My favorite genre of nature photography is the wildlife landscape. When I look at nature images by modern masters like Jim Brandenburg, Frans Lanting, John Shaw, and Art Wolfe, it is their wildlife landscapes that I find most compelling. Wildlife that is artistically framed by it’s surroundings conveys two essential messages to the viewer. The first message is about basic biology and the second is about conservation.
In biology we use the term niche to describe an organism’s role in its environment. This role includes food, predators, spacial requisites, temporal characteristics, and reproductive needs. These five niche characteristics are a small subset of the thousands of traits that could be used to describe the needs for any organism’s survival. As such, the definition of a niche might best be framed as an “n-dimensional space.” Here “n” represents all of the variables that can influence the way a given organism lives in its environment. Life adapts to where it lives through countless generations. In each generation, those that are best adapted to their environment survive to reproduce, while poorly adapted individuals die or produce fewer offspring. Through this process, living organisms increase the way they “fit” into their environment.
In the current age of technological change and human expansion, the biology of non-human life is in conflict with our egocentric needs and desires. Here lies the importance of conservation. If we value non-human life, then we must also value the space where these plants and animals live. It is through the conservation of habitat that the complexity of each niche can be preserved.
Wildlife landscapes carry a message and tell a story. They expose the beauty of wild spaces, and reveal the key requisite to sustain the biodiversity. The best wildlife landscapes educate us about biology and communicate the need for conservation.
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