More answers from questions submitted via Instagram Stories several weeks ago. If you think of something to ask while reading, please feel free to do so in the comments below – you may get an answer in an upcoming installment.
* * *
Q: How do you decide whether to keep an image colored or change it to black and white?
A: Everything was shot and published in color during my career with National Geographic, so it is only in the last five years that I've begun to revisit old work and evaluate other possibilities. I love to experiment by peeling back the layers of an image, and sometimes, removing the color allows me to see it in a completely different light. Majesty Surfacing, for example, always struck me as a so-so image in color. It had all the right elements for a great photo—it was sharp, the water running off the bear created interesting texture, and his expression was intriguing—but only once the color had been removed did I truly connect with the moment. National Geographic would never have run it in black and white, but that treatment has become one of my favorite art prints. I suppose it comes down to trying and feeling – whatever elicits the most visceral response from an image is how I ultimately decide to treat it.
Q: What did you want to grow up to be when you were little?
A: I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau – exploring under the waves and along the ice edge, encountering strange animals, visiting never-before-seen places, filming, photographing. I have always known what I wanted to do. Although, believe it or not, there was a brief period when I wanted nothing more than to be a fighter pilot. I was obsessed with aviation. That didn't work out, but I did learn to fly and have owned (and crashed) two ultra-light airplanes.
Q: Are you hopeful of the ocean's recovery?
A: The beautiful thing about nature is that it generally bounces back once we get out of its way. Our planet has been perfecting its ability to maintain harmony for four and a half billion years, and global ecosystems are optimized to grow and thrive. I believe hope is capable of accomplishing more than despair ever could – my optimism that humanity will unite in allowing the ocean to recover and flourish is what motivates me.
Q: Do you honestly believe climate change will slow down?
A: No, I don't. Even if we halted the release of carbon into the atmosphere today, it would still take hundreds of thousands of years for our planet's natural systems—like the forests and the oceans—to return to a state of balance. We are already in deep trouble, so the question is how to prevent things from getting even worse. One answer is to take a more Earth-friendly approach to our existence, and cultivating an awareness regarding the impact of our everyday decisions is an excellent first step. Before swiping your credit card in a department store, ordering dinner in a restaurant, or going about any number of daily routines, first consider what type of planet you want future generations to inherit and how your actions are contributing to that outcome. You will be surprised at how many little ways there are to make a positive difference.
Q: What do you like about aerial photography?
A: When I capture the world at eye level, I do not really surprise anybody. Most of you already know what a polar bear or a penguin looks like from that perspective, for example. Shooting from the sky allows me to see the world in an unexpected way, and I can capture shapes, colors, patterns, and perspectives that any of us might otherwise never get to see.
* * *
Thank you so much to everyone that submitted a question, and stay tuned for AMA #3, coming soon.