Late underwater photographer Wes Skiles honored for his extraordinary achievements in exploring and documenting the Blue Holes of the Bahamas in 2010. Photo by Luis Lamar.
Evening of Exploration
Last night three exceptional individuals were honored by the National Geographic Society at its first ever “Evening of Exploration” gala event. Among them was a personal example of mine, late underwater photographer Wes Skiles who was named as “Explorer of the Year”. The theme of the celebration was “Oceans,” and the event was attended by an all-star cast of explorers, including newly appointed National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence filmmaker James Cameron and marine ecologist Enric Sala.
Photographer Wes Skiles began to learn his craft in the most demanding environment on Earth: underwater caves. As a teenager he explored Florida’s underwater labyrinths to capture images of this never-before-photographed realm. He developed and refined the technique he became most known for: using multiple slaved strobes to dramatically illuminate and photograph this environment. Later, as explorations led Skiles to remote locations around the world, he strived to employ the latest technology, enhancing his ability to explore the environment and return with stunning images. He participated in caving and cave-diving expeditions in Mexico, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Australia, Antarctica and the Bahamas. As an expedition cameraman, Skiles specialized in capturing images of people and wildlife on the edge of extreme frontiers. His visual imagery provided the viewer with an intimate understanding and unique perspective of his subjects. Skiles worked as a freelance photographer and produced, directed and filmed over 100 television films, many of which have won international awards and acclaim. In July 2010, at the age of 52, Skiles died following the conclusion of a scientific research expedition off the east coast of Florida. The honoring of Skiles as an underwater photographer will hopefully invigorate a new generation of conservation photographers to explore the boundaries of our oceans and rivers. And in doing so, inspire others to care about our blue planet.
I recently spent 3 weeks aboard the Fleur de Passion as part of the Changing Oceans expedition (http://www.changingoceans.org). The Changing Oceans Expedition is a ten-year adventure through the world’s most important marine eco-regions to bring the world the latest update information on the state of our oceans. We just completed the last mission in the Red Sea, where we sailed from the Deep-South of Egypt to the Northern region around Hurghada. It has been a very enjoyable and satisfying expedition, although the outcome of the research on the health of the Red Sea is far from positive. You can find some of the pictures I took on my Flickr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/vincentkneefel), I will post a detailed report on the expedition as well as more pictures in the upcoming weeks.
In 1994, Ray Anderson was 60 years old and at the top of his game as founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Interface, Inc., a modular carpet company that makes those clever carpet tiles that you may have underfoot in your office or coveted via the company’s residential brand, FLOR.
That was 17 years ago – before ‘green’ was the compelling business imperative that it is today (for reference, oil was then $18/bbl), and the environment was nowhere on Ray’s radar. An Interface associate asked Ray to give a speech to a task force that was forming to answer customer concerns about environmental impacts, and though he had not a clue what he would say, he accepted. As the date for the speech grew closer, he began to sweat — and then Paul Hawken’s book, The Ecology of Commerce, landed on his desk. The rest is green business history — Ray read the book (he’s called it a ‘spear in the chest’ epiphany), his outlook was radically transformed, and he gave a speech that would put the petroleum-dependent carpet company on a path to zero environmental footprint.
What’s happened in the intervening years has made Interface the best practice example for green business, and Ray’s become a bit of an eco rock star. He ditched his gas-guzzling Jaguar in favor of a Prius, built an off-the-grid home, and today, at 76, his life is radically different than what he would have imagined for himself at age 60. This is his story.