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.
Untangle the jungle.
"Jungles are one of the hardest places to shoot. There is such a profusion of life that it can be hard to find anything to focus on," Winter says. When faced with a landscape with endless variety, he suggests using an animal to put it all in context. "Easier said than done, especially in the thick overgrowth of the rain forest, but it will be a beautiful picture that tells a story." While Winter may have found these tigers chilling in the wood, we'll remind you that the animal could just as well have been a human for the purposes of a good picture in the jungle.
Credit: Steve Winter