Sage of the ForestRegular price Sale price $125.00
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Title: Sage of the Forest
Location: Central Kalimantan, Borneo, 2019
We’d been living in the Jungle for a few weeks by this point when we met up with our friend Josh Boorman. He’s an Australian who operates a trekking outfit in Central Kalimantan. His mission, like ours, was to introduce the world to the forest and to change their perspective. Josh and his guides want people to realize just how much we depend on the forest. And to understand its fragility. In the hopes, these people will become cheerleaders when they return home and proponents to help save and protect the forest.
When this photo was captured, I was in Borneo on assignment for BTS Nature, a conservation media agency that I co-founded in 2019. This moment on the river in a remote corner of the forest was the pinnacle of all my experiences with wildlife. To say the least, I’m still processing it.
To set the scene. The BTS Nature crew was in Southern Borneo for the better part of a month documenting the protection and restoration of the forest led by a local NGO called Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF). Stationed at their base of operations, which borders Tanjung Puting National Park, we’d seen their dedication to restoring the forest that had been burned as they planted tens of thousands of trees to maintain the balance of the ecosystem. We’d also seen them battle intensely against the fires intentionally set by locals to clear the pristine forest for palm oil production. With little more than water packs and sandals, they’d head straight into infernos, trying to put out the fires that threatened the National Park. It’s a constant struggle. Planting trees as the outside world presses inward on the last remaining intact jungle of the region. More than 50% of the jungle in Borneo is gone. But they never give up hope.
3-Hours after entering the narrowing river from the ocean by speed boat we reached the ranger station in the center of the National Park. Even here the smoke from fires on the border of the park still lingered in the air. So, we were not immune to the sense of pressure of the outside world here. Our guide, the legendary Arbain, had gotten word from the rangers of where we could find a group of Orangutan that he himself knew quite well. A local, Arbain grew up with an affinity for the forest and his knowledge of animal behavior and the ecosystem is incredible. It’s almost as if he could read the jungle cues like a book. And he knew the volumes of their stories by heart.
Soon enough, we found ourselves floating up to several females and a youngster. They clung to trees on the shoreline and all of us speechless could hardly hold back the crying. Why we all silently burst into streams of tears is beyond me, but we did. After some hours melted away observing their subtleties, we moved from the boats and into the water. Led by Arbain, who assured us there were no crocodiles or snakes, we stood neck-deep in the water looking up at the Orangutans on the bank of the river.
After some time, there was a moment when their mood changed in an instant. Above us. The birds flew overhead, squawking. The trees rustled franticly in the distance as females appeared ever more anxious. Then, like out of a Jurassic Park scene, he appeared triumphantly. Bursting through the thickets. Tall and mighty. We were just as affixed as the rest of the Orangutan at his impressive stance. And he assumed the position without much hesitation. From the muddy waters where we stood, he towered above us as he looked calmly towards our small group.
A single frame captured not by looking through the viewfinder of the camera, but by looking at him looking at us. All of the intensity collapsed into a moment of pure calm and ease.
I wondered at that moment; does he realize? Does he understand? Perhaps he does and desperately wishes he could vocalize. Afterward, still in shock, we all agreed that the most astonishing thing about being in his presence is that we actually did expect him to say something. To speak on the behalf of the forest. To bestow his wisdom. To convince the world that this Forest, his home, is not worth the destruction, the fires, and the tragedy. But he couldn’t speak. So, we must speak for him. We have to stand up for what he wishes he could.
Thankfully, there are people who do stand by his side already. FNPF, Orangutan Trekking Tours. The guests who have visited the forest and returned home with a new mindset. Me. The BTS Nature crew. And now you.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The sizing for this image are different from the standard for the following sizes:
SMALL: The dimensions are the same as the standard Small print size. I wanted to give the option of a larger subject, so the orientation and crop for this size print help to distinguish the Orangutan.
EXTRA LARGE: For this image, ONLY the XL Size is the following dimensions. The total size is 66 x 49.4 in with no border. Edition of 15. I decided to print this image in XL in landscape to draw in the focus to the subject even more powerfully. This is one of the sharpest portraits I’ve ever captured. Period. Using a 150 Megapixel medium format camera. I recommend a custom frame for this size.
Charity: 50% of the XL profits will go to support FNPF and their mission. During this 48-hour sale, because it’s 50% off. Will you stand for those who cannot speak? You can also donate directly to FNPF on their website via PayPal.
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