It has been a little while since my last update here on the blog, for which I apologise. It has been a very busy few weeks with lots of shoots and lots of travels. As a way to say thanks for your patience (if you have dropped in on here recently and found no updates!) is to offer you a sneak peak at some the images I took recently that will be making their way into a new multimedia piece that I am working on this week, as a coninuation of my work on China’s wetlands crisis.
Zhalong Wetlands - Heilongjiang - China
Last week I travelled to the province of Heilongjiang, which lies in the north-east of China. I travelled to this region as it was one of the last regions of the country that I had not had the opportunity to get to during my coverage of environmental issues in China over the past couple of years. This area is crucial to China as it is the ‘bread basket’ of the nation, producing vast amounts of food which are fuelling the people of China to make some of the amazing economic changes we have seen over the past few decades.
Followers of my blog will know that since last summer, I have been working on a project photographing and creating multimedia reports about the state of China’s wetlands, sponsored by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
The above video is the third in a series of seven that I am producing. Four and five are already complete, with six and seven coming very soon, however, I am working with a well known organisation to launch these as one package in the coming months. Much more on this soon…
I hope you enjoy the above video which highlights the plight of Dongting Lake, one of China’s most vital water systems. To view the first two installments of these videos, please head to my Vimeo channel here.
Regular readers here and followers of my work will know that the main focus of my photography is on environmental issues. In recent years, notably on access and availability of water in Asia, specifically China. I came across this short video on the National Geographic website that I wanted to share here with you. It tackles the question, “Why Care about Water?”
“If you took all the water in the world and put it into a gallon jug, less than one teaspoon of it would be available to us.” – Alexandra Cousteau – National Geographic Emerging Explorer
We have precious little usable freshwater to play with in the world. With our global population skyrocketing and demand for water increasing everyday, access and availability to water is going to be one of the most crucial factors determining how our future develops.
March 15-27 saw the holding of the Washington DC Environmental Film Festival in America’s capital. It was a showcase of short films made about environmental issues around the world and I was lucky enough to have been invited to show some of my recent work from China, as part of the presentation given by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Even though I wasn’t there myself, this was a wonderful opportunity to spread the message about my work on wetlands issues in China and bring this issue to a new audience. The above video is from the beginning of the Pulitzer Center’s presentation, given by Jon Sawyer, the Pulitzer Center’s Director. I’m proud and flattered that they led their presentation with my recent piece on the plight of Dongting Lake, in central China. You can watch the piece by watching the video above.
For more information about the film festival, here is their Missions Statement and outline from their website:
The Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital seeks to further the public’s understanding of environmental issues – and solutions – through the power of film and thought-provoking discussions with environmental experts and filmmakers. The Festival is a platform that fosters environmental awareness and action.
Founded in 1993, the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital has become one of the world’s largest and most influential showcases of environmental film and a major collaborative cultural event in Washington, D.C. Each March the Festival presents a diverse selection of high quality environmental films, including many Washington, D.C., U.S. and world premieres. Documentaries, features, animations and shorts are shown, as well as archival, experimental and children’s films at venues throughout the city. Films are screened at partnering museums, embassies, libraries, universities and local theaters and are attended by large audiences. Selected to provide fresh perspectives on global environmental issues, most Festival films are accompanied by discussions with filmmakers, environmental experts and special guests, including national decision makers and thought leaders, and are free to the public. The Festival’s Web site serves as a global resource for environmental film throughout the year.
Two tearsheets of interest today from two publications that I am very happy that have picked up some of my work recently. The first is from National Geographic who are featuring my work on China’s wetlands in a piece titled “China’s Wetland Revolution”. We worked on this piece to make it an in-depth online feature, told with extended captions which highlight some of the main issues surrounding this issue in China. I’m really happy with the way it has turned out.
This week, I returned again to the deserts of Inner Mongolia, whilst on assignment. I have been to this region a number of times over the past few years and really enjoy my time there. For those who don’t know, Inner Mongolia is one of China’s most northerly provinces, stretching across most of northern China. The landscape is dominated by grasslands however much of it is under serious threat from desertification.
In this photo, locals were collecting firewood, moving it from their truck to the side of the road. Deforestation is one of the main drivers are desertification in these regions. As trees are uprooted and roots removed, the soil loses its stability, drying quickly as the desert moves in.
For those living in very rural areas, firewood is essential for their daily lives, however unregulated collecting can have disastrous consequences, especially when combined with other activities that fuel desertification. It is difficult though to implement a workable balance between local people’s needs and their impact on the environment.
Camera Info: Canon 7D | 16-35mm f2.8 lens | ISO 100 | f8 | 1/500th
If you happen to be in Washingotn DC this week, you may want to drop by the Newseum to check out a slideshow that will be on show in the main lobby. The show is being hosted by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and National Geographic Society to mark World Water Day, showing images from around the world depicting the global water crisis.
World Water Day | Newseum | Pulitzer Center
I’m very happy to have a couple of my images from China included in the show. The show runs from March 17 to April 1, so should hopefully reach out to many people passing through the main atrium in the Newseum. If you’re in town, stop by and let me know how it looks!
Sandstorm over the Taklamakan Desert | NASA | NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response. http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/
What you are seeing above is a sandstorm hanging over the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in western China, taken by one of NASA’s satellites. To get a really good look at it, click here for the HighRes. The Taklamakan is China’s biggest desert and is an immense sea of shifting sand dunes, which dominates the west of the country.
I was lucky enough to spent a couple of weeks travelling around the Taklamakan desert, as part of my Pulitzer Center sponsored work on desertification in China. The fringes of the desert are most susceptible to desertification, as overgrazing on farmland bordering the desert tends to strip the lands of their grass and hence allows the desert to take hold and expand. It’s a worrying trend which is having serious consequences for the people of this region.
A sandstorm in Ningxia Province, China. 2009
During the spring, winds tend to increase in intensity in the west of China. As the spring winds blow, they pick up the sand and dust lying on top of the degraded land and carry it into the air, creating these massive dust and sand storms.
During my travels in western China, I found myself in a number of these storms. Photographically, they are a challenge as you try to keep your camera equipment safe from the sand. The resulting pictures however are quite spectacular and offer a very surreal viewpoint sometimes, such as the image above.
NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response - http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/
This is quite a depressing picture. The main reason (for me) why it is so depressing, is because I live underneath that grey cloud. This is an image captured by NASA on February 20th 2011, showing very clearly the blanket of pollution that sat over Beijing throughout the beginning of this week. Click here for the HighRes.
According to NASA
The featureless gray-brown haze is so thick that the ground is not visible in parts of this photo-like image taken at 11:35 a.m. by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite. At that time, a weather station at Beijing’s airport reported visibility of 1.9 miles (3.1 kilometers). Visibility dropped as low as 1.1 miles (1.8 km) later in the afternoon.
To be fair, it has appeared that there has been a significant rise in the number of ‘blue sky days’ since the new year. However, the smog still occasionally descends and smothers the city in a soot/black carbon haze. This week, it was present for a solid three days with Air Quality Indices off the charts most of that time.
This is not a new phenomenon for Beijing and a couple of years ago I was asked by the Asia Society and Mediastorm to contribute to a feature titled ‘Clearing the Air‘. It’s a really nice piece introducing the fundamental reasons behind air quality in China. It’s well worth a look.