A native of New York City and a resident of the West Coast for 25 years, wildlife and conservation photographer Dan Zukowski moved to South Portland last year, drawn by Maine’s natural beauty and the “the culture, restaurants, art and (overall) vibe” of the Greater Portland region.

Zukowski’s photos have been exhibited all over the world. He’s also a writer and speaker, on conservation issues, and has had bylines in the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News and Newsday. He’s also recently published a book about his experiences since moving to Maine, entitled “Maine: Year One.”

Next month Zukowski will give an Earth Day talk, titled “Earth Day: Progress To Be Proud Of,” at L.L. Bean in Freeport. The presentation is part of the store’s ongoing lecture series and will be offered at 7 p.m. on April 22.

In a press release, Zukowski’s talk is described as one in which he “brings his photography and reporting skills to tell a story that is at once scary, heart-rending and uplifting.” In addition, he will also discuss the history of efforts to preserve important habitats from Acadia to Yellowstone. And, specifically Maine-related topics include the recovery of bald eagles and peregrine falcons and the important contributions of Rachel Carson to conservation.

Zukowski is a graduate of Fordham University with a major in English, and his career has included journalism, marketing and public relations. He co-founded a production company in Los Angeles that won several Telly Awards. He is a member of the American Society of Media Photographers, the North American Nature Photographers Association and the International Academy of Visual Arts.

This week, Zukowski spoke with the Current about his ongoing mission of helping people enjoy and understand the natural world and gain an appreciation of “our place on a vibrant planet teeming with life.”

Q: How long have you been photographing nature?

A: My parents gave me my first 35mm camera when I was 13. Many of my early photographs were taken on hikes or at the New York Botanical Gardens. I returned to still photography seriously in 2007 and have studied with some of the great masters, including Art Wolfe, Tony Sweet and Lewis Kemper. Photography is a great motivator for getting outside. I love being out, summer or winter, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the natural world.

Q: What first interested you in conservation?

A: Growing up in New York, and when I first got to L.A., the skies were brown with smog and pollution laying heavily over these cities. While I was in high school, I read Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring” and also learned about the first Earth Day in 1970. These experiences made me aware of the damage we were doing to the environment and wildlife.

Q: What are some of your favorite places and things to photograph and why?

A: I have photographed polar bears in the Canadian Arctic, grizzly bears in Alaska and in the Great Bear Rainforest. I photograph other wildlife, as well, but nothing compares to getting up close and personal with these large, intelligent animals. There’s an element of danger, as I’m on the ground, in the water or on the tundra with them.

I’ve also been lucky enough to be able to travel to many magnificent places. I first visited Grand Canyon in the early 1990s and have been back several times since. It’s a sight everyone should see. And since moving to Maine, I’ve adopted Acadia as my home park, of course. It has a great variety of habitats and I love the trails, carriage roads, lakes and coastline.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for people to see your photographs?

A: My mission is to bring back the beauty that I see in the natural world for others to enjoy. Maine is blessed with much public land, and the people here really enjoy the outdoors, but 80 percent of the U.S. population now lives in urban areas, often cut off from nature. We won’t preserve or take care of what we don’t see, so it’s important to inspire people to get out and enjoy these beautiful places for themselves.

Q: What do you hope your photographs say or mean to the viewer?

A: My work is primarily wildlife, landscapes and seascapes. Artistically, I seek to use design elements in my photographs, which is something I’ve taken from advertising and graphic design. I also use color and the techniques of color grading and color palettes to enhance or create emotion. I hope that this will bring the viewer into the photograph, and allow them to see and feel what I did when I pressed the shutter.

Q: What do you hope people take away from your Earth Day talk?

A: The focus of this talk is on conservation success stories and the people behind them. We hear so much about climate change and other issues that can seem overwhelming. It can make us feel that the problems are so large that there is nothing we can do about them. But the history of conservation is one of individual action.

I will be talking about some of these stories, like Rachel Carson, or the two women from Boston who helped protect birds from the feather trade, or George Dorr, the father of Acadia National Park. Many people here in Maine volunteer or work with conservation organizations, land trusts, parks and other groups. They are making a difference, which we all can do.

A closer look

On Earth Day, April 22, South Portland-based wildlife and conservation photographer Dan Zukowski will give a presentation at L.L. Bean in Freeport. The event, which is free and open to the public, starts at 7 p.m.

Wildlife and conservation photographer Dan Zukowski is now based in South Portland.

The Ram Island Ledge Light in Casco Bay.

An Alaskan grizzly bear and pup.

A closer look

South Portland photographer Dan Zukowski will give an Earth Day talk, titled “Earth Day: Progress To Be Proud Of,” at L.L. Bean in Freeport, at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 22. For more information, see www.llbean/adventure.


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