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December in Malibu

"December in Malibu" by Andrew Richards


Andrew Richards

Shooting seascapes often involves hiking on very delicate rock formations near tidepools and reefs full of plant and marine life. The photographer has to be very careful when walking on these rocks, not only for his or her safety, but also to avoid disrupting the natural environment. When I first began shooting seascapes, I'd often get so focused on getting the composition and lighting just right, sometimes I would start rushing and become careless. I'd scramble across the rock formations to compose shots without always giving the environment beneath my feet the care and respect it deserved.

Just prior to walking out on this rock formation to start my shoot in Malibu, I was approached by a teenage boy who had been sitting on a nearby rock watching the sunset about to arrive. He saw me setting up my gear and probably sensed that I was in a hurry to get the shot I wanted. He stopped me for a moment and gave me a brief history of the formation and educated me on ecological balance of the location. As I walked out he pointed out the mussels that you see in the foreground of the shot and asked me to be careful not to step on them.

At that point it occurred to me that in photographing these beautiful surroundings I had also been taking them for granted. That kid gave me a valuable lesson and to this day I am much more careful and aware of how fragile and delicate these places are.

- Andrew Richards

This photo submission is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History alongside those taken by photojournalist Brian Skerry in the exhibit Portraits of Planet Ocean. Want to see your photos in the museum? Submit them today! Submissions close on July 1, 2015. See a slideshow of other winners.