SECTION: Editorial Galleries


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Thematic Galleries for Publishers


LIZARDS :: MONSTERSAURS (Gila Monsters & Beaded Lizards)

Lizards :: Gila Monsters

Even today, the Gila monster seems more mythical than real. This venomous lizard, Heloderma suspectum, has eluded biologists and photographers for decades. But undying curiosity and persistence are finally paying off. We now consider these reptiles “living fossils” and can speculate that their predecessors probably dined on dinosaur eggs and nestlings. We also understand how perfectly suited these creatures are for “life in the slow lane”; and a component of their venom has brought us a treatment for diabetes.

I’ve been engaged with Gila monsters and beaded lizards since grad school and between 2001 and 2004 teamed up with biologists studying these fascinating reptiles in the field and lab, most notably Daniel D. Beck, close friend and colleague who produced a landmark book THE BIOLOGY OF GILA MONSTERS AND BEADED LIZARDS (2005, UC Press). Readers familiar with this book will recognize some of the photographs in this gallery.

Lizards :: Beaded Lizards

The Mexican Beaded Lizard (Heloderma horridum) is the Gila monster’s larger, lankier, and lesser-known sister species. It’s the only other survivor of an ancient group of lizards classified in the Monstersauria – what a great name! Beaded lizards are strong and agile climbers that inhabit subtropical-dry forests from western Mexico to Guatemala. Said to be the most endangered terrestrial ecosystem on Earth, such habitats are being cleared faster than tropical rain forests are. This species is under enormous pressure in Mexico and has been nearly extirpated from its original range in Guatemala.

I had the opportunity to photograph beaded lizards in Sonora and Chiapas, Mexico, while traveling with Dan Beck and his colleagues. Our work took us from the backcountry in the Sierra de Alamos to awesome cactus forests near Oaxca, and to one of the finest regional zoos in Mexico.



Costa Rica :: Frogs, Reptiles, Birds, & Mammals

Exploring places that abound in unbridled natural beauty is one of my passions, and Costa Rica has been on my radar for years. So in November-December 2008, I embarked on a month-long photographic journey to Costa Rica. Storms from the northeast flooded the country’s Caribbean lowlands during my stay, so I focused on wildlife, scenery, and tropical flora in private nature reserves and national parks in the country’s Central Valley, Central Pacific Coast, and Northern Zone. The hummingbirds are dazzling, the frogs charming, and the monkeys a little disarming—never a dull moment wherever you turn. I came home with about 3,000 images, 284 of which are shown here in three editorial galleries.

Costa Rica :: Insects & Tarantulas

Colorful and bizarre little creatures abound in the tropics. Nozzle-headed termites spray glue on their enemies, leaf-cutter ants cultivate underground fungus gardens, and most butterfly larvae have mastered the art of disguise. An orange-knee tarantula greeted me on a trail in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and much to my surprise it walked right up the trunk of a tree. Farming butterflies is an important, ecologically sustainable business in Costa Rica, and butterfly observatories are popular tourist attractions there. I started chasing butterflies as a kid and am still doing it today . . . having traded my net for a camera. For me their eggs, caterpillars, and pupa cases are as astonishing as the adults, and butterfly houses offer opportunities to observe and photograph complete life cycles.

Costa Rica :: Scenery, Flora, & Culture

Numerous canopy walkways (treetop suspension bridges) allow visitors to explore life up in the trees. Tropical cloud forests of Monteverde and Rainmaker Rainforest Reserve rank among my favorites. Vines that we nurture as tiny houseplants in the USA gain a stranglehold here. Orchids, bromeliads, and ferns clothe tree limbs. And at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, elaborate stairways engineered into the walls of a deep gorge allow visitors to experience the spray of cascading waterfalls and trees dripping with ephiphytes (also known as air plants), plants that use others for support. Less than a month after my return to the States, earthquake-triggered landslides ripped out the luxuriant growth and stairways in this gorge, killed 40 people in Costa Rica’s Central Valley, and destroyed 518 houses and key roadways.



Sea shells have stories to tell. What a storm brings ashore says much about the condition of our marine environment. Healthy tidal flats and estuaries are literally crawling with creatures, many with shells—clams, snails, sand dollars, limpets, and much, much more. Sea birds and beach-combers alike know this well. In a single day spent on a mile-long stretch the Gulf of California coast between Kino Bay and Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico, I was rewarded with a treasure trove of fresh shells that had washed ashore in a storm, more species than I can recall finding anywhere in North American in such a short period of time. I created this poster from a few of the shells found during that memorable day in 2007.


While visiting Hong Kong to check press proofs for a book I was publishing in 2001, I had the opportunity to visit one of city’s big attractions, Ocean Park. Much to my surprise, I found a small exhibit on the grounds called the Goldfish Pagoda. Believed to bring good fortune, goldfish are popular pets in China and might well be the oldest aquarium fish in the world. Ornamental varieties date back to the Nan Song dynasty around 1200AD. Needless to say I was astonished by the bizarre creations on display at Ocean Park, so I spent the next three hours photographing them—I had never seen anything like this in the United States. This poster illustrates the outcome of selective breeding over hundreds of years.

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