By Rob Henry
December 15th, 2015
My photo of the week this week comes in three parts. As my time at National Geographic comes to a close, I have been reflecting a lot on the legacy of our photography. While the depth and breadth of photography covers such a vast variety of subject matter, I know that the organization will always be linked in the hearts and minds of most people for its amazing natural history and wildlife images.
As you all might have read, I have been fascinated with the current state of remote images and camera traps that are being used to capture images for the upcoming Yellowstone story. Over the last several years many of our photographer have used camera traps in new and innovative ways to allow us to see and experience animals in ways that were not possible before. I think of the remote cameras and camera traps used by Nick Nichols in his coverage of lions and elephants in Africa over the last decade. The images of tigers, mountain lions and leopards and other big cats by Steve Winter are also some of the finest ever made.
This got me to thinking about the roots of this school of photography. Where did it get started?
In the July, 1906 issue of National Geographic magazine, seventy-four images by photographer George Shiras were published in an article titled “Hunting Wild Game With Flashlight and Camera.”
What photographer today wouldn’t kill for a seventy-four-image story? This was a ground-breaking article for magazine and the first real direct link to the wildlife photography we do today.
The first image is of a lynx photographed at night sitting at the edge of Loon Lake, Ontario. It may not be the most remarkable photo by today’s standards, but when you realize it was taken in 1905, it makes you pause a moment and reconsider.
The second image gives you a better idea of how the image of the lynx was taken. Look at that setup mounted on the front of the boat! Can you image paddling around on a lake at night, in the dark, hoping to silently glide up on an animal in order to hopefully capture the image? Shiras also designed one of the first camera traps. When an animal grabbed at the bait, it would trigger a magnesium flash gun. Shiras, for the most part was shooting on glass plates, so each image was single opportunity. Not at all like today’s digital setups.
The final image Shiras image that I chose has nothing to do with the camera trap. I have just always loved this image. It captures a peaceful and serene canoeist alone on a still lake. It reminds me of the watercolors of Winslow Homer, that painted similar subjects around the same time and place.