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National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen will serve as this year’s keynote speaker at the Eighth Annual Go Blue Awards Luncheon hosted by Loggerhead Marinelife Center on Oct. 28. We gave Nicklen a call to talk his passion for conservation and learn what attendees can expect from his presentation at PGA National Resort & Spa.
You’re on a boat right now. Headed where?
We’re photographing up the coast of British Columbia heading up toward Alaska.
How much would you say you travel?
Ten months a year.
When you aren’t traveling, where is home?
Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada.
You are a marine biologist as well as a photographer. What came first and how did you marry the two specialties?
I did my marine biology degree at the University of Victoria and went back up to the Arctic and got a job as a biologist working on polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves and what have you, and I got very frustrated turning the beauty of what we were seeing out in nature and sort of the bigger story and coming back with nothing but data. … I knew I could be much more effective bridging the gap between the science we were doing and the public by using the power of photography and visual storytelling.
How long ago was that?
That was 1994 that I left my job as a biologist and became a full-time conservation/nature journalist.
How did you get connected with National Geographic?
Like everybody else, I just kept writing them letters and showing them my work, and they kept telling me to go away for about eight years. … Eventually, they needed someone to step in and do an underwater assignment on salmon, and at that point they gave me a try.
What’s your opinion of Instagram?
It’s one of the many tools to reach people. So is Facebook, so is giving public lectures, so is doing television. It’s just no longer old-school journalism in the magazine. It’s not enough for me anymore. It’s great and it’s one of the many tools; there’s just so many great ways to communicate with the world right now, and Instagram is one of them. But yeah, I’m frustrated with seeing people’s breakfast and their suppers. It muddies the waters of really important ways to tell stories, but it’s important. It engages people.
What can attendees of the Go Blue Awards Luncheon hosted by the Loggerhead Marinelife Center expect?
We’re all excited about connecting with like-minded, passionate people about conservation. Thinking big, making change, picking up [after] yourself, having a voice. And I think when people leave the talk they’re going to be [thinking], ‘You know what? I was sort of nervous about sticking my neck out on an issue, but I have to speak out about this.’ I’m excited about connecting with the audience. Everywhere I go around the world I’m always excited to learn about people’s local conservation issues.
What’s your impression of Florida?
I love Florida. I’ve gotten some of my beautiful [photos] diving off of Florida. I just photographed aerial of the spinner shark migration off of Palm Beach and Jupiter. ... It’s just really a beautiful, special part of the world and just like everywhere, it needs to have a light shined on it.