National Geographic Photographer Steve Winter on How a Turtle Changed His Life

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Coming back to the Valley for this lecture will be a homecoming of sorts for Winter. The award-winning photographer called Tempe home about 30 years ago. He worked at a restaurant near Arizona State University's main campus and learned to rock climb in Prescott. He says he hopes he'll have more time in the city the next time he visits so he can return to some of his old favorite spots and see how much the city has changed.

It was back in his actual home state of Indiana where Winter began thumbing through the pages of National Geographic, Life magazine, and, later after he moved to California, Arizona Highways. The images of people and places he'd never seen before grabbed him. He fell in love.

"I was more touched emotionally by the black and white pictures I would see in Life magazine about people's lives," Winter says. "That's what affected me."

From then on, there was no other option besides photography for Winter. Growing up to become the person who created those gripping images that captured him as a child was his only dream and, as he puts it, was also the only thing he was good at.

But it wasn't until about 27 years after his dad gave him his first camera that Winter discovered his love for photographing animals. It had all been social documentation, photographing people and cultures all over the world, before Winter was sent on assignment to follow a group of conservation scientists in Costa Rica.

Winter says his life took a 180 because of a turtle.

When he arrived in Costa Rica, Winter learned that he would have the opportunity to travel to a beach covered in wild turtles laying eggs, and he started to panic.

"I was very worried," he says. "'How am I going to get a picture of a turtle?' But it's just the same way you get a picture of a person."

Winter's passion for photographing wildlife, or natural history photography, was ignited by experiencing nature in a way he never had before during that trip to Costa Rica. But it was the passion of the scientists he was working with that turned him on to conservation.

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Evie Carpenter is a visual journalist. Using photography, videography, design, and sometimes words, she tells stories she hopes make a bit of difference in the world, even if those stories are in list form and include GIFs.
Contact: Evie Carpenter