For 130 years, National Geographic has been using the power of photography to tell meaningful stories, inspire people to take action and transport audiences to unseen places. A new exhibition opening at the National Geographic Museum on Feb. 13, “Day to Night: In the Field with Stephen Wilkes,” takes that experience even further by showcasing stunning images by photographer Stephen Wilkes that capture the passage of time. The exhibition will be on display at the National Geographic Museum through April 29, 2018.
Wilkes is widely recognized for his fine art and commercial work. He creates visually compelling scenes expertly crafted from more than 1,500 images taken from a fixed vantage point over the course of 15 to 30 hours, from sunrise to sunset. Wilkes spent much of 2017 in the field on assignment documenting bird migration routes for the March 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.
In “Day to Night,” visitors can marvel at Wilkes’ stunning compositions of landscapes paired with human or animal narratives and appreciate the movement and energy of locations such as Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City as they transition from day to night. The exhibition gives visitors behind-the-scenes insight into all that’s involved in Wilkes’ shoots, from the research put into scouting locations; to determining how time will move through the image, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally; to the time spent conducting the actual shoot; and finally to the extensive editing process, during which Wilkes selects the best moments captured from thousands of images to seamlessly combine them into the stunning finished product.
Most impressively, the exhibition features four expansive and powerful mega-prints of captivating bird migrations, measuring roughly 7 feet tall and 12 feet wide, that reflect the theme of conservation. Behind the scenes of each massive image, visitors will learn about the species, the location where Wilkes photographed them and what makes them integral to the ecosystem. Visitors to the exhibition will have an intimate look at these species:
Black-browed albatrosses in the Falkland Islands, sitting on their nests, warming and protecting their chicks, while their partners soar above them hunting for prey;
Northern gannets on Bass Rock, off the coast of Scotland, that flocked to the island during breeding season only to migrate as far as West Africa in the winter;
Sandhill cranes on Nebraska’s Platte River, huge birds that spend their days fattening up on waste grain left in the fields to prepare for their migration to sub-Arctic and Arctic nesting grounds; and,
Lesser flamingos at Lake Bogoria, Kenya, that thrive in the extreme environment of high-altitude soda lakes, feeding on algal blooms that are toxic to many other creatures.
Behind the prints, visitors can also read fascinating stories detailing the lengths to which Wilkes went to get the perfect shot, from surviving dive-bomb attacks from birds above to being trapped in a bird blind for 36 hours. The mega-print gallery in the exhibition focuses on migratory species and their habitats that are under threat due to climate change and human impact, such as commercial fishing and menacing tourists. Wilkes’ photography can be used as an instrument for change, inspiring solutions to help protect species and habitats that are at risk. His impressive field work documenting these beautiful species was supported by a storytelling grant from the National Geographic Society.
The exhibition ties in to National Geographic’s year-long initiative to highlight bird species and their migration patterns, aptly titled the Year of the Bird. The Year of the Bird is a partnership between National Geographic, the Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International and over 100 other organizations. Through 12 months of storytelling, science research and conservation efforts, the Year of the Bird will examine how our changing environment is driving dramatic losses among bird species around the globe and highlight what we can do to help protect them. Wilkes’ stunning images documenting the four ancient bird migration routes across the globe can be found in the March 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine available online in early February and on print newstands beginning Feb. 27
The National Geographic Museum, 1145 17th St., N.W., Washington, D.C., is open every day (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wilkes will give a behind-the-scenes look at his work during a talk on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. and the exhibition will remain open until 7:15 p.m. on this date. Tickets are $25. For more information, please see here. In a special Student Matinee, students in grades 5-8 will join Wilkes on his most recent National Geographic assignments photographing the elegant and mysterious patterns of bird migrations across landscapes in Kenya, Scotland, the Falkland Islands and the Platte River in Nebraska. For more information on National Geographic’s student matinees, please see here.
Images and usage requirements are available here.