Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images

Learn the secrets of wildlife and landscape stock photographers as they share what makes their Earth Day images special.

Since 1970, we’ve celebrated Earth Day on April 22nd, raising awareness about the beauty of nature as well as the pressing threats facing wildlife populations and habitats. In its first year, this day helped inspire lawmakers to establish the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, along with the Endangered Species, Clean Water, and Clean Air Acts. By 1990, people around the entire globe spoke out about the threats facing the natural world, and Earth Day became an international movement.

Still, nearly half a century later, we still have a long way to go. While early Earth Days focused on pollution and recycling, the issue of climate change and global warming is now at the forefront of the conversation. Already, people are losing their homes and livelihoods due to rising water levels, and animal species have been driven to the brink of extinction due to loss of sea ice. This Earth Day, we must consider the awe-inspiring beauty of our planet as well as its profound vulnerability.

We asked eight photographers to weigh in on some of the landscapes and moments that have taken their breath away, from the stormy coast of Iceland to the watering holes of Botswana. Read on for some inspiration, and this April 22nd, be sure to spend some time outside, whether you’re heading overseas into the remote wilderness or just walking down the block to your neighborhood park.

1. “Take your time to walk through your environment and think about what exactly you want in your picture.”
kasakphoto
Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Take Your Time

Image by kasakphoto. Gear: Sony Alpha A6000 camera, Samyang 12mm f/2,0 NCS CS lens. Settings: Exposure 1/60 sec; f5.6; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

Iceland is a volcanic island with glaciers, hot springs, and changeable weather. When I was at Stokksnes, a headland on the coast, I had a particularly exciting experience as a hurricane from the ocean suddenly threw me backward.

The black sand was flying all around us, and in that situation, it was very difficult to take pictures. I only had a few seconds to take this photo of the sand dunes and the Stokksnes mountains. It was a powerful experience for me, and I haven’t felt such wind before or since.

Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Think About What You Want

Image by kasakphoto

Pro Tip

​Take your time to walk through your environment and think about what exactly you want in your picture. Sometimes just a few steps in either direction can result in a completely different photo. The more photos you have, the better your choices will be when it’s time to edit. For editing landscape photos, I have a collection Adobe Lightroom presets, available ​here​.

Respect the environment at all times. Nature can be beautiful but cruel at the same time. Often, while I’m on the road, I’ll see plastic polluting natural environments. Littering is totally unnecessary. It’s so easy to simply put any plastics and other waste products back in your bag and throw it away later, and it makes a big difference.

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2. “When photographing wildlife, go out just before sunrise or sunset.”
Lennjo (Lennart van den Berg)
Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Try Sunrise and Sunset

Image by Lennjo (Lennart van den Berg). Gear: Canon 7D Mark II camera, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens. Settings: Focal length 10mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f5.6; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

At the end of our trip through Botswana, we decided to go on one last late afternoon drive. In the so-called golden hour, we stumbled upon a male leopard marking his territory. Since we were the only ones in the bush at that time, we managed to follow him in his pursuit to find some water.

Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Keep Your Distance

Image by Lennjo

When we got to a small pool of water, there were three African Wild Dogs waiting there. When the leopard arrived, the wild dogs managed to chase this magnificent cat away. After that, over fifteen wild dog puppies came out of the thick bush to drink. It was an amazing sight.

Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Leave the Animals Undisturbed

Image by Lennjo

Pro Tip

When photographing wildlife, go out just before sunrise or sunset. You want to shoot during the golden hour, and animals tend to be most active in the morning. Be sure to bring a lens with a wide aperture for those low light shots, but also take a lens with a long focal length with you. The most important thing is that you don’t leave any footprints behind and do not disturb any animals. Stick to the roads—if there are roads—and enjoy the scenery.

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3. “The most important thing in nature photography is to plan ahead and to ​be present when the light and weather are favorable.”
Bob Pool
Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Be Present

Image by Bob Pool. Gear: Canon 7D camera, Canon 70-200f/2.8L lens. Settings: Focal length 120mm; exposure 1/40 sec; f16; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

I was on a ten-day photography trip to Alaska, and our headquarters was at the small village of Talkeetna. Denali is a mountain that is famous for having cloud cover most of the time. Many people spend a week in the area without seeing it.

I scouted the area and found a high point with a view of the mountain range. When the weather forecast was favorable, I was at my spot before sunrise, and, as usual, the mountain was cloud covered. But my luck held, and after an hour, it cleared, and I came away with a number of shots of Denali and the Alaska Range.

Bob PoolBob Pool

mosaic__mobile-caption">Pictured: [1] Bob Pool [2] Bob Pool

Pro Tip

The most important thing in nature photography is to plan ahead and to ​be present when the light and weather are favorable. If you aren’t there at the right time, you will never come home with your shot. Most photographers can handle the technical details, but many (including me) have a problem getting out of bed in time to make the 100-mile drive to ​be right there at sunrise.

While shooting, it’s important to do your part in protecting the environment and wildlife. In a forest environment, stick to the trails and roads. When camping, leave with everything you came in with or properly dispose of anything you can’t take out with you. Obtain permits when required. Follow the rules, and don’t disturb the wildlife—observe from a distance.

4. “Use your equipment to make the best shot you can, but remember, part of sharing the beauty of nature is protecting it.”
Photography by SC
Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Protect and Share

Image by Photography by SC. Gear: Canon 6D DSLR camera, Canon EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens. Settings: Focal length 25mm; exposure 8.0 sec; f3.2; ISO 3200.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

In September of 2016, I saw the northern lights develop into a rare, near-complete “Corona of the Aurora borealis” while in Iceland. The Aurora became so intense from the 26th to the 28th of that year that it made international news. One evening, the government of Iceland even shut off the lights in the capital city of Reykjavik to reduce light pollution so that everyone could enjoy it.

As I was photographing the Aurora from a small ledge overlooking lake Kleifarvatn on the Reykjanes Peninsula, the green and purple Aurora grew brighter and brighter, extending from left to right across the sky and clumping up into a huge circle formation of what appeared to be solid, moving light.

It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced or imagined in my life. The guide of my photography tour said that to her best knowledge, such a spectacle of the northern lights had not been witnessed across Iceland in the last ten years. I am excited to have photographed the entire formation and deformation of the Corona of the Aurora, plus other bright formations that night and the next.

Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Be Respectful

Image by Photography by SC

Pro Tip

Respecting wildlife and natural resources are my top priorities. Remember that a great shot is never worth trampling native plants off trail or disturbing a wild animal. Use your equipment to make the best shot you can, but remember, part of sharing the beauty of nature is protecting it. Be sure to stay aware and respectful of every scene you are photographing in nature, as there are some locations where even leaving footprints can be harmful to the ecosystem.

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5. “The Seattle Mountaineers motto of ‘Leave No Trace’ is a good idea to follow while you’re out in nature…”
knelson20
Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Leave No Trace

Image by knelson20. Gear: Nikon D750 camera, Nikon 28-300mm lens. Settings: Focal length 32mm; exposure 1/800 sec; f8; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

I recently came back from a trip to the Antarctic, including the South Georgia Islands. Even in the summer, the weather at the southern end of the world is very erratic and changeable. It was stormy for most of the trip, with the sun occasionally peeking through and highlighting pieces of the landscape.

South Georgia is wild and remote with rugged and dramatic terrain. It is also host to huge populations of sea birds, penguins, and seals. It is one of the most amazing places on the planet to explore, especially when the magic light comes out to play. The sun hit this peak in Coopers Bay, South Georgia, just as we were headed in for a landing. This image was shot from a moving boat, so a higher shutter speed was important.

knelson20knelson20

Pictured: [1] knelson20 [2] knelson20

Pro Tip

​The Seattle Mountaineers motto of “Leave No Trace” is a good idea to follow while you’re out in nature, whether you’re photographing or not. It’s especially important in fragile ecosystems like Antarctica. Be aware of the environment around you and any changing weather patterns, both for your safety as well as the safety of plants and animals native to the area.

6. “My advice for photographing nature is simple: always look around before you shoot.”
Luis Louro
Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Look Around

Image by Luis Louro. Gear: Nikon D800 camera, Nikkor 80-200mm 2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 135mm; exposure 1/1000 sec; f5.6; ISO 320.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

This is an image of Strokkur, probably the most famous and most photographed geyser in Iceland. I stood there for hours, waiting for the big blow and capturing the burst in all its splendor every five minutes or so.

But after some time doing what everyone else was doing, I noticed that before the huge water explosion, there was a beautiful blue bubble—but just for one or two seconds! I started to focus on that moment instead. There was never any warning, and it all happened quickly, so I used my tripod and a cable release and fast motor bursts.

Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Look for Details

Image by Luis Louro

Pro Tip

My advice for photographing nature is simple: always look around before you shoot. I know that sometimes it’s not easy, especially during short scheduled visits or in crowds, but try to look for different angles and details. The most important thing of all is to respect nature.

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7. “If you want to do this kind of work, a basic understanding of weather is crucial.”
Robert Mutch
Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Understand Weather

Image by Robert Mutch. Gear: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF 100-400mm lens. Settings: Focal length 135mm; exposure 1/125 sec; f8; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

Years ago, I worked on wildland fire crews, traveling the Western United States and Canada fighting fires. Now, in addition to being a full-time ecosystem photographer, I am a seasonal fire lookout in Oregon.

The majority of fire startups are less than an acre in size, but some can form smoke columns several thousand feet high. Last season, I witnessed the smoke column of a fire that blew up from fifty acres to several thousand acres in an afternoon. This particular photo shows the smoke-filled valleys from the summer wildfires with stratus clouds overhead.

Robert MutchRobert Mutch

Pictured: [1] Robert Mutch [2] Robert Mutch

Pro Tip

If you want to do this kind of work, a basic understanding of weather is crucial. I call myself an ecosystem photographer because it’s important to understand how everything has a functional role in our ecosystems. We are all interconnected and interdependent. I check the NIFC (National Interagency Fire Center) website for the latest fire info, and I check weather and lightning tracking apps daily.

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8. “Patience, patience, patience!”
Pavel_Voitukovic
Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Have Patience

Image by Pavel_Voitukovic. Gear: Nikon D7200 camera, Nikon 70-300 f4.5-6.3 lens. Settings: Focal length 70mm; exposure 1/640 sec; f11; ISO 250.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

I live a five-minute drive away from the town of Dundalk in County Louth, Ireland, and one day when a new lens arrived, I went to the beach to test it out on the birds. Regrettably, I couldn’t get close to any birds, and I resigned myself to the idea that I wouldn’t get any photos done.

But when I turned around to go, I saw most beautiful sunbeams appearing from a gap in clouds. The views were beautiful, and I love the atmosphere in this photo. When I posted this picture to Facebook, someone wrote to me to tell me that it had made them think of their father, who had passed away, watching over them. That’s part of what makes this photo so special to me.

Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images — Wait for Your Moment

Image by Pavel_Voitukovic

Pro Tip

Patience, patience, patience! The most important thing when shooting nature is not to disturb any plants or animals, so take your time and wait for your moment.

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Top Image by Bob Pool

The post Behind-the-Scenes of the Most Breathtaking Earth Day Stock Images appeared first on The Shutterstock Blog.

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