Every year, Earth Day offers a time for photographers around the world to highlight the importance and beauty of nature and wildlife. Images have the power to show the impact we leave on our planet in an instant.
To celebrate this year’s unique Earth Day, we reached out to some of our members asking them to share photos that represent the true nature of Earth Day; a sense of wonder, adventure and protection for our planet. Below, you’ll hear stories of incredible animals, captivating destinations, environmental activism and more.
Cover image by Julia Wimmerlin
Human activity made orangutans endangered but it’s also humans who put a lot of effort into saving them. Orangutan rehabilitation centres are founded in quite a few places in Borneo so rescued animals have a second chance. Even after their release back to the rainforest orangutans keep contact with humans getting extra food or just coming to visit the sites where they grew up. Rehabilitated primates are accustomed to seeing humans and even when seeing them in the wild will not run away.
According to the ranger, this must have been a previous resident of an orangutan rehabilitation center who was pregnant. Living really far away from the main tourist route and main feeding stations – Sungai Blush is a wild part near Tanjung Putting National Park, Borneo, Indonesia – she seemed much wilder than the ones I saw before (at the feeding stations). I was even surprised she did not disappear in the bushes as soon as she saw us. But it seemed like she was really thirsty and kind of curious and hoping to get some food so she decided to try her luck with us. We stopped our boat and after a while she came out to the river bank. She was first quite suspicious of us but little by little she did what she came to do – she started drinking.
In a small village in rural southern Malawi, a local foundation called Othakarhaka (passing on the kindness) has developed a regional agroforestry program. Seedlings (in tubes) are obtained through the District Forestry Officer and then maintained by volunteers in mini tree nurseries throughout the area. They are then nurtured into saplings which eventually get planted to replace trees used for medicinal purposes, fruits, fuel, etc. Othakarhaka ensures a new tree is planted for each tree that is cut down, along with protecting the trees while they grow.
Standing close to the biggest remaining glacier in Europe is a very humbling experience. I feel small and vulnerable each time. It’s power is not visible yet somehow you can feel it. And it is extremely difficult to understand that future generations will not be able to see it because it will vanish soon. This picture was taken standing on the Eggishorn peak at 3000m above sea level in the early morning after spending the night outdoors.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has some of the world’s very last mountain gorillas. The region has been a site of instability, violence, and repression for decades—making the gorillas easy targets. Their habitat in the Virunga National Park has been destroyed by logging and illegal mining activities often conducted by rebel groups that maintain hidden settlements in the middle of the jungle. There are currently less then one thousand of the mountain gorillas left in the world, which makes them an endangered species.
Accompanied by armed rangers while meeting some of the world’s last mountain gorillas face to face was an experience of a lifetime.
From the banks of the Colorado River, winds carried bluebonnet seed to the withered bottom of a bend in Lake Travis after a severe drought devastated Texas during 2010-2013.
As rain began to fall, a fragrant bluebonnet field emerged amongst vibrant green river plants and paths created during the dry season. For two consecutive spring seasons, a fortunate handful of us witnessed the beauty and bounty of this stunning and temporary display.
Late spring of 2015 brought a devastating flood of rain fall and returned the Lake Travis tributary to the Colorado River.
This Roseate Spoonbill came in for a water landing at the Green Cay Wetlands in South Florida. I captured this moment using my Canon EOS-1D X Mark ll and 400.2.8 lens.
What I love about this photo is that it embodies the sweetness of a cupcake and the grace of a ballerina, which is the opposite of this bird’s awkward and clumsy look standing still. This long legged wading bird, with bright pink plumes and a distinctive spoon shaped bill has been infrequently but increasingly spotted at this location and was such a thrill to capture in this moment.
The reflective light of the setting sun added to the fairy tale backdrop while my professional sports photography action instinct naturally kicked in as this lone spoonbill swooped in just when I determined the shoot was over because the light was dimming. It is one of my favorite nature photographs I have taken over the years.
Ever since I saw a photo from the Faroe Islands I have been mesmerized by it. The country is so unspoiled, it’s a photographer’s paradise. I love that the country holds a nation-wide clean up every year. The country ‘closes’ and only volunteers can come in to fix up the natural beauty of the country.
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