Category Archives: The Story Behind the Image

The story behind the photograph.

Kingston’s photography featured on NatGeo.com Climate Change Story

Panoramic view of the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hilo, Hawaii. (Jonathan Kingston)
Panoramic view of the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hilo, Hawaii. (Jonathan Kingston)

Two and a half years ago I photographed a climate change story for The New York Times at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.  While on assignment, one of the NOAA scientists was kind enough to give me the tube (pictured below), with a admonition that I should hang on to it – as it is a historical sample of the CO2 levels below 400ppm – probably the last years it will be under this benchmark in our lifetimes. His prediction came to pass this May as the concentration of CO2 in the earths atmosphere passed the 400ppm mark.

2010 air sample showing 390 ppm atmospheric CO2 from the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii.
2010 air sample showing 390 ppm atmospheric CO2 from the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii.

Robert Kunzig, a senior editor for National Geographic magazine, wrote a brilliant piece explaining some of the history behind the Keeling curve and putting the 400 ppm CO2 threshold in historical context.  It is well worth the read.

Jonathan Kingston featured on National Geographic Stock

Jonathan Kingston Featured on National Geographic Stock Blog
Jonathan Kingston Featured on National Geographic Stock Blog.

Two years ago I photographed a personal project over the course of a month in China.  I had the good fortune to spend most of the time traveling with a dear friend who had just moved back to Beijing to start a fuel cell company.  As often happens when I travel – there was a very fine line between visiting a country as a tourist and getting beyond the surface.  I find the only way to get deeper is to have deep connections with subjects you are photographing.  This can’t be rushed and I feel blessed to have made many deep connections world wide over the last 10 years of my career as a photographer. You can click through to the image set on the Nat Geo Stock blog here.

Jonathan Kingston’s photography featured in The New York Times

A time exposure at Mauna Loa Observatory, lasting a little over an hour, produced star trails as Earth rotated.
A time exposure at Mauna Loa Observatory, lasting a little over an hour, produced star trails as Earth rotated.
December 22, 2010 - Front page of the New York Times - Jonathan Kingston
December 22, 2010 - Front page of the New York Times - Jonathan Kingston

Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, in early December I found myself on the side of a volcano at 11,141 feet on the Big Island of Hawaii photographing a story for the New York Times.  The story revolves around the research facility and dedicated staff that has been taking continuous measurements of CO2 in the air since the late 1950’s.  Its a great read and an honor to be featured on the front page of the NYT.   You can read it online here listen to the audio slideshow here and see the slideshow here.  Enjoy!

LISTEN TO THE BHOPPAS PLAY THE RAVANATHA DURING THE PUSHKAR MELA


Click play to listen to the Bhoppas sing with the Ravanatha.

Shamdar Bhoppa plays his great grandfathers Ravanatha while his wife, Shamma Bhoppa sings. The Bhoppas once made good money as traveling musicians before the tragic loss of one of their sons due to complications from a kidney stone.  The Bhoppas survive in a makeshift hut at the edge of the desert and support themselves by making and selling Ravanathas during festivals like the Pushkar Mela.
Shamdar Bhoppa plays his great grandfathers Ravanatha while his wife, Shamma Bhoppa sings. The Bhoppas once made good money as traveling musicians before the tragic loss of one of their sons due to complications from a kidney stone. The Bhoppas survive in a makeshift hut at the edge of the desert and support themselves off the sales of Ravanathas made by Mr. Bhoppa and sold by his children during festivals like the Pushkar Mela.

Jonathan Kingston featured in United Nations FAO Review

Potato harvest in Tamil Nadu, southern India.
Potato harvest in Tamil Nadu, southern India.
Jonathan Kingston's photography featured in UN FAO End of Year Review
Jonathan Kingston's photography featured in UN FAO End of Year Review

2008 was designated the “International Year of the Potato”  by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.  According to Jacques Diouf, the Director-General of the FAO, “The potato is on the frontline in the fight against world hunger and poverty.”  I produced the above image while living in Tamil Nadu, teaching photography at Light and Life Academy, south Asia’s first photography school.  In the background you can see a large tea plantation that produces much of the CTC tea for the Tetley tea company.  I was just recovering from a nasty case of typhoid fever when I took this frame and was only strong enough to click off half a roll or so before exhaustion forced me to retire to my bungalow that shared the same hillside as the potato farmers.