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Interview: Freshwater conservation in pictures with Michel Roggo

January 16, 2014

We continue our three-part interview with respected freshwater photographer Michel Roggo. Roggo has taken thousands of amazing photographs over the years. We asked him what three images best summed up his vision for freshwaters. From swarms of salmon to eery flooded forests to a different side of the world’s biggest lake, these were the photos he chose.

Salmon swarms: the migration of the sockeye salmon in Canada’s Adams River

Sockeye salmon, Adams River, British Columbia, 2010

Sockeye salmon, Adams River, British Columbia, 2010

“Thirty years ago on an expedition to Alaska, I caught my first glimpse of these migrating Pacific salmon and resolved to return each year until I had captured good photographs of them underwater. After several failed attempts, I perfected my technique for shooting underwater without having to dive, instead using a small structure on the riverbed. The advantage of this is that fish are not really concerned about the structure, which allows me to capture their natural behaviour. At the beginning of my career, I worked a lot in Alaska and later in British Colombia, especially at the Adams River, pictured above, where every 4 years there is a major run of about four million Sockeye salmon. They enter the Adams river to spawn and to die. So this is really an abundance of life and for me perhaps the best example of how much of life a river can produce.”

Many more incredible photos and millions more salmon can be viewed over at Michel Roggo’s website.

Flooded forests: the annual flooding of the Amazonian rainforest

Flooded forest of the Rio Tabajos, Amazon, Brazil, 1992

Flooded forest of the Rio Tabajos, Amazon, Brazil, 1992

“Every year the waters of the Amazon and its tributaries rise up to fifteen metres, entering the rainforest. Where there have been birds, there are now fish. They enter the rainforest to spawn, and to feed on fruits and seeds. By doing so they disperse the seeds of the trees, helping them to expand their territory. In turn, predators such as river dolphins and caimans follow the fish into the transformed forest in search of a meal. In the earlier stage of my career as photographer I worked a lot in the Amazon, travelling for months at a time on riverboats on Xingu, Trombetas, Tabajos, Rio Negro and such. I was not very experienced at that time and had a lot of problems in the humid environment with my high tech equipment. After a total of seven months of work I had less than ten good underwater images. But it was a great time!”

You can see more of Roggo’s eery photos of flooded forests here and here.

Beneath Baikal: the world’s biggest lake like you’ve never seen it before

Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia, 2013

Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia, 2013

“Although I still mostly use remote controls to make underwater images, I started shooting pictures while snorkeling – the day after my 60th birthday – in the dangerous Verzasca river in the southern Swiss Alps. Last September, I finally started diving at age of 62 in Lake Baikal, the world’s most voluminous and the deepest freshwater lake in the world – it’s never too late for a new experience. But even here, I photograph without flashlight. Everyone has seen Lake Baikal from the surface, but I like to make underwater landscapes. I try to show the world down there through the eyes of a fish, without artificial light. In fact, I haven‘t used flashlight under water for perhaps ten years now.”

A selection of Roggo’s underwater (and above water) landscapes can be seen here.

We conclude our three part interview with Michel Roggo next week, when he will share some tips and tricks for budding freshwater photographers, so make sure you don’t miss it!

Check out part one of the interview.

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