ABOUT THIS SITE & THE PHOTOGRAPHERHi... thanks for taking the time to visit this website. I hope you enjoy it, and that you find it both educational and fun.
Joe in the high parámo of the Andes (El Cajas, Ecuador).
Photos by Jean Camber.
The site is meant to display a small selection of images representative of my collection. So, when setting up these pages, the main goal was to display the thumbnail galleries, but I've also tried to make the pages at least a little bit educational.
Each gallery consists of thumbnailed images plus some data fields underneath them.
Since you're here, I figure maybe you want to know a little something about me... so that's what I'm going to provide... but be warned -- this is a rather long and rambling tale. If it has a morale, or even a point, I'm not sure I've figured it out yet...
I grew up (well, OK, I gradually got older) in San Diego and learned to love the outdoors at a young age. I was always into sports of all kinds, from football and wrestling to backpacking and river paddling. I started identifying with the outdoors before I was even a cub scout.
I've always been fascinated by photography, both the science and the art of it, since I was a little kid. I did my school reports on photographic topics in elementary school and most of my science fair projects as a child were related to it. But after taking some fruitless photography classes in high school, I set the camera aside for a while. I picked it up again, as a hobby and later as a supplement to my field work in the neotropics, toward the end of college.
My educational track was pretty untraditional after high school, and I've gotten lots of questions about it (particularly because I've been a student representative on the Admissions Committee of the UM Medical School).
Finishing my undergraduate degree took a little while longer than is typical because I had to take a couple semesters off in the middle to work full time in order to pay the tuition. The cost of a college education seemed exorbitant to me at the time, and was almost prohibitive... I didn't get much external help.
Being talked into buying a cuy (roasting in the foreground; ancestor of the pet guinea pig) for dinner one evening by the local cuy-cooking-queen of the open air market in Cuenca. We ordered two... tasty, but very salty. (Cuenca, Ecuador). Photo by Jean Camber.
I got by initially with some scholarships, including a couple years at the US Air Force Academy. My time at the Academy, which included the SERE pilot survival school and a couple additional wilderness survival courses, was very educational; but it was clear to me fairly early on that I didn't want a career in the military -- it was primarily economic issues that made me follow that route. So I left the Air Force and returned to San Diego, where I took as many core and ancillary courses as I could at a junior college (back in the day when JC tuition was really cheap) to knock through lower level courses as inexpensively as possible. I transferred to UC Berkeley and finished the last 2 years of degree-related courses there, including a thesis on literary theory as it relates to scientific literature.
I managed to finish my undergraduate work nearly debt free, but the process was rather grueling; even while in school I never worked less than 20 hours per week, and usually got in a full 40 hours, mostly on the graveyard shift (the chronic sleep deprivation would later prove to be good training for medical school).
That work time was still productive, though, since I spent it managing an exotic pets store. I learned more about the practical behavior and biology of fish and herpetofauna than I ever did in my undergraduate biology courses, and that knowledge wound up coming in mighty handy a few years later when I was taking students through the rainforest or over the coral reef.
I eventually returned to school and graduated with honors from UC Berkeley in 1995 (I finished coursework in '94 but took a little while to finish my honors thesis).
I did a great deal of course work in the biological sciences while there at Cal, especially in tropical ecology and ichthyology. While working on research projects related to these courses, I learned the value of accurate documentary photography in many scientific fields.
Buying fresh produce for lunch... yeah, I know... it's not piping hot, and I'm not going to peel them with a dirty pocket knife... so, I washed them with some bottled water and then hoped for the best. We never did have any problems with stomach upset, etc. while in Ecuador. (Otavalo, Ecuador). Photo by Jean Camber.
After graduation, I continued the work as a wilderness guide and ecology instructor that I started doing while still in college, and also worked for a while as a scuba diving and first aid instructor, which rekindled my earlier interest in medicine, and that steadily grew over the following years. I completed my EMT training and slowly started planning when I'd return to school to pursue my MD education... but life got in the way of that for a few more years...
I trained as a scientific diver under the "old regime" at Berkeley (back when the program still had teeth and the training was a full year long). It struck me during this time that there was a lot of stuff going on, both above and below the waves, that needed to be captured on film, so I started trying to do that, and added underwater photography to my palette. This is by far the most technically challenging of all types of photography, and I'm still learning how to do it properly... it will likely be a life-long study.
Over the next several years after I graduated from Berkeley, I was fortunate enough to travel to some very special places while working as an ecotourism guide, and I took my cameras with me whereever I went. I've never had much formal education in photography, so a lot of the images from those early trips are rather bland or just simply awful... but you've got to plow through the initial rolls in order to see what you're doing wrong or doing right, and in time my percentage yield of keepable images from each roll climbed substantially.
During my time as a guide, I worked on several field research projects with faculty in the departments of
Geography and Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley. This was when I first started to publish some of my photographs, in reports and articles about these projects.
A "cleansing ceremony" in the Ecuadorean Amazon with a local curandero. Photo by Jean Camber.
My travels while teaching and working on projects have taken me throughout Central and South America, as well as the South Pacific and a spattering of other locations. I worked as a contract writer for a division of Fodor's and completed a budget travel guide for Scotland (the Berkeley Guides series).
This was a great period for travel, but my photographic skills were somewhat rudimentary, so I didn't keep a lot of the images from those early trips. Subsequent projects in Costa Rica and Ecuador, plus personal travel to Argentina and Cuba in recent years, have yielded a much more prolific crop of images.
At the same time I was beginning to travel a lot, I was also starting to learn about tropical plant horticulture, especially epiphytes (i.e. orchids, Epiphyllum cacti, etc.). I'd long been interested in tropical plants, and studied their adaptations and unique characters in my classes, but didn't really know much about their day-to-day culture. Needless to say, the first few orchids I tried to grow didn't fare too well.
In time, however, I've become quite adept at growing even difficult tropicals. The travel to Ecuador's Amazon was particularly motivational in terms of prompting me to set a personal goal to learn more about medicinal plants and their uses in the modern world. Some of that is discussed in the Biodiversity and Human Health materials I've been compiling. I now have a collection of several hundred tropical orchids and rainforest cacti, plus an assortment of other genera, including Aristolochia and Passiflora.
Paddling the inland waterways of Tortuguero, Costa Rica; camera strapped to chest.
Photo courtesy of Dr. David Smethurst.
I love to learn about the natural world -- whether it be the complexities of a tropical ecosystem or the intricacies of our bodies -- and to share that joy of learning with others. So I really enjoyed being a guide and instructor in the rainforests of Central America and on the coral reefs of the Caribbean. In addition to my instructional and research experiences in the field, I also taught biology and marine biology in a traditional high school setting for two years before returning to the university arena to study medicine.
Joe teaching students in Tortuguero, Costa Rica about river current mapping and water testing techniques.
Photo courtesy of Dr. David Smethurst.
My time as a classroom instructor in a formal system, where lesson plans and textbooks ruled the day, was an interesting contrast to the free-form, experience-directed teaching I did as a guide in a field setting, where we talked about whatever or whomever we happened to encounter on the trail. Both are valuable modes of imparting knowledge, and I'm glad I've gained insight into both methods... I think it makes me a better teacher overall and, in the long run, will be a great asset to my career as a physician, where patient education is a crucial part of every encounter.
You can see more of my photography on the UC Berkeley CalPhotos pages. If you'd like to contact me, write to me at with your request or comment.
Photographing a metallic purple tarantula in the Ecuadorean Amazon (click the spider at right to see the enlargement).
Photo by Jean Camber.
HOW TO VIEW & INTERPRET THE IMAGES ON THIS SITE
A truncated list of the publications that have used my images:
National Geographic's "Coral World" Map.
This project was a massive undertaking. Cartographers at UC Berkeley's Department of Geography were contracted by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration (as part of the Terramar Initiative) to map the distribution of coral reefs around the world.
They created a specialized projection that emphasizes the equator, creating a marvelous map on one side and a beautiful reef scene on the other. In addition to the reef scence, several succinct blocks of text describe zooanthid polyp biology, the process of coral reef formation, and many of the threats that face reefs today.
The map is 2 feet tall and over 6 feet long. It makes an impressive wall display, and is truly excellent for science classrooms and aficionados of the underwater world.
The cartographers and graphic artists (Timothy Norris, Madison Roswell, and Steve Rose) spent countless hours compositing thousands of images of all kinds of marine lifeforms from tropical seas to create a virtual coral reef depicting all the key zones that impact reef health, from the mangroves to the turtle grass beds to the reef face.
I contributed dozens of images to the reef scene composite, including all the sharks, dolphins, and large sea turtles. Many of the fish, birds, and corals are also mine. A good friend of mine, Allen Wicks, deserves most the image credit for this project... he contributed the majority of the background images, the mangrove images, and most of the coral and sponge images.
May 2004 issue of Currents.
The Enchanted Braid : Coming to Terms with Nature on the Coral Reef
Osha Davidson's fantastic exploration of life on the coral reef and current conservation issues.
Publisher: John Wiley
& Sons; (March 27, 1998)
Several images used in the central photographic pages. Available on Amazon.com
Revised Edition by Tracy I. Storer, Robert L. Usinger, and David Lukas (UC Press). 592 pages, 5 x 8 inches, 536 color photographs.
First published forty years ago, this handbook has become an enduring natural history classic, used by thousands to learn more about virtually every aspect of this spectacular mountain range--from its superb flora and fauna to its rugged topography. Comprehensive yet concise and portable, the book describes hundreds of species: trees and shrubs, flowering plants and ferns, fungi and lichens, insects and fish, amphibians and reptiles, and birds and mammals. Now completely updated and revised, it will continue to be the essential guide to the Sierra Nevada.
More than 40 of my images
were used to help illustrate this guide, including one of the cover
San Joaquin Physician. Monthly magazine of the San Joaquin Medical Society.
The Michigan Medical Journal, 2003. The journal published by the University of Michigan Medical School.
Cover photograph (Cancer gracilis on Pelagia sp. jellyfish), plus over a dozen internal images.
South Yuba River State Park Wildflower Guide (California State Parks).
Images used to illustrate California wildflowers.
I created this full color trifold brochure with grant money from the Wilderness Medical Society.
This brochure outlines some of the everyday products and services that Nature provides for us, including some of our most commonly used medications.
It gives some background information, and provides a list of things everyone can easily do to help protect biodiversity and the natural ecosystems of the planet.
California Sea Grant. Promotional materials (bookmarks, binders, etc.)
My workhorse lenses are the Nikkor 17-35mm and Nikkor 105mm. I also use a Nikkor 70-300 on occasion.