National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards on the best parts of his job

“If you walk through a meadow, then everything goes quiet, the insects are quiet, temporarily, you know, on a summer’s day, the birds go quiet, you sit down and within a few minutes, depending on the habitat, things start coming up again…coral reefs, same thing, you dive, sit on the reef, all that [coral] Polyps close, you know, the fish disappear, whatever, you catch your breath, you sit still. And you could spend a day sitting on that one tiny wall, because that’s when everything starts to wake up.”

Early on, he trained himself “to be very still, to control my breathing, and to slow my heart rate. I didn’t own a tripod and came to dislike it [them] … Decades later, I can hold my 800mm lens in my hand in low light with very slow shutter speeds.”

Edwards fotografiert seit zwei Jahrzehnten für <i>National Geographic</i> and calls it his dream job.” loading=”lazy” src=”$zoom_0.316%2C$multiply_0.7725%2C$ratio_1.5%2C$width_756%2C$ x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/2b4d4b6e3afe36f5c995fc01a4442a3c0b0a9e0d” height=”390″ width=”584″ srcset=”$zoom_0.316%2C$multiply_0.7725% 2C$ratio_1.5%2C$width_756%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/2b4d4b6e3afe36f5c995fc01a4442a3c0b0a9e0d,$zoom_0.316%2C$multiply_1.545% $ratio_1.5%2C$width_756%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_62%2Cf_auto/2b4d4b6e3afe36f5c995fc01a4442a3c0b0a9e0d 2x”/></picture></div><figcaption class=

Edwards shot National Geographic for two decades and calls it his dream job.Credit:Jason Edwards

Back then, photography was all about trial and error – there was no internet, let alone YouTube tutorials. He and his father set up a makeshift darkroom in his brother’s bedroom and played with whatever effects they could create while developing shots. “that remains one of my most treasured memories”. After studying animal science and postgraduate studies in applied sciences, he remains self-taught, although working with some of the best in the business has had a major impact.

Edwards hopes his work will help people care more about the world and our environment, and that will therefore help protect the environment. When asked about the most magical thing he’s ever seen, he takes a minute and runs through the images in his head. “It sounds a bit esoteric, but one would be the sheer size of the wildlife populations that still exist, whether it’s a herd of wildebeest or tens of thousands of penguins in a colony. It is beyond humbling that we have been given areas on the planet where these mass gatherings are possible,” he says.

“On the other hand, I can fix myself with the reflections in a drop of moisture on a flower smaller than my fingernail. This translation of light through a drop of water and in the end there are worlds within worlds, this drop of water is an ecosystem in itself.”

Being on the road so much has its downsides, not least being away from home, so he’s grateful his wife Megan and son Will can sometimes travel with him these days.

Ein Bild von <i>Icebergs to iguanas</i>.” loading=”lazy” src=”$zoom_0.315%2C$multiply_0.7725%2C$ratio_1.5%2C$width_756%2C$x_0%2C$y_0 /t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/45da5b1ebfa8585ecf8d73f62d5509c82e52ce9f” height=”390″ width=”584″ srcset=”$zoom_0.315%2C$multiply_0.7725%2C$ratio_1.5 %2C$width_756%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/45da5b1ebfa8585ecf8d73f62d5509c82e52ce9f,$zoom_0.315%2C$multiply_1.545%2C$ratio_1.5% 2C$width_756%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_62%2Cf_auto/45da5b1ebfa8585ecf8d73f62d5509c82e52ce9f 2x”/></picture></div><figcaption class=

A picture out Icebergs to iguanas.Credit:Jason Edwards

Photography has changed dramatically since its early Kodachrome days, and not just because of the digital revolution. Photoshopping and social media have created an environment where many people question the veracity of images, which in many ways makes his work more relevant than ever. Anyone who aspires to a career like his has to be absolutely committed, he says.

“If you’re not passionate about the issues you’re documenting, it’s never going to work.”

The National Geographic Bosses would say, “Shoot your own suburb for five years and then show us what you’ve got.” Not that they’re going to release it, but to feel like there’s a story to tell about something, he says. “You know, it takes time to tell stories,” he says. “And doing something close by is important because it means your cost of getting to the site is reduced and you can return repeatedly.”

When the world stood still in 2020 and Edwards, like the rest of us, was grounded, he had “never been so mentally unwell in my life.” “[I’m] pretty much a glass half full person. So I spent the first six months with business leaders and CEOs from around the world and here in Australia asking me for advice because I had spent 35 years in pandemics. And I’ve had most of them. I’m not saying it wasn’t serious for a lot of people, but there were also white people who were completely blind to what was going on in the world,” he says, adding that many millions of people die from disease every year , which are all but eradicated in China in industrialized countries.

“(I’ve spent) 35 years in pandemics. I’m not saying it wasn’t serious…but white people are unaware of what’s going on in the world.

Photographer Jason Edwards who says there are many more pandemics affecting third world countries

Back on the road, he’s heard that the hiatus caused by the pandemic has allowed some species to thrive. For example, more big cats have been sighted in parts of Africa. There was a downside, however, he says. “That’s the irony — where there’s tourism, there’s little poaching.”

It is difficult for him to name where he would most like to go again. “Everywhere! The Serengeti is the repeat offender for me, it’s always at the top of my list, I would come back at any opportunity. Despite the political turmoil at the moment, the Middle East and Iran, it’s such a beautiful country. If you gave me an empty ticket, I would fly to North Africa, Tunisia or North Egypt, all these ancient cultures are really appealing,” he says.


“The wonderful thing for me after 35 years on the road is that the world is not getting smaller, only bigger. Whether it’s underwater, in a national park or at an archaeological site, I never feel like the world is shrinking.”

Jason Edwards’ Icebergs to iguanas is out now.

A cultural guide to going out and making love in the city. Sign up for our Culture Fix newsletter here. National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards on the best parts of his job

Jaclyn Diaz

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