Wild and Exciting: Inside the Unconventional Lives of Wildlife Photographers

photographer in Africa with armed security
Credit: Megan Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society
Julie Larsen Maher photographing WCS Zambia conservation projects in the field.

May is National Photography Month, an event created to celebrate photography and photographers. In honor of the monthlong event, we decided to take a look at one of the most interesting areas in the field: wildlife photography. From Antarctica to Kenya, wildlife photographers travel the world taking pictures of animals that let us look into their lives in a way we otherwise would never see.

A Life in the Wild

California-based photographer Suzi Eszterhas specializes in family life and conservation, taking her love of baby animals and using it to tell a story with her pictures.

“Family life is a great backdrop for telling a story. There’s the drama of an animal growing up, learning to face down predators or find food,” Eszterhas says. “It started as a great stage for telling a story about different animals.”

She has traveled to all seven continents and says that while wildlife, in reality, is not as action-packed as many people see in documentaries, with some patience the experience can be exhilarating.

“You have to be patient and wait for the right moment, but when it happens it can be super exciting and makes up for the downtime,” she says.

Julie Larsen Maher, staff photographer for the Wildlife Conservation Society, says the life of a wildlife photographer is definitely not a 9-to-5 job. Maher has traveled to more than 60 countries, including Ecuador and Madagascar.

“No two days are ever the same, and that’s probably the best part of it!” Maher says.

Wildlife Photography

Credit: Suzi Eszterhas

Four 6-week-old black-backed jackal pups at sunset at the Masai Mara Triangle, Kenya.

Credit: Suzi Eszterhas

A 7- to 8-week-old lion cub approaches an adult male at the Masai Mara Reserve, Kenya.

Credit: Suzi Eszterhas

Adelie penguins jumping off an iceberg at Paulet Island, Antarctica.

African elephant in Uganda

Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

African elephant in Uganda.

Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

African lions in Uganda.

Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

African lion in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, an area known for lions that climb trees.

Credit: Joel Sartore Photography

Brooks Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve is a popular tourist spot. Bears pack the falls there, catching salmon as they swim upstream.

Credit: Joel Sartore Photography

A mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) stretches to reach a mineral lick in the Walton area of Glacier National Park in Montana. Wonder how this one performed such a death-defying feat? Very carefully. Mountain goats make their living by taking each step very seriously. Using splayed, rubbery hooves that grip rock surfaces, this female started by placing all four feet on the tiny ledge where her back feet are shown in the photo. She then pushed out and wedged into the crevice using her front hooves to bridge the gap, licking any salt on the rocks around her. To get out, she reversed the procedure, again placing all four feet on the same little ledge, turning around slowly until she could exit, uphill and to the left.

Credit: Joel Sartore Photography

A polar bear, fresh from feeding on whale remains, peeks in the window of a truck near Kaktovik, Alaska.

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