#humansofyachting – Justin Hofman
Naturalist, photographer and expedition leader with EYOS Expeditions, Justin Hofman, reflects on his job, shooting images in the watery wilderness.
“I really have the best job in the world. By day I get to explore the most extreme environments Earth has to offer and by night I get to enjoy a good meal with great company. As a lover of nature, my whole reason for being out on these expeditions is to inspire people to care about the natural world. I can’t think of a better way to do that then to immerse oneself in wilderness while also enjoying the comforts of modern superyachts.
The seahorse shot that was selected as a finalist for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards was taken in Indonesia at the tail end of an expedition which mostly focused on east Borneo. While clients were off viewing the water buffalo races which make Sumbawa famous, a few of us decided to check out the local reef. We knew it would not be great due to the proximity to the village, but it was hot and I really am a water person at heart, so a day snorkelling is always appreciated. Eventually, the infamous scene we all recognize came before me and while I was taking the photos I knew this shot needed to be seen by as many people as possible.
It sounds silly, but I instantly knew that this shot would do well in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. I did not share it on social media for an entire year as the judging process went through its stages. The only people that knew about this image were a handful of friends whom I swore to secrecy. This image and the story behind it was too important for my social media, it needed to be seen by the world, so I waited and luckily it was accepted into WPY and the whole world seemed to react to the photo. It far exceeded my expectations.
The story, which highlights the pollution of our seas, is really twofold: a cultural shift needs to take place where nature is revered rather than exploited and there must also be an easy, efficient way for the public to handle their waste. All of these major conservation issues are really social issues. If we look at the largest contributors of plastic pollution in the world (China, Indonesia, India) all of them have expanding lower and middle classes and are racing to meet the modern world on its terms. Infrastructure is racing to meet the demands of a growing population and part of that is waste management. If the developing world is to contribute positively then there must be a change in the way they regard the natural world. Unlike first world nations which got to do one then the other, the developing world is being forced to modernize and limit their environmental impact at the same time. It’s important to remember that things were not always clean in the US or Western Europe but we have had several decades to clean up our act.
As for changing our attitudes towards nature, an important way to do this is through the arts and through media. Photography, documentaries, journalism, writing, and fine art all have a way of transcending cultural barriers to impact millions of people. Inspiration is a crucial tool when trying to change hearts and minds. I am particularly interested in finding ways for yacht owners to contribute to conservation initiatives by donating their yacht’s time towards meaningful projects. There are superyachts operating all over the world with highly experienced captains and crews that could aid in documentary filmmaking, photojournalism, and science. I want to see more yachts being used to tell stories and I think the success of productions like Blue Planet II has opened up the door to this possibility.”