At Aurora Photos, the outdoors means many things. It’s a destination, a state of mind, an inspiration and a way to approach the world. Embrace it all with us!
The news coming out of Washington DC, in the form of the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, has been disheartening for many who are concerned about the state of our climate and environment. But there is good news, too. On the front lines of the fight against global warming and climate change, much is being done at the grass roots level, at the local governmental level, and through independent scientific research. Several Aurora photographers have been on those front lines covering the stories of positive change and bring us the following good news.
Ice storm experiments in New Hampshire, by Joe Klementovich
Ice climbing, mountaineering and suffering at cold belays has prepared me well for shooting through the frigid February nights at Hubbard Brook Research center. Tucked back in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Hubbard Brook has been studying the environment on a large scale since 1955. They were the first group that discovered acid rain back in the 70’s. The last two winters, graduate students, scientists, and researchers have been mimicking ice storms to study the effects on the forest, looking at everything from soil change to the impact on birds and insects.
Having a dedicated photography and film crew to capture the process as well as the aftermath allowed the researchers to create a library of images and video that has become critical in explaining and sharing the experiment at a public level and to the scientific community. Photographs and video were picked up on a wide variety of outlets ranging from National Geographic to the Weather Channel to the local paper.
In a day and age where science is under attack from various corners, producing a photographic record will hopefully pushed the climate change conversation into living rooms and cafes, not just the research offices, and help show the real life impacts it is creating. The experiments have been a success scientifically, but it also showed the science community that being able to effectively demonstrate their work to the world visually is just as important as the experiments.
Hubbard Brook Website. http://hubbardbrook.org/overview/history.shtml
Energy Independence at the Ashram, by Ashley Cooper
Visiting the Muni Seva Ashram, in Goraj, India, is like stepping into a haven of peace and tranquility. The Ashram delivers services from the cradle to the grave. They provide an orphanage, infant and secondary schools, vocational training, old people’s sheltered housing, and a specialist cancer hospital with all the latest high tech equipment. The Ashram is 100% powered by renewable energies. They fitted their first solar panels in 1984, long before any one had heard of climate change. Since then they have invested in more and more renewable technologies. Solar panels, provide much of the energy, along with biofuel which is generated onsite from food waste and wood from the estate. 70% of the food is grown organically in the grounds. The two cars used by the Ashram run on biogas, and even the air conditioning in the hospital is solar powered.
Deepak Gadhia had been a successful Indian business man until his wife died of cancer. From that point on he dedicated the rest of his life to supporting the Ashram and has been the driving force behind its conversion to renewable and sustainable practices. His enthusiasm has been infectious, and his dedication to helping his fellow citizens humbling. His proudest moment of my tour was showing me the world’s first solar crematorium, designed by Deepak and built on the estate. Local religion dictates that upon death you are cremated. In the past locals have gone into the forest to chop down enough wood to build a funeral pyre. Long term, this is a destructive process that impacts on biodiversity. The large solar reflector, concentrates the suns rays on a metal box in which the body is placed. It can burn four bodies a day, leaving the local forest intact.
I left the ashram amazed by what I had seen and convinced that this has to be the way forward, it is possible to power our lives exclusively from renewable energy, and if we are serious about tackling climate change it is the only option we have.
Fernbank Forest Restoration, by Peter Essick
Fernbank Forest is a 65-arce urban old-growth forest a few minutes from downtown Atlanta. The forest is owned by the Fernbank Museum nearby, but until recently few people were allowed to visit. The forest is an excellent example of a southern Piedmont forest with many species of old-growth trees, animals and native plants. However, in recent years the forest floor was overrun with invasive plants such as English Ivy, monkey grass and wisteria. Through the help of volunteers, donors, ecologists and donors the museum began a program of restoration four years ago. This past October, the forest was opened to the public and restoration efforts continue. It is hoped that over the coming years the forest can be restored to a fully functioning forest that will not only be enjoyed by visitors and wildlife, but also become a valuable asset in the battle against climate change.
I started photographing Fernbank Forest almost two years ago to document both the natural beauty and the restoration efforts. The difference to the forest floor was very evident this spring as many native wildflowers and ferns began blooming in areas that were once covered in ivy. I hope that my photos will show that urban forests are not only vital green spaces for our environment, but can be a rewarding subject for an photographer willing to walk in the woods with their eyes open and camera ready.
Clean Cookstoves and Solar Sister Make a Difference, by Joanna B. Pinneo
The most dangerous activity for a woman in the developing world is cooking for her family. More than three billion people worldwide still cook and heat their homes using solid fuels. The simple act of cooking causes roughly 4.3 million premature deaths per year from respiratory and pulminary illnesses from smoke inhilation. These deaths disproportionately affect women and children who spend the most time indoors in close proximity to dirty cook stoves.
Fatma Mziray, a vibrant thirty-eight year-old Tanzanian woman, raises six children, works on the farm with her husband, runs two side businesses and cooks most of the three meals a day for her family. Fatma has not always been this healthy and vibrant. Like others in her community she cooked over a traditional three-stone cook stove that is highly smoky. Fatma started having chest pains, her eyes were red and watery and she was always tired. When Fatma heard about an easy to use and inexpensive efficient cook stove from a Solar Sister Tanzanian entrepreneur, she bought one. Not only did she start feeling better immediately, as did her children, but she noticed that she used a fraction of the firewood as the traditional cooking method. Now she is a Solar Sister entrepreneur. herself. Working with and organization like Solar Sister provides her with extra cash to send her children onto secondary school, an opportunity she did not have. She also helps other women in her area to improve the health of their families, simultaneously lessening local deforestation and reducing carbon emissions from traditional stoves.
In 2016 I received a Ted Scripps Fellowship at University of Colorado in Boulder to study environmental journalism and research household air pollution. Through working with Ripple Effect Images, I learned about the devastating effects of household air pollution, especially on women and children in the developing world. Great progress has been made by organizations like Solar Sister to find creative life changing and life saving solutions that also make our planet cleaner and more livable. Although the stoves are not 100% clean technology, they are significantly more efficient and healthier than the three-stone method. The Solar Sister model works because not only do women like the stove, but the peer to peer effort to sell and distribute the stoves makes local women more likely to put the new cleaner stove to use.
You can view more stories and images of climate impact, both positive and negative, in our Environmental Photography collection. Through this collection, Aurora provides communication professionals the visual resources to effectively tell the evolving story of our environment and our planet.
Our photographers caught the travel bug this month! You can travel around the world with us, from slack-line in Rio de Janeiro to desert exploration in Erg Chebbi, Morocco. Take a polar-plunge in Antarctica (or kayak if you prefer and see penguins) or swim in the warmer waters near Cinque Terre. Follow along as we pack-raft through Laos, stopping at villages that have to relocate due to dam construction along the way, ascend Kilimanjaro, rock-climb in Malta, or visit the Taj Mahal.
You can also meet a tobacco farmer, lobsterman, cowboy, Costa Rican tour guide, Icelandic ponies and an ibex in this month’s newest images: https://www.auroraphotos.com/result?webseries_id=23828
Hawai’i is one of the most spectacular photographic destinations in the US, but what’s it like to live there? We sat down (virtually) with 5 Aurora photographers, Elyse Butler, Sean Davey, Grant Kaye, Logan Mock-Bunting, and Mallory Roe, to find out about life, photography, food, the silly things us “mainlanders” do when we touch down in the Aloha State, and why the natives say “Lucky we live Hawai’i.”
Aurora: What originally brought you to Hawai’i?
Elyse Butler: I was born here and decided to come back to the island after graduating college. I’ve lived on Oahu for 8 years.
Mallory Roe: During a year of travel, I came to Kauai for a week to explore and shoot around. I ran into another photographer at a waterfall who was teaching a landscape photography workshop. I told him he should hire me on to help him teach, and he did! I’ve been living on the island of Kauai for nearly 3 years.
Sean Davey: I came to Hawai’i 20 years ago as a surf photographer. Originally, I really didn’t have a lot of interest in going to Hawai’i, simply because every other surf photographer goes there in the northern hemisphere winter. But my magazine editor sent me in late 1994. I met my future wife the next season and we got married.
Grant Kaye: I was born on Lana’i in the 1970s. My folks and my huge extended Ohana (family) all still live there. Now I live in Truckee, CA, but I go home as much as I can.
Logan Mock-Bunting: For me, it was the idea of spending more time in the Ocean – swimming, surfing, paddling and freediving. My wife and I have only been here for about 3 years, living in Honolulu.
AU: What’s the greatest thing about being a photographer in Hawaii?
Elyse: The people are so friendly and the islands are incredibly beautiful. I constantly draw inspiration from the ocean and wild rugged nature that is so accessible here.
Sean: During winter, we have some of the most consistent big surf anywhere in the world and then during the summer months, the whole north shore becomes one huge swimming pool with usually some of the clearest waters. The biggest challenge that I typically face here are getting the right tides and ocean swells to match up with the right places at the right times of day. It’s like juggling nature.
Grant: The ecological diversity is almost unparalleled elsewhere on earth. Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the Big Island have almost every single named distinct ecological zone on the planet. You can literally shoot skiing and then drive down through grasslands, into rainforest, and come out at the beach for sunset in a few hours.
Mallory: I am surrounded by diverse, breathtaking scenes and don’t have to go out of my way to take advantage of them- I can get to some of the most beautiful beaches in world, hike along some of the most amazing ridges, shoot gorgeous waterfalls, explore deep into the jungles and STILL be home by dinner!
AU: What’s your favorite activity and the best place to go do it?
Elyse: Swimming and paddle boarding in the ocean at Waimea Bay on the North Shore.
Mallory: The Kalalau Valley is stunning. The trail to get to the beach is 22 miles round trip. You do it once and you’re hooked! There’s nothing that beats hiking out to the Kalalau for a few days. Mainlanders come to Hawai’i for Paradise. People who live in Hawai’i go to the Kalalau for paradise.
Sean: Put on a mask and snorkel and swim behind the waves, underwater. The view there is totally unlike anything else. One of the most remarkable things you will ever see. It’s best to do when the surf is small and the water remains clear.
Logan: Man, you can’t be giving out local knowledge indiscriminately. That’ll get you in a lot of trouble over here.
AU: Best food and favorite spot for it?
Mallory: The lilikoi fruit is my favorite. When it’s in season, you can find it just about anywhere there’s vegetation.
Sean: Lei Lei’s at Turtle Bay, just across the road from where I live. I highly recommend the crunchy coconut shrimp and seared ahi ceasar salad.
Grant: If I’m at home, the Lana’i Ohana Poke Market, where Aunty Donna serves up mean poke. If I’m on O’ahu, plate lunch in Waimanalo or from Alicia’s. If I’m on the Big Island, kalua pig and malasadas from Tex Drive In.
Logan: Can’t beat good poke (seasoned raw fish with rice and various seaweed, onions, peppers, etc.) My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
AU: What is your favorite way to eat Spam?
Elyse: Never! Ha!
Sean: They actually serve Spam at McDonalds.
AU: What’s the greatest misconception that “mainlanders” have about Hawai’i?
Mallory: That we constantly are visiting the other islands. Travel throughout the state of Hawai’i is not simple. It’s quite an investment just to mosey over to another island for even just a few days once you factor in the cost of airfare, rental car and accommodations. We mostly stay on our own island unless our work takes us to another island. Island hopping is not something most residents do very frequently or casually.
Sean: Hawaiian pizza was not invented in Hawaii. It was actually created by someone in Canada.
Grant: The obvious one is that a lot of people from the lower 48 think Hawaii is another country. I’ve had people in baggage claim ask me where immigration is after they get their bags!
AU: What is your favorite native plant or animal? Tell us a bit about the unique biodiversity on your island.
Elyse: I love the honu ‘green sea turtle’ and the uluhe fern. I often come upon sea turtles when I’m swimming in the open ocean, and it’s always an amazing experience. I love to find uluhe ferns when I’m hiking in the mountains, the purple coil and fiddlehead make it look like a Dr Seuss plant.
Sean: We have such a plethora of cool creatures, flowers and trees here. I just adore some of the huge monkey pod trees and Banyan trees. One Banyan tree can have unlimited number of trunks. There is a Banyan tree in Lahaina on the island of Maui that is the largest in the US and takes up an entire block of the town.
Grant: I like the beautiful Naupaka flower, which has an awesome story in Hawaiian culture. There are two shapes of the flower, each a half a blossom, one that grows at the beach and one that grows on the mountain. The story goes that they are separated, star-crossed lovers. There’s lots of good mele (Hawaiian music) about it.
Logan: The Official State Fish of Hawaii is the Humuhumunukunukuapua`a, a striking and beautiful trigger fish. Humuhumunukunukuapua`a isn’t that hard to pronounce really – just take it one syllable at a time: “who-moo-who-moo-new-ku-new-ku-ah-pooah-ah.” But my favorite is undoubtedly the Akule (big eye scad) Baitballs – free diving through these massive schools of fish swimming in synchronicity is a magical experience.
AU: What’s your “ONLY happens in Hawai’i” moment?
Mallory: One time I walked into a Starbucks and there was a guy sitting at one of the tables with no shirt, just chopping up a pineapple with his machete. Nobody seemed to notice or act like what he was doing was out of the ordinary.
Grant: During our wedding ceremony at the Pu’u Pehe coast on Lana’i, a huge pod of humpback whales swam by real close, came up and blew air. That was pretty special.
Or, check out more from their personal sites below:
When climbing legend Royal Robbins passed away in March, we asked several Aurora photographers who had known Royal, or been influenced by him, to share their thoughts and stories about the iconic climber.
Royal was, and still is, a great inspiration to me. He was a living example of how to do life well. He led with kindness and wisdom. He truly was a leader of man.
– Tom Frost
I started climbing in the 80’s when it was still a fringe sport and information was hard to come by. Royal Robbins’ books Basic Rockcraft and Advanced Rockcraft were the bibles that taught me the techniques that have kept me alive and safe to this day.
– Jonathan Kingston
I never met Royal and have only been to Yosemite once, very briefly 22 years ago. But as a young kid growing up in middle Tennessee who was rabid about rock climbing, Royal had a profound effect upon me through his books. Yosemite historical books were important, but nothing like the impact that his Rockcraft series had on me in my early teens. I must have read and re-read those two little paperbacks a 100 times. In the absence of real climbing instruction, they bridged a gulf on how to climb safely but even more importantly – they taught me how to climb from an ethical and spiritual point of view. Anyone can get up the rock, but Royal firmly planted the ethos in me that it was how you got up the rock and how you left it for others to enjoy that really mattered.
– Harrison Shull
My photo career began as a way to fund my own passion for climbing. As an early Outward Bound instructor Royal’s books on rockcraft were on my mother’s bookshelf and he became an inspiration in the early 70’s, long before I understood how necessary and important his ethical stance was towards clean climbing. As my generation of ’80’s climbers proliferated mass bolting and sport climbing I gravitated instead towards routes with natural and removable protection and wild places. Royal’s books had influenced me well. In the early 90’s Royal called to purchase a printed photograph I had taken of a silhouetted climber descending a steep cliff in front of El Capitan in Yosemite. I knew then that my art of photography reflected a little of Royal’s art of climbing and I was happy.
Like many climbers and outdoor enthusiasts, I was sad to hear about the passing of Royal Robbins, one of the true pioneers and icons of our sport. Reading about Robbins’ adventures in Yosemite as a kid was hugely influential and inspirational to me. One time, my editor at Boy’s Life called and asked if I’d ever heard of some guy named “Royal Robbins” and if I wanted to shoot him taking a group of Boy Scouts from Modesto rock climbing. Of course, I leapt at the opportunity to shoot alongside the guy who virtually invented rock climbing as we know it. That night around the campfire, Royal opened up a bottle of wine, and poured himself a small glass. One of the father chaperones casually mentioned to Royal, “We don’t drink at Boy Scouts events,” to which Royal casually responded, “Oh, OK. Well, I do.” Royal and I shared a bottle of wine and we all sat around the campfire and listened to Royal’s stories. It was just an incredible experience — a testament to the fact that Royal was the ultimate climber’s climber. I’m also sure that he inspired at least one of those Boy Scouts that day to become a climber, or at the very least, to not be afraid to take risk and live adventurously.
– Corey Rich
For me, a boy living below sea level in the flatlands of Holland, reading the accounts of Royal Robinson forced me to go explore the three dimensional world. I waited anxiously for every American climbing magazine to drop in my mail box, so I could learn about adventures and dream about first ascents. It was not difficult to choose a location of my Wilderness EMT course at NOLS in 2010: Yosemite was the birth ground of modern big wall climbing. You can imagine how excited I was when I heard Royal Robins was visiting the valley. I think I even skipped some lessons from medic school, just to be sure to see and meet him and Tom Frost (I got two idols for the price of one) at a lecture in Curry village. Like a teenager at a rock concert I asked for their signatures and what I remember the most is that he impressed me with his friendliness. Today I am inspired and every time when I tie in to a rope I hear his wise words: “Climbing is not about reaching the top, it is all about the style you do it in.”
– Menno Boermans