Outdoor photography has the power to do a lot: It can capture incredible, beautiful natural locations that many people don’t get to see in person. It can enact policy change to preserve those locations. And it can remind us of everything there is to be thankful for. And while there are some big names that everyone knows — the Ansel Adamses of the world — there are plenty more who are doing incredible work.
We were so inspired by Art Wolfe’s incredible class, the Art of Nature Photography, that we decided to round up some of the other outdoor photographers whose names you may not know, but definitely should. You may have seen their work in National Geographic, or heard about their conservation work, or maybe glanced their dreamy landscapes in a gallery — or maybe they’re completely new to you.
Either way, add these folks — some iconic, some brand-new — to your must-watch list.
Wendy Shattil: With her partner Bob Rozinski, Wendy Shattil has co-authored over a dozen books during the course of her decades-long career. However, it took a long time for her to become a full-time conservation photographer.
“Bob and I both had full-time jobs,” Wendy explained in an interview with Outdoor Photographer. “Nevertheless, we spent an average of 40 hours each week on our photography. Every weekend and vacation we were in the field photographing, and every weeknight we kept busy submitting images and conducting lectures.”
Focusing on threatened species in North America, Wendy and Bob were named Conservationists of the Year by the Colorado Wildlife Federation, and are Fellows of the International League of Conservation Photography.
Frans Lanting: Dutch photographer Frans Lanting has spent years living among his natural subjects in remote locations. He’s won awards “The existence of huge free-roaming herds of elephants in Botswana is a symbol for both the nature of this landscape and for the human decisions that must be made about the fate of wild places and wildlife both here and elsewhere on Earth,” Frans told National Geographic, “How we balance those interests will be the legacy of our time, the path we leave on the land.”
He’s won awards including the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award, and was awarded the title of BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
Ellie Davies: Combining outdoor photography with fine art, UK photographer Ellie Davis creates rich, dramatic images of remote forested areas in ways that are strangely emotional.
“From an early age the notion of the forest is given a sinister and threatening personality in the form of fairy tales and children’s stories. Stepping inside the dense forest feels like entering another world,” she explains in an artist statement. “These sensory experiences often lead to the forest being used as metaphor. The wild and impenetrable forest has long symbolized the dark, hidden world of the unconscious.”
Eiffel Chong: Malaysian photographer Eiffel Chong is relatively young, but his photos have already been shown extensively across Asian and Europe. His images, which focus on the impact of humans on the natural world, are colorful and precise, yet simple. With projects like “Theatre of Cruelty,” which examines the strange existence of zoos, Chong captures what he sees — and other people might not.
“He aims to bring us at one with Nature through this series of photographs, reminding us that we are not apart from Nature, but rather that we are a part of it,” reads the artist statement for his series entitled Seascape.
Brian Skerry: You have definitely seen underwater photojournalist Brian Skerry‘s beautiful seascapes in the pages of National Geographic, whether you knew it or not — but you may not be aware of the kind of change his images and work really are inciting. Illustrating important pieces like Joel K. Bourne, Jr.’s “How to Far a Better Fish,” Skerry says that he makes pictures to educate the general population about the environmental concerns facing the ocean.
“My hope is to continually find new ways of creating images and stories that both celebrate the sea yet also highlight environmental problems. Photography can be a powerful instrument for change,” he told National Geographic.
Vincent Munier: French photographer Vincent Munier was named the BBC’s Wildlife Photographer for three years in a row — 2000, 2001, and 2002 — and has had work featured in National Geographic and Audubon Magazine. He’s also the subject of Running Wild with Vincent Munier, a 2012 documentary.
Munier, who has been involved in environmental matters since childhood, says that one of the most difficult parts about photographing nature is being present, without harming it.
“Nature can be so fragile, and mankind can disturb — or even destroy — large swaths of it with very little effort, so when I am in the field, I try to leave the smallest footprint I can,” he once explained.
Ian Shive: Author of The National Parks: Our American Landscape, Ian falls squarely into that category of conservation photographers who are saving the world. Through his work in conservation photography, which has been published in National Geographic, Outside, Men’s Journal, Backpacker, Sierra Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, National Parks Magazine, and Popular Science, Ian has helped chronicle and advocate on behalf of the U.S.’s national natural treasures.