As far as veteran 'National Geographic' photographer Steve Winter sees it, a camera can be just as mighty as the sword. "When we take pictures, we're really building an emotional connection," he tells 'Mens Journal.' "That can help change the world."
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Over the span of his 30-plus years as a wildlife photographer, Winter has been doing just that, capturing unforgettable images of endangered animals as varied as the snow leopard, the rhino, and the grizzly bear – as well as the humans protecting them. Not surprisingly, Winter's work is often used by preservation and humanitarian groups, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, USAID, Panthera, and even local municipalities to help persuade national governments to invest in the conservation of threatened wildlife. "By showing the reality – the rarely seen moments of real animal behavior alongside the industry of poaching – we can connect emotions to something that is abstract to most people," he says.
Winter's work in this regard has garnered him the highly coveted BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and BBC Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Awards (in 2008 and 2012, respectively). Wildlife preservation is also the subject of his new book, 'Tigers Forever: Saving the World's Most Endangered Big Cat,' which includes firsthand accounts of Winter's photography expeditions into hostile and forbidding terrain, written by his wife, journalist Sharon Guynup.
To help inspire the next generation of photographers, Winter is launching a three-day Wildlife Photo Master Class in January 2014, at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, an eco-resort located inside a 590-acre wildlife sanctuary just outside Playa del Carmen in Mexico. There, he and fellow 'Nat Geo' photographers Tim Laman and Brian Skerry will offer hands-on guidance regarding how to capture nature photos worthy of a magazine. We caught up with Winter as he was putting the finishing touches on the itinerary, and he gave us a veritable one-on-one master class on the fine art and craft of nature photography.
Sometimes hinting at what's offscreen can be just as intriguing as what's on it. This is one of Winter's shots and one of the few pictures ever taken of a snow leopard. Winter says that if the leopard were on the left, his stare would have had less impact. Because he's looking offscreen, we're left to wonder what caught his attention. "If you shoot an animal or a person and they are framed to the same side they are looking out at, it creates a sense of wonderment," he says. That may seem like something a photography teacher would tell you to avoid, but this particular photo made Winter the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008.
Credit: Steve Winter