales to the reserve." By Fairlie Atkinson.

“Over the years I’ve grown to realize how important a compelling image is in getting across a wildlife advocacy message”, said Judi Miller while also telling readers how she developed a compelling need to share wildlife stories and photos to advocate for the species and spaces she is helping restore. You can read more about her journey in her interview here.

"My most favourite photo from my photo essay on Zealandia's wee takahē chick. These photos were taken at such a special time - at just over two months old his coloured feathers are just starting to appear over the black down, his beak is still shiny black, and he is at a most curious stage. See more takahē chick photos in the photo essay (link below). Limited edition prints are available, as are framed TinyArt by request. 10% of my proceeds go to Zealandia EcoSanctuary to support their conservation efforts." By Judi Miller.

Kim Free is another person whose conservation and photography efforts merge in her creative world that does good.

"An incredible close up experience with a white heron on the West Coast, NZ." By Kim Free.

Daniel Winstead, a Biology student who recently graduated from VUW has been working on his “Threat” collection that explores the portrayal of endangered species. Currently Daniel is pursuing a masters degree in biological oceanography at the University of Hawaii. He says “The only time that matters, is the time in which we can do, and take action. Now. Right now, many species are facing extinction because of human occupation and our ignorance towards the effects of our actions.”

"Cotton-top Tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) Number of species: 6,000 Our actions determine the direction of their fate." By Daniel Winstead.

“Caged spirit” by Peter Laurenson is another example of a photograph doing good and raising awareness. If you look at the story behind this magnificent photo of a snow leopard captured in the Himalayas, Peter is asking us “How much longer will this species’ freedom remain a reality as man impinges on more and more of their natural habitat?”

"A snow leopard, Melbourne Zoo. As a climber and quite frequent visitor to the Himalaya I am mightily impressed by these magnificent animals. I’ve never seen one in the wild – they’re masters of stealth and of their near vertical habitats. While it saddened me to see him deprived of his freedom, seeing his pent up power so close was still a thrill. Locking gaze with him through my lens, I fancied the romantic notion that perhaps there was momentarily the sharing of an alpine kindred spirit. More likely though, he was simply thinking ‘dinner’. I also worried about how much longer will his species’ freedom remain a reality as man impinges on more and more of their natural habitat? Nikon D7000, F5.6, 1/60, ISO 1000, 450mm" By Peter Laurenson.

Grab Excio now on your phone, it is free to download, and celebrate conservation week with us. Our community has many more stories and images to share and you will be pleasantly surprised with how much impact a single photo make.

If you have photographs gathering dust on your hard drive or getting useless comments on Instagram, maybe it's time to bring them to Excio and share your message with the world? Start your free trial with Excio here.