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Happy Nature Photography Day!

Greetings! Prabir here, wishing everyone a happy Nature Photography Day! Being on the media team here at the Science Museum of Virginia has given me many opportunities to get quality time with my camera, filming science goings-on. That love for cameras and science does not stop when Museum projects wrap up. For years I’ve had the joy of taking nature photos from various spots around the globe and thought this day would be a fun opportunity to celebrate nature from behind the lens.

Before we jump into the photos, I wanted to share a few thoughts on why nature photos matter so much. First of all, as a child, I really got into animals. Most of us do, right? I had tons of books that taught me the different animals, toys of various wild critters, and anytime a nature documentary came on TV, I was glued! Animals have always fascinated me; after all, they are our roommates on this planet. We share our Earth with a myriad of other species and their lives have always fascinated me. Some of them can run fast, others can leap really high, some never come out of the depths of the ocean, and so on. We have a beautiful and wild world, and very early on in my life, that fascination was absolutely cemented. Since then I’ve also gotten into photography, allowing me to capture some moments in time while visiting these animals’ habitats.

A baby caiman in the Tortuguero rain forest in Costa Rica.

The Common basilisk, an interesting lizard with legs that allow it to walk on water. 

A kingfisher in the rain. They call it a rain forest for a reason, it rains all the time! This was in the Tortuguero rain forest in Costa Rica. This photo was taken from a small rowboat in the rain, one of the most difficult shoots I've ever done, but seeing this beautiful animal resting in the rain was worth all the trouble. 

I love nature photos for a few reasons. First of all, they inspire. Many organizations around the world that work towards conservation of precious ecosystems rely on the use of photography to convey the importance of their work, to spread awareness of the topic at hand, and to use toward grants and fundraising so their vital work can continue. For quite some time, these organizations have used nature photos to help advocate for very important measures to take place.

This glacier was caught on camera off the coast of British Columbia on the way up to Alaska. This was my first time seeing a glacier up close. Simply an astounding sight to see. This photo does not capture the true scale here; this glacier was about eighty feet tall when this photo was taken. 

The Norris Glacier in Alaska. This photo was taken from a helicopter as it flew over this massive flow. In a few minutes we would land on it and begin a hike back down to camp. 

The Norris Glacier in Alaska, not a lot to do there, but it sure is beautiful.

Not only have I loved taking nature photos, but I also love looking at nature photos. Like many folks, I love to look at wild animals in their natural habitats. These photos can connect me to a topic that I may not have considered before or perhaps inspire me to research and learn more about a particular species or a part of the world. In some cases, you could say that nature photos act as bait for more knowledge by tapping into our inherent curiosity.

The rocky coast of Goa, India. One of the few places on this trip where there were no humans. 

The jungle at sunset. This is the Rajaji National Jungle in northern India. The lighting could not have been better for this shot. I simply could not stop staring at the layers of trees and the cloudless sky. 

Sometimes nature and humanity share space. This is a small family of langurs in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in India. They are totally living the urban life here. 

Another reason I personally love nature photos is because of the place it can take someone. For years I had been reading about howler monkeys and their incredibly loud calls to one another. After seeing enough nature photos and watching enough nature documentaries, I decided it was time for me to try my hand at a howler monkey shot as well. This prompted me to research about the various places they exist, other wildlife that can be found nearby, and responsible ways to make this photo trip happen. That’s another aspect of nature photos, they lead me towards not only learning more about that area, but also helps me understand that my time there must be done in a way to not cause damage or harm to these precious ecosystems. I was able to research a few eco-friendly options for lodging and transportation which would pose the least risk to the howler monkeys’ ecosystem. Once the research was done, gear was packed, and tickets in hand, I was able to go to Costa Rica to get some howlers on camera. The same can be applied to the other places I’ve gone for the sake of taking the photos that I hope to keep sharing with the world. 

A howler monkey in Costa Rica, the loudest land animal. Their calls can be heard up to three miles away! 

A family tree of howler monkeys. Needless to say, there was a loud reception when they saw me arriving. 

The two-toed sloth. I'd like to think this critter started smiling when it saw me approaching. Tortuguero, Costa Rica.

Taking photos in the wild takes a long time. Sometimes it takes hours of waiting around for an animal to show up. These moments give me time to reflect on the surroundings and how we humans impact them. The lush jungles of Costa Rica, the deserts of India, the vast glaciers of Canada, and even the gentle rolling hills of Virginia’s forests are all seeing more and more human encroachment. Being so close to the ecosystems and animals has given me an up-close look to see the changes that are slowly happening over time. This notion always follows me home after every trip.

A view from Bearfence Mountain right here in Virginia.

A black bear strolling through the Virginia mountains in the Shenandoah National Park.

We live on this planet. Look at how amazing the range of colors here are. This is along a hike in the Smoky Mountains in the fall of 2018.

Our planet is a vast and diverse place, one where all of us have the ability to harm or to keep it beautiful. Nature photography has given me time to sit in these ecosystems to really absorb the unique qualities of each location. This has lead me to make many changes in my life to ensure that I’m doing all I can to not further stress these distant and remote locations. Being up close with these animals has given me a profound respect for their lives. For me, personally, this is the greatest gift that nature photography has given me, perspective.

Nature does not have to be only on Earth. Our planet is but a small player in the vast area of nature that is space. This photo was taken in New Smyrna, Florida while working on a time lapse of the night sky. This meteor appeared at the exact moment that my camera's shutter opened for the time lapse. Luck plays a role in a successful nature photo sometimes.  

This may have been a once in a lifetime photo opportunity for me. The total solar eclipse as seen in Nashville, TN in 2017. The clouds parted just in time for the full eclipse, a few stars also were caught in this shot. 

We have a wild and wonderful planet and I hope to continue to document as many species and ecosystems as I can to further share the knowledge of these areas and to help highlight our relationship to these places. They say a photo is worth a thousand words. I’d like to add to that by saying that taking the photo is worth a thousand perspectives. It’s never too late to start documenting the world around us though. Even a starter camera and a few hours on a trail could result in a new perspective and passion for the world around us. I’m happy to celebrate Nature Photography Day and hope you’re enjoying seeing lots of photos of nature from all over the place today! 

A good camera, plenty of charged batteries, and some lenses have helped me get up close and personal with our beautiful world and constantly inspire me to learn more about the world around us. Self portrait... aka a selfie. 

Prabir Mehta, photographer

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