One of the questions aspiring photographers ask the most is how they can start getting their work noticed. Something that is important to understand is that photography is hard. It is exciting work and I am grateful everyday to be doing what I’m doing, but it has been a long road, full of failure and rejection and without a question, getting your work noticed will be hard. Today, I am proud to be a judge of “The BigPicture Photography Competition” and I am excited to see the work of established photographers as well as new talent. This competition is open to all photographers worldwide; enthusiasts and professionals alike. It is a great way to show off both your courage and your skill. BigPicture calls on photographers to contribute their work to this competition that both celebrates and illustrates the rich diversity of life, as well as inspire action to protect and conserve it through the power of imagery. $12,000 in cash prizes are awarded and winning images are exhibited at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. BigPicture is accepting entries until March 1. Learn more at www.bigpicturecompetition.org.
Today is World Whale Day! Did you know - the world’s largest animals depend directly on some of the smallest as a food source? Do you see the inside of the humpback’s mouth in the first picture - the bristles that look like hair? Baleen whales like these humpbacks do not have teeth; they have baleen plates, a filter-feeding system that means baleen whales catch their food by swimming for their prey with their mouths wide open. Water passes through the baleen, but small prey like krill and herring and salmon are caught in the bristles, and then swallowed whole. Baleen whales have narrow throats and do not usually eat larger prey like squids or octopus. I took this photo off the coast of British Columbia, where I make my home, and where a herring roe fishery in the Strait of Georgia threatens to upset the delicate balance of the coastal ecosystem. Click on the link in my bio to sign the petition. #BigLittleFish#ProtectHerring With @sealegacy and @pacificwild#ConservationHornbyIsland#associationofdenmanislandmarinestewards
The health of an entire ecosystem on Canada’s Pacific coast depends on one little, silver fish. Herring and their eggs provide essential nutrition all the way up the food chain - from salmon and seals to wolves and bears, humpbacks and orcas. But commercial fishing is wiping out the region's herring stock - and not for human consumption. Almost 90 percent of all catch is reduced to fishmeal used in pet and fish farm food. To allow herring populations to recover, all commercial fisheries in the Pacific North West have been shut down. Except for one. If we are going to save unstable species and return balance to the coast, we must work together to suspend the commercial herring fishery in the Strait of Georgia. Join #ConservationHornbyIsland,#AssociationofDenmanIslandMarineSteward,@PacificWild and @SeaLegacy in protecting these #BIGLittleFish - click on the link in my bio to sign the petition. Footage: @iantmcallister, @tavishcampbell, @paulnicklen#bc#herring#fish
People are asking me how I spent this holiday, and I can happily tell you, I did have a Valentine! @PaulNicklen and I have built our lives, our purpose, and our work, above and below the surface, around a common mission and around each other. I have been celebrating Valentines with this man for almost 10 years and life could not be sweeter. He is a great friend and partner; a lovely stepdad to my kids @JohnMittermeier, @MickMitty and @Jittermeier; he is a great leader to our SeaLegacy team, and of course, he is a great Alpha to our puppies, Pingo and Buzo. #HappyValentines Day @PaulNicklen; you rock our world!
I had no idea sperm whales could breach like this! This is from a recent shoot on the coast of the island of Dominica in the Caribbean, where the water is so warm it is like sinking into a bath. Sperm whales, like other whales, have historically been hunted both for meat and for bone, but also for a white oil found in their heads - spermaceti. Spermaceti, also called sperm oil, is where the sperm whale gets its name and actually has nothing to do with reproduction. Its biological function is not totally clear. There are theories that it might manipulate the whale's buoyancy (sperm whales are deep divers), and other theories that it aids in echolocation. Humans have used spermaceti in cosmetics, in lubricants, in candle-making, in soaps, paint, crayons... Today, these fascinating, powerful animals are considered endangered. #conservation#ocean#whale#awareness#history#endangered
In the darkness of the ocean's depths sperm whales, like this one, use echolocation to communicate with one another and to find their way. I took this photo off the coast of the island of Dominica, and I'd like to draw your attention specifically to the scars on this sperm whale's head. This is what happens when whales become curious of boats. This friendly sperm whale probably stuck its nose (or its melon, as it's actually called) too close to the propeller of a boat and got hit. Although they are incredibly smart and sensitive to sound, they are not savvy when it comes to boat traffic. The mechanical roar of motors in the water wreaks havoc on their echolocation; disrupting the whale's sense of space and distance. The good news is I think its wounds are superficial and this whale will be ok. #ocean#conservation#whale
Do you know what orcas eat? Here in British Columbia, where I photographed these three beautiful animals last week, we have two types of orcas: Our beloved Resident orcas, which live year round in our inland or nearby coastal waters. They feed almost exclusively on chinook salmon, and that is why the protection of herring is so important to their survival. Pacific herring is the basis for the food web that supports the salmon and killer whales and most of the other mammals, sea birds and creatures who, with us, call this place home. Eighty per cent of the chinook salmon’s diet is herring, and over 80 per cent of the southern resident killer whales’ diet is chinook. It doesn’t take a scientist to make the important link between herring and killer whales. A second group, known as “transients,” feeds only on marine mammals. That’s what this pod was doing when we encountered them last week. They had just stalked and killed a California sea lion and they were feeling satieted, happy and curious. Transient orcas move north and south along the coast from Southeast Alaska and British Columbia as far south as Southern California, but they frequently make forays into the Salish Sea, where we are lucky to routinely encounter them. Local residents are asking the government to shut down the herring fishery, which is about to start so that we can give our resident orcas a chance to recover from the steady decline they have experienced in the last few years. If you want to support the survival of orcas, salmon and foundation fish, head to the link on my bio and sign the petition. #BigLittleFish#ProtectHerring With @sealegacy And @pacificwild#ConservationHornbyIsland#associationofdenmanislandmarinestewards
Photograph by @paulnicklen // Want to learn more about what it takes to do my job? Visit my website at cristinamittermeier.com, where you can join my newsletter to get intimate access to inspiring stories about adventure and the grit it takes to work as a conservation photographer, as well as tips and information about the sort of gear I use in the field. February’s issue will go out sometime later this month. #makahabeach#makahaboys@natgeo@moks_da_smokes@makaha_mel_momi_puu@noheamakaha@makahamomipuu@haakeaulana
Diving in a shallow mangrove I was startled by the sound this school of sardines made as it tried to hide among the roots of the trees. These #BIGlittlefish may seem unimportant but in reality, they are the foundation of the marine food chain. The time to stop mining these “foundation fish” to make pet food or cheap fish meal has come. #protecttheocean and go to the link in my bio to protect foundation fish in the BC coast.
I realized a long time ago the power of storytelling to make an impact, and knew that that was what I wanted to achieve through my photography. I started this work when I was just twenty-four years old, and have been striving ever since to tell stories through images that both resonate and inform. In my life I have been so fortunate to have travelled to places so far north and south that the sun takes whole seasons to set. I have visited every continent and swam in every ocean. Still, nothing compares to the feeling of coming home to beautiful British Columbia and the sweet nostalgia of looking through old photos. These snapshots of #lifebelowwater in #beautifulBC remind me of the kind of abundance worth fighting for.
How much would you be willing to pay to protect orcas? In 2018 the Canadian government announced a $167.4 million plan to protect Canada’s endangered whales. $61.5 million of that money targets key threats to the Southern Resident orca pod population in the Salish Sea. These are the orcas I get to see from my deck at home and it is so sad to know that their population is the smallest its been in 34 years. There are currently 75, after the safe arrival of a newborn calf spotted for the first time this January - the first successful pregnancy in three years. One of the biggest threats they face is a decline in wild populations of Chinook salmon - a crucial prey species for orcas. This recognition by the government is a good thing, but their plan ultimately fails to acknowledge the fact that Chinook salmon feed primarily on herring. And 4 out of 5 herring populations have crashed on this coast. There is an entire ecosystem relying on the support of herring as a keystone species. If herring stocks in the Strait of Georgia and the Salish Sea are allowed to recover, it will mean a world of difference to the survival and the health of the other life that depend on them. Go to the link in my bio and add your voice to help protect these #BIGLittleFish.
Hiding for weeks in a blind, strategically located on the edge of a stream in the #beautifulBC rainforest, @PaulNicklen and I waited for an opportunity to photograph a family of rainwolves we knew were living nearby. We knew that they had cubs because we could hear them yelping, but they weren’t coming out. Paul said that no matter what we did, we couldn’t leave the blind - the wolves had to know that we were there, and they needed to not feel threatened by us; to accept us as a part of their environment. I read the entire Game of Thrones series, sitting there in the rain, eating salted almonds. Waiting. The days ran together, and then they started to run out. Paul was on assignment for @NatGeo and with a deadline nipping at his heels, he decided to hike to the next bay to scout for the pack. It wasn’t even an hour after he left that I spotted movement out of the corner of my eye - one by one, five wolf pups followed their mother right in front of our blind. I had a radio and desperately wanted to call Paul, but I knew that if I spooked them these rainwolves would disappear back into the forest. The mother looked across the stream. It felt like she was looking right into my eyes. She stared -as if to make sure I knew that she was looking at me- and then she left. The next 20 minutes were truly magical. The five pups stayed in the creek, playing and chasing each other. They found a piece of bull kelp and they used it to play tug-of-war; they wrestled and they pounced on each other, and I marvelled at the honour of becoming their wolf sitter. @wolfconservationcenter