Q & A: Daniel Beltrá, environmental photographer

| 14th September 2009
An Amazon horned frog in Cristalino State Park, Brazil.  © Daniel Beltra, courtesy of The Prince's Rainforests Project and Sony

Beauty, wildlife and destruction: Click on the image above to see more photos from Daniel

The award winning environmental photographer on witnessing rainforests around the world, working for Greenpeace and why photos can help save the world

Not many people have viewed rainforests in the way that Spanish photographer Daniel Beltrá has.

Last year the World Photography Awards had a special category sponsored by Sony for the Prince's Rainforest Project. Beltrá won the assignment: the chance document the three major rainforest regions of the world...

How can photos help save the world?

Jarring consciousness, hopefully motivating people to act. That's the dream that keeps me going!

When freelancing with Greenpeace, what subjects did you cover?

For the last twenty years I have worked on almost all of their campaigns, like fisheries, toxic waste, nuclear, global warming and deforestation. Probably the last two are the dearest to me.

How did you get involved in the rainforest assignment?

Last year the World Photography Awards had a special category sponsored by Sony for the Prince's Rainforest Project and I was lucky enough to be chosen. It's a phenomenal opportunity to try to influence policy at the highest level. The clock is ticking, it's time to act.

What was it like seeing the Amazon?

Travelling to the Amazon has been an incredible experience and I have been able to capture some powerful images that show the many different elements of the rainforest - the beauty, the wildlife, the local people and also the destruction.

What is the most shocking thing you saw on your recent trip through the rainforest nations?

It was shocking to see the extent of devastation in Sumatra, where more than 80% of the original forests have been wiped out. These are being replaced by monocultures of palm oil, acacia, and eucalyptus.

Also, the bush meat in the Democratic Republic of Congo was disturbing. ‘Bush meat' is the term for wild species killed and sold in the markets for food, such as monkeys.

What environmental groups or campaigns do you most actively support?

I am a fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), a group with some of the best specialists in the field who volunteer to cover pressing environmental issues. Outside of Greenpeace, I support as many worthy groups as I can.

What tip(s) would you give to amateur photographers taking pictures of nature and the environment?

Follow your passion, dedicate a lot of time, work the subjects in depth, be very tough editing your work and be patient. Make sure the composition is right, use a tripod if it helps. Is what you see through the viewfinder exactly what you want?

Where do you live and why?

My home is beautiful Seattle, Washington where my wife grew up. Some of the most spectacular temperate rainforests are around here.

Can you describe a typical day?

There's nothing typical or predictable about my schedule really but I'd say the common denominator of my days is to wake up early and work hard - I can be in the middle of a rainforest or in my office. I definitely spend a lot of time researching trips, traveling, shooting, and editing.

What's your favourite food? Cooked by whom?

Couscous made by my mother.

What book or film would your recommend all politicians read or see?

The newly released ‘Home' by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and the now classic ‘An Inconvenient Truth' by Al Gore. Both available as books and DVD's.

Where are you most happy?

Working on the field, when I feel I'm making an impact.



See Daniel's upcoming exhibition

Sony and the Prince's Rainforest Project (PRP) are delivering an interactive exhibition that will combine Daniel's new photographs with Sony technology to allow people to experience the glory of the rainforests and understand their plight. The exhibition will open at Kew Gardens, London on 3rd October, 2009.

About The Prince's Rainforest Project

The PRP is working with governments, businesses and non-profit organisations around the world to find solutions to deforestation - and to find them fast - with the ambition of 'making the trees worth more
alive than dead'. The project has also launched a global awareness
campaign, asking people to sign up at www.rainforestSOS.org
to put rainforests at the heart of the climate change debate.


Laura Sevier is the Ecologist's Green Living Editor


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate here