This year has seen the publication of many extraordinary books celebrating the natural world and all that is worth saving. We've created a collection of some of the best works created by conservation photographers. The following are some of the most beautiful yet important must-read books of the year.
'In Search of Lost Frogs: The Quest to Find the World's Rarest Amphibians' by Robin Moore
In a recent interview, photographer Robin Moore asked readers to ponder this question: "What is our role and responsibility as conservationists, as communicators, and as individuals of the one species on Earth capable of consciously saving or exterminating other species, in ensuring the preservation of those life forms that are silently slipping out of existence around us?"
In a project of astounding magnitude, Moore led a charge to find frogs that have disappeared from the view of scientists, thought lost to the world forever. Amazingly, the intrepid teams rediscovered quite a few of them. And in the process, they studied more about what factors are causing frogs worldwide to vanish from habitats where they once thrived.
Exploring not only the amphibians themselves but what their absence means for planet Earth, this book contains compelling prose and stunning images that help readers see frogs and their role in our lives in an entirely new light. Reading it will cause us all to wonder what we — the one species on Earth capable of saving or extinguishing a species — can do to help frogs survive.
Available on Amazon for $25.82
'The Oldest Living Things in the World' by Rachel Sussman
A photographer focusing on some of the most fascinating subjects, Rachel Sussman travels around the world looking for the most ancient beings on the planet. Her photographs speak volumes about the creatures we live among, creatures that have been here longer than the written word yet are still alive and thriving.
Sussman — who talked to MNN earlier this year about the book — says researching, studying, traveling to and ultimately photographing these organisms has been humbling.
"Her work is meant to personalize what she calls 'deep time' and create a connection from the viewer to the subject. 'You can look at this and say 'Here’s this plant that’s 13,000 years old — what has it seen?' she says. 'Some of [these organisms] bore witness to the entire history of human civilization.'"
Her years of gathering images has culminated in a beautiful book, one with image after image that will make you stop and wonder exactly that: what has this organism seen of the world? We can only begin to guess. And what will it see in the future? The images are paired with essays by
Available on Amazon for $32.28
'Everglades: America's Wetland' by Mac Stone
Whether you call the Florida Everglades home or have yet to visit them in person, this book is something you'll enjoy. Covering everything from intimate portraits of wildlife to landscapes highlighting the light and patterns of the habitat, this book celebrates one of the most diverse, fragile, and largest wetland ecosystems on our continent.
Stone's photography documents all that the everglades has to offer and why protecting it should be a national priority, an especially important endeavor for those who may never get to visit it. As Stone told us in an interview, "We are visual creatures. We use what we see to teach us what we know. The majority of the general public will not slog out into a swamp known to harbor alligators, so how can I expect those same people to advocate on behalf of its protection? My job, then, is to use photography as a medium to provide the emotional bridge between science and aesthetics. Showing the public the wilderness areas of the Southeast has been my greatest pleasure. When we stop seeing these wetlands as wastelands and instead see them as incredible outposts for wildlife and adventure, we’re much more likely to fight for their protection."
Available on Amazon for $32.89
'Melting Away: A Ten-Year Journey through Our Endangered Polar Regions' by Camille Seaman
In documenting a disappearing world of ice, Camille Seaman spent 10 years traveling to the coldest places on the planet and taking portraits of icebergs as individuals, as their own entities with stories to tell in their melting surfaces. Seventy five of her most compelling portraits, those which show the past, present and future of out planet in meditative beauty, are gathered in this collection.
Seaman's portraits allow us to view climate change in an entirely different, far more personal way, and the reason for that is in how she has approached her subjects as a photographer. In an interview with Wired, Seaman says, "I approached them as my relatives, literally, and not in some poetic way. I saw them as part of my lineage, as part of my existence. And I think that kind of approach allowed for emotion to be present in the photos. I saw them as more than chunks of ice."
We often hear that conservation requires seeing ourselves within a web, with everything dependent on and effecting everything else. Seaman took this approach deeply to heart, and the results as shown in this book are something that will alter how you see and understand the ice melting away at the ends of the Earth.
Available on Amazon for $36.48
'Earth Is My Witness: The Photography of Art Wolfe' by Art Wolfe
As a photographer with decades of experience traveling the world and photographing landscapes, people, and wildlife, Art Wolfe has accumulated an incredible portfolio of work. The best of that portfolio has been honed into a gorgeous book of photographs that celebrate our planet at its best. This is the definitive work of his career, at least up to this point, and covers not only the planet across four decades but also how nature photography has changed with updates in technology and access to new locations.
"I have witnessed the effects of human intrusion," says Wolfe. "Advocating for the preservation of the natural world is at the core of my work, but it’s the beauty of the planet rather than its degradation that I strive to capture."
And if you're wondering how to fit 40 years of photographs in a single book, the answer is simple: make a very thick book. The work is 400 pages packed with 500 photographs. If you were to purchase just one of Wolfe's many books, this would be the one to buy.
Available on Amazon ($59.76)
'The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena, and Nass' by Wade Davis
The Sacred Headwaters is a valley in northern British Columbia where three of the area's most important salmon rivers are at risk of industrial development; they could disappear as coal and mineral mining flatten the mountains and pollute the waters. But the native people who have relied on these waters for millenia are not allowing anything to destroy these rivers without a fight. For 10 years, they have been pushing back against the threat of development and photographer Wade Davis documents the wilderness at the center of the fight, pulling images from his work to highlight both the place and the people at the center of the issue.
The goal of the book is not only to bring attention to the threats but also to show the potential this remote place has for another, perhaps bigger source of income: ecotourism. The area has potential to make more money by keeping it intact and protected than what could ever be made through a handful of companies extracting resources. After seeing the photographs, it is likely that this will become a destination on many travelers' bucket lists.
Available on Amazon ($32.51)
'Encounter' by David Yarrow
Seeing the world in black and white can be a strategy for seeing more. As I've said before, when we think of wildlife photography, we usually think of images with vivid colors. But sometimes we get more out of a photo by taking away the color so that we can more easily see form, pattern, expression and emotion that could otherwise be missed when we're distracted by vibrant hues and tones. Monochrome images can be even more powerful, compelling, and simply gorgeous than the same image in color. This is an idea David Yarrow proves in his collection of 84 monochrome photographs taken in his travels around the world.
Yarrow brings together art and a passion for preserving the natural world and indigenous cultures in this collection of beautiful and striking photographs.
Available on Amazon ($64.77)
'Blue Hope: Exploring and Caring for Earth's Magnificent Ocean' by Sylvia A. Earle
Sylvia Earle is one of the ocean's most influential advocates. Her courage and knowledge as a scientist is combined with a passion for protecting one of the least explored and most imperiled frontiers of our planet.
Earle's words are paired with incredible photographs from National Geographic, sharing a narrative about all that is at risk and all that is worth saving in our oceans. The photographs inspire wonder and amazement while the words inspire hope. Whether you are new to understanding all the problems the oceans face, or you need an injection of joy and positivity about conservation, this book is a must-read.
Available on Amazon ($24.63)
'The Ansel Adams Wilderness' by Peter Essick
Peter Essick is an acclaimed National Geographic photographer and (naturally) a fan of Ansel Adams, the godfather of landscape photography and one of America's greatest photographers. Many of Adams' photographs have become iconic pieces of art, and in celebration of this photographer as well as the wilderness conservation his images inspired, Essick traveled throughout the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area, which spans 231,533 acres south of Yosemite, and created powerful, dynamic photographs that would make Adams proud.
In addition to the photographs, the book features insights from naturalists and conservationists. The piece is ultimately a visually stunning celebration of wilderness and its preservation.Available on Amazon ($16.39)
'A Future for Cheetahs' by Dr. Laurie Marker and Suzi Eszterhas
Suzi Eszterhas is famous for her endearing photographs of wildlife, particularly newborn wildlife, and Laurie Marker is one of the leading authorities on cheetahs. So it is only natural that the two partnered up to create a wonderfully inspiring book about the future of these beautiful and iconic cats. It is called "the most intimate portrait yet of the world’s fastest land animal" and is an elegant and insightful narration of the cheetah, including the species' history, its present situation, and its possible future.
The photographs and the text hold equal weight, with the powerful images illustrating the stories and insights, and the text providing background information and a deeper value to the photographs. It speaks to anyone interested in this species, in big cats, in coexistence between humans and predators, in conservation, and in nature in general. In other words, this book has something for everyone.
Available on Amazon ($23.23)
'Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest' by Ian McAllister
Ian McAllister is one of the feircest advocates for the Pacific Northwest. Specializing in the inhabitants of the Great Bear Rainforest, including grizzlies, wolves and spirit bears, McAllister has spent 25 years documenting this magical landscape and creating images that most wildlife photographers could only dream of capturing. The work he does as a photographer is intricately tied to the work he does as a conservationist with Pacific Wild, a nonprofit working to protect the Great Bear Rainforest.
In his most recent book, McAllister guides us from the headwaters in the forest's valleys all the way down to the shore and into the ocean. Readers are introduced to everything about the area from the habitat to the animals to the native people and scientists that work to protect the area from development.
It is both a celebration of a mystical place as well as a call to preserve it, with the photographs and stories from McAllister about his time spent living here providing all the argument needed to appreciate and protect such an amazing and important ecosystem.
Available on Amazon ($35.46)
Related on MNN:
- Photographer zooms in on unique coastal wolves of British Columbia
- When a scientist picks up a camera: An interview with Andrew Snyder
- Meet the woman who elevated conservation photography to a whole new level