The Artdog Image of Interest 

This week’s image comes with a story. But first, please take a moment to contemplate it.

Sewage Surfer © Justin Hofman / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

I first saw this image in an article in the Washington Post last year. I immediately wanted to use it for an Image of Interest. But there’s a prominent copyright notice on the image–so I knew I couldn’t use it without permission (yes, fellow bloggers, that IS a thing!).

It wasn’t that hard to find Justin Hofman’s website, which came complete with “contact me” information, so I emailed him. He responded promptly and graciously, with permission and best wishes, but also with the proviso that the photo had been chosen as a finalist for the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, so therefore I also must abide by their rules for posting it. I have earnestly tried to abide by all of the provisions.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. There’s a whole, wonderful catalogue of other great photos included in that show, too, and I can enthusiastically endorse the value of viewing them all.

Better yet, if you’re in London before the end of July 2018, they’re all still on display! Wildlife Photographer of the Year also provided me with an informative caption for this photo:

Sewage surfer

Justin Hofman, USA

Finalist 2017, The Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Single Image

Seahorses hitch rides on the currents by grabbing floating objects such as seaweed with their delicate prehensile tails. Justin watched with delight as this tiny estuary seahorse ‘almost hopped’ from one bit of bouncing natural debris to the next, bobbing around near the surface on a reef near Sumbawa Island, Indonesia. But as the tide started to come in, the mood changed. The water contained more and more decidedly unnatural objects – mainly bits of plastic – and a film of sewage sludge covered the surface, all sluicing towards the shore.

The seahorse let go of a piece of seagrass and seized a long, wispy piece of clear plastic. As a brisk wind at the surface picked up, making conditions bumpier, the seahorse took advantage of something that offered a more stable raft: a waterlogged plastic cottonbud. Not having a macro lens for the shot ended up being fortuitous, both because of the strengthening current and because it meant that Justin decided to frame the whole scene, sewage bits and all. As Justin, the seahorse and the cottonbud spun through the ocean together, waves splashed into Justin’s snorkel. The next day, he fell ill. Indonesia has the world’s highest levels of marine biodiversity but is second only to China as a contributor to marine plastic debris – debris forecast to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050. On the other hand, Indonesia has pledged to reduce by 70 per cent the amount of waste it discharges into the ocean.

Sony Alpha 7R II + 16–35mm f4 lens; 1/60 sec at f16; ISO 320; Nauticam housing + Zen 230mm Nauticam N120 Superdome; two Sea & Sea strobes with electronic sync.

IMAGE: Many, many thanks to Justin Hofman and to Wildlife Photographer of the Year, developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London, for the use of this image!