Nat Geo Photographer Searches for Coastal Wolves

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Becca Skinner knew she wanted to explore when she grew up, and then in 2010 she fell in love with photography after winning grant to photograph New Orleans post-Katrina. She has since become a rising star in photography and a recipient of the National Geographic Young Explorer Grant. Her talent and passion for photography and appreciation of the natural world is evident in the photos of her own adventures.

Now she is preparing to go on an expedition with fellow photographer Bertie Gregory (recipient of 2012 Youth Outdoor Photographer Award) to Canada’s West Coast to raise awareness for the conservation of the unique British Columbian coastal wolves. These wolves are a close relative of the grey wolf, however instead of a normal diet of deer and elk, the coastal wolves have evolved to eat seafood such as mussels and salmon eggs. The pair are planning on spending 18 days on the island with the wolves in order to photograph, film and observe the animals. Before she leaves, she had time to answer a few questions about her trip, her life and ultralight backpacking:

How many miles do you plan on covering?

We have no idea how many miles. That’s the exciting (and intimidating) part about wildlife photography! We could find them in the first handful of miles or not at all.

Why did you want to go on this adventure?

I’m seeing conservation as more and more of a necessity in my career. I had a brief interaction with wolves at a sanctuary in California, and I’ve been captivated by them ever since. Also, Bertie and I have been discussing working together for awhile, so it’s great to finally be able to collaborate on a project we both really care for.

What is it about adventure that inspires your work?

The feeling of freedom and magic that I get in the outdoors constantly pushes my work forward. It can range from something like fly fishing in rivers to summiting peaks, which makes it so entrancing to me. The breadth of the potential adventures keeps me on my toes and I never feel like I see the same thing twice. Also, not only being able to witness those feelings, but having the ability to communicate them through tangible images is a privilege.

In what ways have you adjusted your backpacking style to go light?

Being a photographer, it’s painful for me to cut lens options when going into the backcountry. By investing in lightweight equipment, I’ve been able to justify bringing additional lenses, gear, etc. I’m not doing without things, just learning how to either invest in lighter weight items or how to manage things like food to make sure I’m getting the most out of the weight. Mike [St. Pierre] really helped me in regards to meal planning and research. He really has ultralight down to an art. Because we are potentially having to walk for the whole expedition, weight is absolutely a factor. The lighter our packs, the quicker we can move and hopefully better our chances of running into wolves. And yes, I’m definitely interested in doing more ultralight backpacking!

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