Photographer James Shaw has started a project to capture 12,000 creatures that may soon go extinct, but his true goal might be to get his fidgety models to cooperate.
Joel Sartore, a veteran National Geographic photographer with more than 20 years of experience, wants to document endangered species and encourage people everywhere to save them. His images will appear in the April issue of National Geographic magazine.
Since launching his Photo Ark campaign ten years ago, he has captured more than 6,500 animals. Sartore won’t stop until he captures all 12,000 of them, which may take up to 25 years in total.
Captive-bred animals are those that have been born in conservation facilities, such as reservations and zoos, rather than the wild.
After his wife, Kathy, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, Sartore began the Photo Ark project to help children and families affected by the disease. His first shoot was at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska, where he requested a white background and an animal that would sit still.
On that day, Sartore captured photographs of a naked mole-rat, a tiny rodent with large teeth – and quite possibly the most elusive creature he’d encountered in the wild.
However, photographing lesser-known captive species has become Sartore’s main source of income.
‘I get the most thrilled when I work with tiny organisms like this,’ he told National Geographic, ‘because no one will ever pay attention to them.’
And just because they’re humble species doesn’t mean they can’t act like divas on set.
A behind-the-scenes video shows the difficulties of Sartore’s job as he tries to get snakes, birds, invertebrates, and other creatures to work together.
It shows a bald eagle wreaks havoc among the collection, knocking down a black backdrop as it flaps its huge wings at Raptor Recovery Nebraska, a conversation group for predatory birds in Elmwood.
Next, Sartore can be seen driving in the snow to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. Five men come together to put up a simple set with lighting and a white backdrop, which is shown over a brief time-lapse.
Then, the real animal antics begin as a fidgety toad refuses to stand still in front of the camera. A snake takes it to the next level by crawling directly into Sartore’s camera.
Taking pictures of birds is a difficult task since they must extend their wings at just the suitable period to capture their majesty. On the other hand, the armadillo is so dedicated to exploring as much of the setting as possible that it ends up straying off the white background and back onto the ground.
Tempting a turtle with a large lettuce leaf seems like a good idea – but it may result in some unanticipated mess. Some may also grab the entire backdrop on their own. National Geographic quoted Sartore as saying that he would not cease pursuing each captive species until one dies or his knees give out. His son, Cole, 18, will continue to pursue the project if he can’t see it through to the end.
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