Show & Tell with Wildlife Photographer Thomas Mangelsen
by Brit McCandless Farmer
Recently 60 Minutes, correspondent Anderson Cooper turned the camera on Thomas Mangelsen, who has photographed some of the world’s most spectacular images of wild animals. Mangelsen invited 60 Minutes into his studio, where he told Cooper the stories behind some of his most compelling photographs.
Mangelsen is a patient man. He once spent 42 days with cougars in Jackson Hole, Wyoming while waiting for the perfect shot, until finally, an elusive female stepped out of her den and into his frame. In British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, he waited for days, hoping a black bear would wander up a cluster of moss-covered rocks.
On the sixth day, a black bear did just that. It stopped at the top of the rocks and stood there, looking over its domain, silhouetted against the misty, overcast sky.
Mangelsen’s visualization paid off. “Maybe if you wish hard enough, your dreams come true,” he says.
Like all photography, Mangelsen’s images record a specific time and place, sometimes documenting things that no longer exist. His image “Born of the North Wind” does just that. Amid a frigid, windswept landscape a lone polar bear stands, ready to begin his hunt. A small, white Arctic fox stands next to him, almost camouflaged against the ice and snow. The sun is setting, and the sky streaks from blue to a pink-orange. “That tells me, ‘This is polar bear land,'” Mangelsen tells Cooper in the clip above. “‘This is the king of the Arctic. This is where he lives.’ So that’s a kind of picture I strive for.”
The photo took Mangelsen almost a decade of striving — and 80,000 frames shot. But he likely wouldn’t be as lucky today. He says climate change means the bay doesn’t freeze like it used to.
“Now when I went up there about four years ago, the shoreline was ice-free,” Mangelsen says. “And that’s what is sad because this is the southernmost population of polar bears, which will go first.”
The tiger is lounging, its right paw draped over a rock. Sunlight streams through the surrounding thicket of trees to illuminate the tiger’s face and a smear of blood, a leftover from a recent meal.
The image itself is stunning — and then Mangelsen explains that he shot the photograph while riding on the back of an elephant.
“If you’re on foot, you wouldn’t probably live,” he explains to Cooper in the video above. “But if you’re on an elephant, you’re just an appendage to the elephant. And they’re used to the elephant.”
Mangelsen says his heart was pounding as he snapped away, hoping at least one frame would capture the light while keeping the tiger in focus. “Today with digital, you could do that fairly easily, in the sense of not worrying about shutter speed, but that’s slow film,” he says.
After five decades of traveling the world and documenting animals, Mangelsen says the image is one of his favorites.
From CBS News – 5/6/2018
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