At this year’s Sony World Photography Awards, one of the prizes was a fully funded trip to document the world’s three most important rainforests in the Congo, Indonesia and Brazil. The winner was Daniel Beltrá, a Spanish photographer now based in the US.
Daniel has worked for Greenpeace for the last 20 years on almost all of their campaigns. However, the causes he is most passionate about are global warming and deforestation.
This exhibition, at the Nash Conservatory in Kew Garden, comprises some of the four-thousand images that he took on his three-month trip. The collection reveals the beauty, wildlife and the indigenous people of the rainforests - as well as the forests’ destruction.
As you might expect from an award-winning photographer, the images are superb. They cover an incredible range; from close-ups of insects and frogs to sweeping aerial shots.
The primary goal of the exhibition is to draw attention to the destruction of the rainforests. Ironically some of the aerial scenes of devastation look quite beautiful, with their amazing patterns, textures and colours. However, there are some stark statistics written large on the walls to remind us of the ugly truth;
‘An area the size of a football pitch is lost every 4 seconds
‘Rainforest destruction releases more carbon into the atmosphere annually than the entire global transport system
Daniel is obviously passionate about the rainforests and hopes his photographs will spread this passion, motivating people to act; that’s the dream that keeps him going.
I spoke to Daniel about the equipment that he took on this trip. He asked me to draw a veil over the manufacturer as it wasn’t Sony. He explained that on such an important project, he preferred to use familiar gear; lying in a dug-out canoe on the Amazon is not the time to start experimenting with a new camera - however good.
The kit Daniel did use is surprisingly modest; it’s digital and lots of ePHOTOzine members have this standard of kit. That’s because he likes to travel light and simple; the gear has to be robust rather than complex.
The exhibition is well worth a look, both for the fantastic images and for the educational value. The images are well presented and supported by audio-visual and olfactic-visual (If that’s the right description, smelly vision might be another). You may even find yourself, as I did, signing up for the Prince’s Rainforests Project and sending a ‘Rainforest SOS’ via www.rainforestsos.org
I combined my visit with a look around Kew Gardens. Stepping out of the cool English autumn, I suddenly found myself in a hot and humid tropical zone, my senses immersed in the sights and smells and heat of the rainforest - appropriate really.