One of the best ways you help nature is to vote. For those of you in the United States, regardless of political leaning, don’t miss you chance to make your voice heard. Please learn where candidates stand on issues like climate change, land conservation, Everglades restoration and water quality. Florida is the front lines for most of these challenges. As a relatively small peninsula surrounded by ocean, we are a microcosm of the world and a test case for whether we can do better. We have the opportunity to lead the nation and we may have the most to lose if we fail to act. This year's historic red tide compounded by human-caused blue green algae polluting estuaries make the stakes especially clear. Then we had the strongest landfalling hurricane on record to hit the Florida gulf coast. These tragedies remind us we must do more to live in balance with the land and water that sustains us all. This photograph show a miraculous aggregation of red drum gathering near the mouth of Tampa Bay by the thousands to spawn in September 2014. The only other known aggregation site along the Florida coast is near the Charlotte Harbor estuary. Both of these location were devastated by this summer's red tide. Thousands of red drum were observed to be killed at a critical time in their life cycle, when adults are reproducing and young fish are emerging from the estuaries. Biologists from @MyFWC are extending their population studies into next summer to further quantify the impacts of the red tide. But initial results show that continued coastal pollution and red tides could be disastrous for red drum and other species. We have to do better and demand that our elected leaders make caring for our land and water a top priority. #vote#conservation#redfish#reddrum#GulfofMexico#FloridaWild#KeepFLWild@sealegacy@natgeoimagecollection.
Voting this week is the best way you can help save Florida. These two Florida panther kittens, photographed earlier this year by one of my camera traps, are among the first known panthers born north of the Caloosahatchee River in the past 45 years. This is a big deal for the potential recovery of their species -- Florida's state animal and the last subspecies of puma surviving in the eastern United States. Until last year, the known breeding range of the Florida panther had been isolated to the southern Everglades (see map). Now the panther has a chance to recover into its historic territory throughout the northern Everglades and beyond. Conservationists and panthers are doing their part. Now it is up to the rest of us. Because without accelerating the pace of land conservation and investing in large landscape opportunities like the Florida Wildlife Corridor, we will not be able to balance conservation with development that continues to consume more than 100,000 acres of wild Florida each year (see second photo of new houses cutting into the wildlife corridor near Orlando), and is projected by its current trajectory to destroy 5 million acres of the Florida Wildlife Corridor by 2070. But it does not have to be that way! Landowners, land trusts and government programs are aligned to save wild Florida. We just need the political will to make it happen. Please learn where candidates stand on conservation. Florida Conservation Voters (@FCVoters) and Florida newspapers are good resources to help you make informed choices. Voting for conservation is ultimately voting for people. I look into the eyes of these young panthers and see hope for wild Florida and hope for my own children -- that they can both inherit a state in balance, but only if we insist that our elected officials will honor the will of Floridians and protect more land. Please make your voices heard with your votes! @FL_WildCorridor#FloridaWild#KeepFLWild#RiseOftheFloridaPanther#hope#panther#everglades#vote#conservation
Brothers Blevyns and Andre Jumper work in the cow pens at the Seminole Tribe of Florida's Big Cypress Reservation. Seminoles have been ranching in Florida since the early 1700s when they were still identified as Creeks. Cow work remains an important part of Seminole culture today and the tribe is one of the top ten cattle producers in the United Stated. Blev (first photo) and Dre (on his horse in the second photo), work alongside their sisters, father and grandfather to keep their heritage alive. Cattle ranches in Florida protect millions of acres of land from development and provide important connections in the statewide Florida Wildlife Corridor. The first cattle and horses in the United States arrived to Florida in 1521 and can be a natural fit in historic grasslands and prairies that evolved with herds of herbivores, such as in the Northern Everglades. @_blevv@dre_jumper@2j_jump. #Seminole#NativePride#Ranch#Cattle#FloridaWild#KeepFLWild#Everglades@FL_WildCorridor@NatGeoImageCollection@ILCP_photographers
I am honored to be adding by voice to the @sea_legacy collective on a day when America’s attention is turned toward the Gulf of Mexico. It will be humbling and inspiring to work with heroes focused on #turningthetide under the leadership of @cristinamittermeier and @paulnicklen. #Repost@sea_legacy ・・・ We are excited to announce @CarltonWard as a new member to The Collective — a trusted group of @Sea_Legacy’s esteemed friends who have pledged to use their talents and voices to amplify the message of ocean conservation. Carlton Ward Jr is a National Geographic Explorer and eighth-generation Floridian and focused on conservation of his state’s nature and culture. He grew up surfing and fishing on the coast before turning his attention to the overlooked wildness of Florida’s interior. Carlton founded the Florida Wildlife Corridor campaign and has trekked more than 2,000 miles to showcase a statewide vision keep Florida wild. Living on a peninsula surrounded by water, Carlton’s work shows how land and water are inexorably connected, in the Everglades and beyond. His current project, Path of the Panther, draws attention to the common ground needed for large landscape conservation while protecting the headwaters of Florida’s numerous estuaries. We are proud to be #TurningTheTide with @CarltonWard!
Beneath a fiery sunset, Luke Fry drives behind the milk barn to rake manure into fertilizer, one of the daily chores he and his twin brother Caleb do in the dark before and after school. On this evening, Luke's girlfriend Rachel joined for the ride. This is the final image in a photo story I produced last week during the Missouri Photo Workshop. I applied to participate wanting to reconnect with the fundamentals of photojournalism and push to develop a picture story around the lives of people I had never met in a place I didn’t know. After two years of chasing Florida panthers with camera traps nearly full time, it had become common for weeks to go by without looking through a camera with my own eyes. So I set the high-tech equipment aside and went to Missouri with just one camera for an immersive experience that involved a lot of looking, listening and waiting to capture a relatively small number of photographs. Each student was limited to just 400 photos for the week, with no deletions. When I am on assignment, I often shoot 1000 photos in a day, so last week was a real challenge. But the workshop leaders encouraged us to trust the process and to be intentional about the moments we tried to capture. By watching and waiting we would know when a moment was building and we should trust ourselves respond. By Wednesday evening I had seen the Fry brothers drive the tractor two previous times. But when I saw this sunset taking shape and heard the tractor coming, I started running down the hill. I remembered the floodlights on the cab that could balance exposure with the western sky and scrambled to compose for a fleeting moment. Had this been my first time watching the farm work, there's no way I would have reacted in time. See the full story and inspiring work from other students through the link in my bio and a few more selects from yesterday's post. Thank you to my amazing team leaders @billmarr and @wildhorsephotos and workshop leaders @kodakratz@davidreesphoto and Jim Curley. I can't wait to start incorporating lessons learned in Missouri to my work in Florida. #MPW70@mophotoworkshop@sonyalpha
Last week I had a phenomenal experience at the 70th annual @mophotoworkshop. See the link in my bio for the complete story and inspiring work by 38 other participants. Here are some photos from the story I produced, overview and captions below. Double Overtime — Identical twins Caleb and Luke Fry wake at 5 a.m. every day to lead the cows to the milk barn, spread manure with a tractor and hand feed the calves. They work past sunset every night helping run their family’s third generation dairy farm, with a break in between for their junior year at Mountain Grove High School, where they share most classes and compete in varsity sports. Like their father before them, Caleb and Luke are on the football team – the Mountain Grove Panthers. But Luke is indefinitely sidelined because he broke his back in a dirt bike accident at the farm. With rods and screws bracing his spine, he races cross country and track but cannot risk being paralyzed by impact sports. Caleb plays center in the starting offense. Both brothers are interested in continuing the family farm, which now includes Ozark Mountain Creamery, to sell fresh milk throughout southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. With their mother Lori and father Dwight, the Fry brothers set the bar high for a midwestern work ethic that is double overtime. 1-2: Caleb hand feeds a calf in the pre-dawn light an hour before he will shower and change for school. The Fry Brothers’ daily chores include feeding a calves with milk produced by the cow herd while the calves mothers rest in pasture. 3: Caleb, left, and Luke, center, talk for a moment while helping their father, Dwight, 52, milk Holstein cows at their family farm. The cows are milked twice a day, before dawn and late afternoon. Milk is collected in a cold storage tank and transported up the hill to the family’s Ozark Mountains Creamery, where it is bottled and sold throughout southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. 4: Luke, with girlfriend Rachel, stirs manure into fertilizer with a tractor well past sunset. 5: Caleb T-Bone continue the daily cycle that starts and ends with feeding the calves. #DoubleOvertime#mpy70
I just returned to Florida from a motivational week in Mountain Grove, Missouri with the @mophotoworkshop. Alongside 40 peers and nearly 15 editors and coaches, I challenged myself to grow as a documentary photojournalist. We were only allowed to take 400 photos with no deletions over the course of 4 days. Each student dove deep into a local story. Even though it was not directly related to mine, I couldn’t resist spending a couple precious frames on this beautiful scene, shot through the windshield of my rental car as I drove out of the Fry family’s dairy farm on the final morning of the workshop. I am thankful for the generous faculty who donated their time and the passionate and talented students who inspired me. Stay tuned for more photos. See picture stories by me and all 39 photographers through the link in my bio. #mpw70@sonyalpha
Summer has come to an end and along with it ghost orchid blooming season in the Everglades. Since June I’ve made near weekly treks into swamps to visit blooming ghosts and service camera traps with precision laser triggers aiming close to blooms. The hope is to answer a mystery to science by capturing unprecedented photographs of a ghost orchid being pollinated. Notice the impressive length of the nectar spur — the thin tube extending from the back of the flower to the right in this photo. The giant sphinx moth is thought to be the only pollinator because it’s mouth parts are long enough to reach to the bottom of the nectar spur for the sweet reward that draws the moth deep enough into the flower to get pollen stuck on its head, or to share pollen already there from another ghost. Approximately 2000 ghost orchids exist in the wild, of which one in ten bloom each year and perhaps one in ten of those get pollinated — their only natural means of reproducing. It’s fair to say I’ve become obsessed with these ghosts — their mystery and the magic of the swamps in which they survive. For three summers I’ve been drawn deep into the orchids’ watery world and it takes the blooming season ending for me to move on to other work. Meanwhile my friend @macstonephoto is on a parallel quest to document pollination at @corkscrewswamp and his subject still has 5 active blooms. #chasingghosts#orchid#swamp#pathofthepanther#floridawildlifecorridor#floridawild#keepflwild@pureflorida#pureflorida
This #nationalwildlifeday I’d like to share a recent photo of Florida panther — our state animal that shows us what we need to do to save wild Florida. This frame was captured on Babcock Ranch using a custom made camera trap. I’ve been working in this area for two years for my #pathofthepanther project with @NatGeo@myfwc@fl_wildcorridor and recently @nature_org. A male panther like this one has a home range of 200 square miles — and area so large that outside of Big Cypress National Preserve multiple properties are usually required to support a single panther. That makes panthers perfect ambassadors for protecting the statewide network of public and private lands that makeup #FloridaWildlifeCorridor. And if we don’t protect the Corridor, panthers will not have access to enough of their historic habitat to recover to sustainable numbers. #panther#floridawild#keepflwild
The biggest benefit to chasing ghost orchids this summer has been spending a lot of time in the amazing flooded forests of the Fakahatchee Strand. I paddled into this pocket of watery wildness nearly weekly for the past three months to tend to camera traps pointed at ghost orchid blooms seeking to document the moths thought to pollinate the rare flowers. Thanks to @ktbryden for capturing this moment as we greeted the morning in a place that’s become a part of me over the past three years. And thanks to @warbonnetoutdoors for making the perfect jungle hammocks for this mission. With @torilinder. SUP by @yoloboard. Nimble paddle craft and bug proof hammocks open new possibilities for adventure in places with plenty of trees buy no dry land for miles. #swamp#chasingghosts#pathofthepanther@natgeo@insidenatgeo#Everglades#adventure#FloridaWild#KeepFLWild@fl_wildcorridor