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What makes a good conservation photograph?

Posted by on April 13, 2016

By Davide Gaglio, amateur photographer and student at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology

Describing what photography is for me is already a very difficult task. When we narrow the topic to ‘conservation photography’ it becomes even more challenging. Is not easy to judge when a photograph including wildlife or a natural resource is able to convey protection of the environment effectively.

For acclaimed National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore the ‘nature photograph’ shows a butterfly on a pretty flower. The ‘conservation photograph’ shows the same thing, but with a bulldozer coming at it in the background. In agreement with that, I think an image aiming to raise awareness of environmental issues should not only document the issue but must include the right mixture of originality, drama and beauty.

Conflict and survival was the topic of the Royal Society of Biology Photography Competition 2015 and my iconic image The last sardine was highly commended. It shows the conflict between two individuals of Greater Crested Terns battling for one (last) fish. This image is powerful for the simple and dramatic story illustrated, the dynamic subjects and the artistic impact.

Marine conservation has always been of great interest to me as I was born and raised on the island of Sicily in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, which allowed me to develop an intimate love for the ocean. Today, one of the main environmental concerns is overfishing. This destructive activity results in declining fish populations to the point where their survival is threatened. The reduction of fish stocks is causing a drastic change in marine ecosystems, resulting in a large loss of biodiversity. For me, there was no better way to capture and summarise not only the struggle between two birds fighting for their survival, but more broadly the conflict between human activities and the marine environment in a single shot.

This year the RSB Photography Competition theme is Biology: from Big to Small. This will be a great opportunity to use images to illustrate the beauty of our planet and contrasts between vast landscapes or giant creatures, and the invisible microcosms around us.

Find out more about the Royal Society of Biology Photography Competition.
See more of Davide’s photography and videography.

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