Menu

Sciencetelling Bootcamp: Communicating Science Through Photography

Natural history photographer Anand Varma led today’s photography workshop at the National Geographic Sciencetelling Bootcamp in the Galapagos.

“My goal is to empower scientists and conservationists to tell their own stories using photography, because photography is one of the most powerful ways to communicate science,” Varma, a National Geographic Young Explorer, explained in an interview. “It should be the practitioners, the people on the ground doing the work, that should have the ability to do that, rather than always relying on people like me to translate their work for them.”

Varma pursued his boyhood dream to become a biologist, but switched gears to pursue his interest in natural history via photography after working as an assistant to National Geographic photographer David Liittschwager. His photography has been featured in National Geographic, including on the cover of the magazine. Several more features are in the works.

“I came from a biology background, from training designed to help me see the world carefully, and be meticulous in how I report my observations, and how I analyze those observations,” he said during the lunch break at the Charles Darwin Research Station today. “It’s always been learning about natural history that’s been a driver for me. It happens to be that I found a path through photography, so that I could do that in a way that gives me more flexibility and allows me to ask further questions. Photography for me is a more exciting and dynamic way of exploring the natural world than a traditional academic career.”

DSC_6952

What Varma sees, that perhaps scientists don’t see, is a better idea of how science is perceived by the general public, and also how science stories can become a little distorted or exaggerated or manipulated in public media. “I feel like I’m in a position to perhaps compensate for that by having more of a scientific training, but also having an idea of what it takes to get somebody’s attention,” he explained. “And perhaps I also see the possible risks of trying to make something compelling by potentially emphasizing the wrong part in the hope of getting eyeballs on a story.”

Varma is sharing these insights and his expertise in communicating science through photography with some two dozen conservationists and scientists participating in the National Geographic Sciencetelling™ Bootcamp in the Galapagos this week. With financial support from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Bootcamp is an intense, hands-on, workshop that focuses on a core curriculum of photography, videography, public speaking, social media, and writing. It is created for scientists and conservationists to elevate their work for greater impact.

DSC_7006

In the day-long session on photography, Varma offered participants three locations to explore in or around the Charles Darwin Research Station, including a giant tortoise breeding center and adjacent beaches teeming with iguanas and other marine wildlife. The assignment was to go out for two hours and report back with 3-5 images that illutrated different aspects of a single story.

The following images illustrate some of the options available to Bootcamp participants. All photos in or around the Charles Darwin Research Center by David Braun.

DSC_6600

DSC_6561

DSC_6775

DSC_6711

DSC_6687

DSC_6677

Comments

  1. Alejandra Suarez
    COLOMBIA
    June 13, 4:48 pm

    Hello, Im Alejandra Suarez, im working in a proyect that try to conservation the choco enviroment, here in Colombia. Im intrested on these National Geographic ™ Sciencetelling Bootcamp ¿How can apply? Please, you could send me more information? Thank you so much

  2. Lily Haines
    Missoula, MT
    June 13, 4:44 pm

    Greetings-

    I work for the Clark Fork Coalition, a river conservation organization in Montana, as an outreach coordinator. My primary job to communicate and engage the communities of our 22k square mile basin in the science-based protection and restoration work we focus on. How does one become involved in these boot camps? I need these skills!

    Bests-

    Lily Haines
    Education Coordinator
    Clark Fork Coalition
    406-542-0358 ext. 200
    406-361-0769

    lily@clarkfork.org