Carlton Ward Jr is a conservation photographer who has worked throughout the world and has chosen to focus on his native Florida. His passion for nature was born from the Florida landscape, where eight generations of family history have grounded his perspective. The locations and subjects of his photographs are selected to tell specific stories about the unique heritage of Florida’s lands and waters. One of Carlton’s highest hopes is that through his art he can contribute to expanding Florida’s identity to include its original nature that is often hiding in plain sight – and inspire its protection.
Carlton discovered his passion for photography during college while studying biology and anthropology. He started out shooting film, color slides and black and white negatives, and developed his technique by meticulously recording his exposure data in notebooks so he could train himself to see like film. He began his transition to digital from 1998 to 2001 during internships with the Smithsonian Institution and Tampa Bay Times (formally the St. Petersburg Times), and began shooting with a digital camera exclusively in 2006 when the quality of his digital sensors surpassed film.
Using a photojournalistic approach, Carlton’s works portray real moments as truthfully as possible. The only modifications from an original digital image to a printed photograph are tone and contrast adjustments. Trying to capture the essence of subjects requires Carlton to work in the early morning and late evening, often before sunrise and after sunset when the quality of light enables the broadest array of color and detail to be rendered. Most of his creative process is done behind the camera, trying different compositions and exposures. This process hasn’t changed much from film to digital – the magazines Ward works for require him to show everything he shoots in its original form, so he has to get it right behind the camera without the option of computer enhancements.
Carlton earned a Master’s degree in Ecology from the University of Florida and wrote Conservation Photography, the first thesis on the emerging field. In 2005, he became a founding fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). For his first book, The Edge of Africa (2004), Carlton worked for the Smithsonian Institution for three years documenting little known biological diversity in the tropical rain forests of Gabon. Resulting photographs were exhibited at a United Nations reception in New York. His second book, Florida Cowboys (2009), won a medal in the Florida Book Awards and for that work Popular Photography Magazine featured him for working to save vanishing America.
While photographing for his Florida Cowboys book, Carlton learned about the habitat needs of Florida black bears and founded the Florida Wildlife Corridor campaign in 2010. Carlton became a National Geographic Explorer in 2012. With fellow explorers Mallory Dimmitt and Joe Guthrie, he has since trekked 2,000 miles during two expeditions through the Corridor to bring attention to a statewide vision to keep Florida wild. Both expeditions produced acclaimed books, PBS films and widespread outreach.
In 2015, Carlton was given the Conservation Leadership Award from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and named the Rolex Artist-in-Residence with the Explorers Club. He is currently working to photograph the Florida panther through his third grant from the National Geographic Society.
Carlton’s photographs are widely exhibited and collected and have been published in newspapers and magazines including Audubon, Smithsonian, Geo, Africa Geographic, Nature Conservancy and National Geographic. Read about Carlton's adventures here: Fieldnotes.
Fine art prints can be purchased through CarltonWard.com and by visiting the Carlton Ward Gallery in Tampa, Florida. Limited edition photographs are available in sizes ranging from 10x15” to 40x60” and up to 28x84” for panoramic images. The photographs are printed on Epson and Kodak papers using archival pigment inks. In addition to individual photos, Ward offers portfolio collections focused on natural heritage themes including Florida Wildlife Corridor, Tampa Bay, Gulf Coast and Florida Frontier.