Human Journey

Photography and Nature: Camille Seaman at TED 2013

Advances in technology are at the heart of a lot of talks at this week’s TED Conference in Long Beach, California.

A lot, but nowhere near all.

When photographer Camille Seaman presented, everyone was taken very much out of the high-tech modern world, and immersed into vast and wild scenes of nature (see gallery above). Some (with icebergs) felt literally frozen in time. Others (with storm clouds) almost made you dizzy, as you sensed the epic swirl of a rapidly changing atmosphere.

One of her images appeared in the special “Water” issue of National Geographic magazine in April 2010.

In her talk, Camille mentioned that her sense of connection with nature stems from growing up in the Shinnecock Indian Nation on Long Island, and the influence of her grandfather. Speaking with her afterwards, I asked her about that influence, and I mentioned that what strikes me in her photography is the clarity of detail, and the way it seems she was aware of everything in the scene while taking the photo. Here’s what she had to say.

Separate From Nature?

“Recently I was really made aware that I see the world in a very different way and it is very much informed by how I was raised–all these things that my grandfather taught me as a small child.

“It is really a much more unified vision of all life on the planet. We were raised to know that none of your actions can go without a reaction; everything you do has an effect. So it’s a very holistic view of the world.

“My grandfather said something really poignant: ‘If you think you’re separate from nature, try holding your breath.'”


Learning to See

“Image-wise I would even credit my grandfather with teaching me how to see, because from about the age of 5 till he died when I was 13, every day–rain, snow, sun, it didn’t matter–we had to sit outside for an hour and just be still and observe.

“And then he would ask us, ‘What did you see?’

“He really taught you how to look for things, and see things. And then he would interpret. You’d say, ‘Well I saw the clouds had this weird kind of speckled pattern,’ and he’d say, ‘We call that a Mackerel sky and it means it’s going to rain within 24 hours.’

“Or you’d say, ‘I saw a spider building a web’ and he’d say, ‘That means no rain for about a week.’

“It was incredible.”

NEXT: Read All Nat Geo Blog Posts From TED 2013



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National Geographic Wallpapers

Camille Seaman Photography

Shinnecock Indian Nation

Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. He is currently beginning a new role as communications director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history.
  • Hillary Treadwell

    I am so very proud of my niece Camille Seaman and how her photograpy has brought attention to the weather changes and global warming. Camille keep up the good work.

  • Jessica

    These are fabulous photos! Camille has done a fabulous job. These are pix that are rarely seen (by me) weather conditions.

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