NATURE’S BEST PHOTOGRAPHY | Conservation is a key theme throughout Thomas D. Mangelsen’s body of work. By showcasing the beauty of nature, he hopes to encourage others to discover the wonders the natural world has to offer and to care enough to preserve what remains. His conservation activism efforts came of age with a once-in-a-lifetime experience in his hometown of Jackson, Wyoming. A mountain lion mother and her three cubs were discovered at the nearby National Elk Refuge, within range of Tom’s lens. Mangelsen was so inspired that he co-founded The Cougar Fund in 2001 to help protect the cougar by educating children and adults on the value of cougars, by funding and promoting the use of sound science, and by monitoring state policies to assure a lasting place for this graceful creature.
While many photographers put on their longest lens to get up-close-and-personal, Tom steps back to include a wider view of the natural world. Sensitivity to his subjects and a deep reverence for their surroundings is a defining mark of Mangelsen’s work. ”Environment and habitat are so important to the overall scheme of the image,“ he says. “After all, this is where these animals call home, and without placing them in that habitat, without including the artistry of place, the image would not be complete.”
For Mangelsen, meeting the sunrise is a lifelong passion, one that has carried him to the farthest corners of the earth in search of bald eagles, polar bears, tigers, and lions. Knowing the animals being photographed as well as their habits, and learning to see patterns between the two, goes a long way when you spend eight months a year in the field. His understanding of light and weather and how they affect animals’ behavior is also key to knowing when to act.
Mangelsen focuses on three main elements to capture the ideal photograph: patience, light, and behavior. These golden rules go back to the days when he would spend hours by his dad’s side in a duck blind, observing the abundant waterfowl of the Platte River ecosystem that fed his love for the natural world early on. Those rules, which he still relies on today, are simple and straightforward. Combined with over 30 years of practice, they have earned him the reputation for which he is known today.
When asked what he predicts for the future of his work, Mangelsen expresses the desire to see more people relate to the natural world, to be less afraid of the wild and what it represents. This common bond between the animal world and the human world is what Mangelsen aims to achieve when people experience his MANGELSEN—Images of Nature Galleries. With several locations throughout the West and Midwest, Tom’s work has long been viewed as collectible, and its popularity continues to grow. “I hope my work reminds people of what is beautiful and, if we take care of it, lasting in this world. The natural world somehow has this incredible ability to put things in perspective.”
For more about Thomas D. Mangelsen’s photography, conservation alliances, and galleries, visit his website. www.mangelsen.com
Learn more about the Conservation Photographer of the Year Award.
View or download PDF article> (1.1MB)