Celebrate Earth Day with George Turner
Earth Day, the annual event supporting environmental protection, has been around for decades, but it is more important now than ever. With today marking the 49th celebration, and climate change at the forefront of global conversation, it’s up to every single one of Earth’s inhabitants to protect our planet. And with the growing significance of this holiday, it may be easier than ever for individuals to make a difference. Take George Turner, for example.
George Turner – or, as he’s known on Instagram, George The Explorer – is a photographer and conservationist who embodies the spirit of Earth Day every day and in everything he does.
From an early age, George took an interest in wildlife. Growing up in a village of just 400 people in a rural county in the southwest of England, George found himself surrounded by nature. He shares, “I always wanted to discover the behaviors of different animals: foxes emerging from their dens, or birds migrating. From there, it escalated into an obsession, and here I am!”
For George, wildlife photography is more than capturing beautiful moments of animals in their habitats. With each photograph, George hopes to tell a story and promote conservation. “The more time you spend in the natural world,” George reflects, “the more you begin to grapple with its fragility. Photography is an incredibly powerful tool to tell stories, taking viewers to far-flung wildernesses with you. Images allow people to connect, to dive into a place, and ultimately to help in protecting those special spaces left on Earth. It’s my feeling that as photographers, we all have a collective responsibility.”
How to become a wildlife photographer
Now a successful wildlife photographer, George is often asked how he got there and how one can follow in his footsteps. “The truth is,” he says, “there’s no right or wrong route. If the passion is there, you’ll make it.”
That said, there are definitely a few ‘must-dos’ along the road. George explains:
- “Get out there. Explore your local surroundings, from the smallest critters to the top predators. And don’t forget to take your camera for practice.”
- “Second, create an angle. Find and tell a story that needs to be heard. This could be an amazing behavior you’ve noticed, or perhaps strong conservation messaging. This’ll allow you to stand out amongst a saturated market.”
- “Third, be confident. Take your stories to editors and pitch them. Share your work on social media, network with peers. Keep dreaming up ideas.”
George also has one additional, less-expected tip. According to him, spending time not taking any photographs can actually benefit your photography. “Spend real time with your subject, looking with your eyes rather than through a viewfinder. Resist the urge to take hundreds of images. By slowing down, you’ll learn more from these moments.”
For a more in-depth tutorial on how George achieves his photography, check out this video:
The most important thing to take away from George’s experience is this: “Persistence and patience are key. You can receive 99 rejections but it just takes the one, singular positive response. Some sparks can ignite a fire!”
In addition to being a phenomenal conservation photographer, George also advocates for environmentalism in other ways. For three years, he has worked with Asilia Africa, a safari organization whose Giving program has “enabled hundreds of talented individuals to pursue their respective dreams which, due to their economic situation, would have otherwise gone unnoticed.” Placing people over profit, Asilia works with incredible people who have made quite an impact on George’s life: “The best guides I’ve ever worked with, the most incredible chefs, engineers working in-camp, and many more.”
This June, George’s conservation work will take him to the Ethiopian Highlands where he will document Africa’s most endangered carnivore: the Ethiopian wolf. George explains, “There are only 450 left of them – even less than the Siberian tiger. Yet, amazingly, few people know about them and why they matter so much.” For three weeks, George will put together their story, along with the other stunning wildlife that inhabits the 4500m plateaus.
How you can make a difference
Today, Earth Day, is not only about celebrating what others are doing to protect our planet. It’s also about learning and committing to the impact you can make.
It’s easier than it sounds. George even has some tips for you. He shares, “Small adjustments in everyday life can have a huge impact:
- Take public transport to work
- Eat less meat
- Avoid palm oils
- Switch the lights off
- Avoid plastic
Petitioning local politicians to support green-minded initiatives is vital. Inspire others and spread positive messaging. Do your research and stay informed. It may feel overwhelming and some challenges may feel too difficult, but I promise you, every raindrop makes an ocean.”