Natural Exposures & Polar Bears International on PhotoShelter

Posted Mar. 20th, 2010 by Daniel J. Cox

Home page of Natural Exposures

Natural Exposures is the online image archive for my stock photography collection of wildlife, natural history, conservation and travel images. We recently updated our web site and moved the online searchable database duties to PhotoShelter. I’ve been marketing my own work for my entire thirty year career. Early on I was a serious disbeliever in the concept of having stock agencies handle my photographs. To say I disliked the typical 50/50 split of sales revenues they would take is a tremendous understatement and today I can only dream of those favorable numbers. I eventually did join several large and medium sized agencies. Currently one of my largest stock agencies regularly takes as much as 70% of every sale. Many of those sales are for literally pennies. I’m excited for the day that I will finally be able to compete with the larger agencies that take such huge percentages of each photographic transaction. To do that I’ve chosen the power of PhotoShelter.

Not only does PhotoShelter offer all the benefits of a large stock agency for the client but they also provide the photographer a much more favorable business model. Photographers are in dire need of a superior business model. So much of our civilized world revolves around great images but if image providers can’t pay the bills we’ll have to find new ways of making a living and that will take consistent, high quality pictures out of the market.

Along with my stock photography business I’ve been dedicated my entire career to helping conservation groups obtain quality imagery. Without inspiring pictures, animals and the wild places they call home will eventually be nothing more than a memory for those lucky enough to have seen them and for our children only entires in a textbook. The conservation movement is driven my imagery!

To that end, one of the really unique and positive features of PhotoShelter is a service I offer to the scientists we work with at Polar Bears International (PBI). Much of my editorial photography today is based on my volunteer work for PBI. When I do an assignment for them I volunteer the scientists access to all images I’ve shot of their project. Much of the succes of thier work depends on them being able to go out and speak about their scientific findings. Many don’t have the time, desire or the visual skills to produce great imagery and that’s where my volunteer work with PBI comes in. When I’m finished documenting the project I load a collection of images up to a private gallery in PhotoShelter. All the pictures are sized for digital projector presentation. We then send them a link to the PhotoShelter web page where they can download any image they choose for their own personal use. It saves a tremendous amount of time and effort on all fronts. I load the images once, send out a mass email to all the people I’ve shot pictures of and they can then download photos for scientific presentations. research papers, etc. It’s a win/win for all involved.

One of my most exciting and recent projects involved a five week shoot documenting polar bear scientists studying bears and ice conditions in the Arctic Ocean. You can read more about the expedition in my Blog/Corkboard entry titled Polar Sea Icebreaker Expedition with PBI and the National Science Foundation. It was the first ever attempt to study polar bears from an icebreaker. Most polar bear studies are based from land where scientists fly helicopters out over the sea ice to search for their subjects. Using an icebreaker gave us the ability to document the bears living conditions much further out to sea. When the scientists are based on land there is a restriction of 50 miles flying distance. When working from a ship there are no restrictions on distance as long as the icebreaker is nearby. The scientists can go as far as they need to to find their subjects, moving the ship to the general location, then finishing the operation with helicopters. Last falls expedition was only moderately successful due to the fact multiyear ice– ice that was formed hundreds and even thousands of years ago and has never melted over the summer– was nearly nonexistent. Polar bears need multiyear ice to survive. There was some new, recently formed ice but it was too thin to land a chopper on. We could see polar bears from the air but couldn’t get to them.

I uploaded over four-hundred images from this project for the scientists to have access to. Many of them have downloaded dozens to hundreds of pictures for their presentations and papers. PhotoShelter provides a tremendous opportunity to extend a helping hand to the planet by giving the scientists a fast and efficient way to obtain pictures that help make their case in the global warming/climate change argument. I’m pleased we have such a powerful system for myself and our work with Polar Bears International. With the help of PhotoShelter and PBI we may have a chance of saving this iconic and awe-inspiring species.

The following are comments from people I’ve worked with associated with Polar Bears International

“I worked with Dan on polar bears several years ago in the Southern Beaufort Sea. Steve Amstrup, Eric Regehr, and I have a paper coming out in the journal “Ecological Applications” about polar bears in the Southern Beaufort. The journal has requested a photo to accompany that article and I wondered if Dan would be willing to provide a photo that could be included. We have some others, but obviously nothing of the quality of what Dan has taken. I thought I would check with him first before submitting some of ours. He would be credited as indicated below. Thanks so much for sharing your amazing photos. They really capture the whole process and how amazing and beautiful the bears are.”

Dr. Karyn D. Rode
Wildlife Biologist
US Fish and Wildlife Service

“Dan, your images are going to allow us to tell a vitally important story about Steve’s cutting edge research over the past 30 years. This will not only be featured in a special Web site section but, as you know, will be part of a life-size display that will be featured throughout our 40+ Arctic Ambassador Centers. These storyboards will help literally millions of people understand and appreciate this critical research and will help empower them to ultimately become better stewards of this planet. These storyboards will also kick off PBI’s Project thermoSTAT that is by far the most powerful campaign that we have ever done and ultimately will tie in some 20+ television and radio stations to Buggy One in mid-November.”

Robert Buchanan
President, Polar Bears International

“I finally took a moment to open your packages last night. Great photos! My first sight was that shot of Geoff taking blood and me holding the tubes. At first I thought you had made some kind of composite. Both of us are so in focus that it seemed unreasonable for it to be one photo-amazing! I quickly scanned through the rest of the shots and was very impressed. We definately will be introducing many of these into our talks.”

Dr. Steven Amstrup
Polar Bear Project Leader
USGS Alaska Science Center
Anchorage, Alaska.

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