national geographic

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Drone flight over Highway 163, Monument Valley, Utah

Photographer Builds A ‘Photo Ark’ For 6,500 Animal Species And Counting

National Geographic contributing photographer Joel Sartore is 11 years into a 25-year endeavor to document every captive animal species in the world using studio lighting and black-and-white backgrounds. So far, he’s photographed 6,500 different species, which leaves approximately 6,000 to go.

Sartore tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that presenting the animals in the studio, rather than in nature, gives them equal importance in the eye of the viewer. “A mouse is every bit as glorious as an elephant, and a tiger beetle is every bit as big and important as a tiger,” he says. “It’s a great equalizer.”

Sartore chronicles his project in the new photography book, The Photo Ark. The ultimate goal of his project is to help ensure that the future existence of his subjects, many of which are either endangered or on the verge of extinction.

“I’ve been a National Geographic photographer for 27 years, and I photographed the first 15 years or so out in the wild doing different conservation stories, on wolves, on grizzly bears, on koalas all in the wild — and can I say that moved the needle enough to stop the extinction crisis? No, no it did not,” Sartore says. “So I just figured maybe very simple portraits lit exquisitely so you can see the beauty and the color, looking animals directly in the eye with no distractions would be the way to do it.”

Photo: Arctic fox by Joel Sartore / National Geographic 

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The extremely elusive Himalayan Blue Sheep (Pseudois nayaur) in the snow at an altitude of 15,000 feet in Nepal’s little-known Dorpatan Hunting Reserve. These animals are one of the main food sources for Snow Leopards. ~

Despite spending upwards of a week climbing, crawling, and slogging through waist-deep snow in pursuit of the sheep, we were unable to get much closer than these images reveal. ~

Founded to attract international trophy hunters and tourism revenue, Dorpatan is one of the highest hunting areas on the globe. In the mid-nineties, the park was a stronghold for the Maoist rebels who waged a guerrilla war against the Nepal Government for over a decade. During this time, poaching of blue sheep and other exotic species was rampant. ~

Now, a handful of elite hunters travel here each year bringing much-needed employment to the area. The sheep population is now healthy and growing, although local poachers still operate in the more remote reaches of the park using weapons and techniques left over from the ciivl war.

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Avery Jackson, whose sweetly touching video about what it’s like to be a trans girl, is the groundbreaking cover of this month’s National Geographic

Several trans, non-binary, bigender, and androgynous people posed for another cover, which will be on newsstands on December 27. The issue will also be published online on Monday, December 19. Perhaps the best part is the life-affirming quote from Avery that the magazine put on its cover with her portrait.

Gifs: Debi Jackson

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They describe this as a “Cactus forest” from the Atacama Desert, Chile

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Frozen Lake Bled, Slovenia. With skaters. Apparently currently only freezes like once every decade at this point.

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After a long and hot morning spent foraging, this wild seven-banded armadillo needed a rest! Filmed in the southern Pantanal, Brazil, on assignment for @stevewinterphoto, @natgeo and @natgeowild. Follow Steve and I (@bertiegregory) for news on our jaguar film coming soon!

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The daily sea of clouds that rushes up the valley in the Khumbu Himalaya towards the highest point on earth. Shot from the summit of Lobuche peak while acclimatizing for an ascent of Everest in order to document it from the Sherpa perspective. ~

These days many western climbers sleep on this safe neighboring peak while the Sherpas and other high altitude Nepali workers take the lions share of the risk carrying equipment up and down the dangerous Khumbu icefall.

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European barn owl photographed near Parco Natura Viva, Bussolengo, Italy.
(Video by @joelsartore on IG)