When I was a kid I was very seriously obsessed with becoming a photographer for National Geographic. And I wasn’t alone. This was an appealing career trajectory for many of my friends too; it was dangerous and glamorous and involved animals and deserts and saturated palettes and such.
But I did not end up living that dream. Instead, I rock out fairly regularly over on the photography section of National Geographic online and live vicariously. Anyhoo, this month there is a story that involves LOADS of caviar, so color me riveted (salmon rank 2nd only to lobsters in my food infatuation brain category.) The story is about the salmon trade in the Northeastern region of Russia, and was shot by Randy Olson.
Here are some images (see many more at Nat Geo). Make sure to note all the caviar sitting around, in ENORMOUS PILES. Also there is a dog that walks on two legs and a strongman.
Ideal path for salmon swimming upstream to spawning grounds, the Vyvenka River loops through a floodplain free of roads and dams. Unlike their Atlantic counterparts, Pacific salmon spawn once and die. Nitrogen and other nutrients from their carcasses fertilize lush vegetation and help keep the ecosystem healthy.
Trucker Yuri Krechetov will haul a load of these coho to a nearby processing plant. Females are gutted for their eggs, sold as caviar. Despite quotas on Kamchatka's catch, widespread corruption stymies enforcement.
Six Pacific salmon species migrate back to Kamchatka to spawn, their shapes and colors changing dramatically as they move into fresh water. Sockeye, the most valuable kind, dominates traffic in the Ozernaya River.
Sergei Shurunov, head of a crack antipoaching team, muscles up with homemade weights at his camp in South Kamchatka Reserve. Aided by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), his unit has nearly halted illegal fishing that was once rampant here.
Found with 450 pounds of illegally harvested salmon roe (next photo), two suspected poachers from Sobolevo stand by as inspectors burn the caviar, worth nearly $10,000.
Jobs are scarce, so when the salmon run, "virtually every Kamchatka settlement turns into a poachers' camp," says a WWF report.
How isolated is the village of Khailino? By vehicle it's a 12-hour slog to the nearest accessible town. When a supply helicopter arrives, a motorcycle rushes a few of the 700 residents, most of them indigenous Koryak people, to the nearby landing strip, where they hope to hitch a ride.
The bride's father, Rodion Khalilov, supplied caviar from his fishing camp.
The last thing many migrating salmon see is this: the claws of a massive paw. Brown bears stun their targets with clublike blows, then gobble up their catch.
I hope you enjoyed that! I went to look at Mr. Olson’s site after seeing all these awesome images, and I learned some things. For one, he is a part of a photography power duo. I love those. See, here’s what his site tells us:
“Olson is married to another acclaimed photographer, Melissa Farlow, who also works for National Geographic. He recounts how their paths can diverge in strange ways:
‘I hired gun-runners to go into a no-fly-zone in Sudan and filled the plane with 3 tons of food and medical supplies. We land in the last rebel holdout – they’ve been bombed and harassed to the point that people only have leaves to eat. It’s 130 degrees. I’m in a forest that harbors flesh-eating parasites, and I’m covered with hundreds of the stickiest flies I’ve ever seen. I call Melissa on the satellite phone. She is photographing a $72 million Kentucky racehorse in an air conditioned barn with chandeliers and cupolas with some of the wealthiest people in the world.’”
Um, they should make a movie about you guys. You should go see their site, too, there’s a whole lot to take in. For one: Anatoly in the Putorana Plateau! Check this dude out.
Kruger shot a duck and even the dog won’t go in to the 33 degree F water. So Anatoly strips down to go get it.