Daniel Mîrlea is a Romanian professional nature photographer focused on nature conservation. Currently, he works and collaborates with conservation NGOs like WWF Romania, Rewilding Europe, and Conservation Carpathia. He is also the Vice President of the Romanian Nature Photography Association called FORONA. As a nature photographer, he believes that it is in our job description to be the voice of those who can’t speak, raise awareness, and find our way back to nature, our home.
How old were you when you first discovered your love of nature? What prompted this?
My entire childhood was, one way or another, connected to nature. I grew up with a river and a plain full of wild animals in the backyard, and a forest a few steps from my home.
How long have you been a photographer? What got you interested in photography?
I started photographing in 2015, with a hike in Cozia National Park. Even though in the beginning I had an urge to share the beauty of nature with others, in the last years, I tried to guide my work with this question in my mind: “How can you protect something that you don’t know exists or is threatened?”.
What led you to become active in Nature First?
As a photographer working on different conservation projects, I saw how devastating the human impact could be on nature. Photography also harmed some areas, so I believe that it’s essential to get involved, try to gain awareness, and educate those around us. I firmly believe that we should have ethical principles in the wilderness and prioritize the well-being of a place or a wild animal over a photo.
What kind of behavior distresses you the most? Do you have an example of this? How would you tie this into the Nature First principles?
I think what distresses me the most is the bad behavior of people in nature, from noisy people to those who through the trash in nature, pluck wildflowers, or harass wild animals. I saw so many beekeepers in “war” with bee-eaters; they are 100% sure that these birds are eating only birds and destroying their culture, but only 25% of their food is bees. Suppose people are becoming more aware and implementing principles such as leaving no trace, educating themselves about a place or animal, and reflecting on their possible impact. In that case, the world will be a better place.
If you had a magic wand that teleported you anywhere, where would you be taking pictures now? Why there?
I grew up with so many books about traveling, I was a fan of adventure movies, and I dreamed of seeing many places. If I had to choose a place, I would be a little greedy, and I would say the entire South America; I’m just fascinated about this continent. Especially the Amazon river and the jungle. Far from society, where I can enjoy nature, and I can learn from it.
If we were to have a bite to eat together, what would we be likely to talk about besides photography and Nature First?
There are plenty of possible topics, first of all, I think it will be the food; I’m curious about the specific of different places in the world. From there, the topics can go in different directions, for example, sports, especially European football and Formula 1 (I know that F1 it’s not sustainable, but it is one of my few guilty pleasures). After that, I think it’s time for more serious subjects such as nature, conservation or books or animals.
A picture you would like to share with us that has a history related to our principles, with a short text describing it.
I believe that there are two ways to protect a place, one is to keep it low profile and just a few people to know about it, or the second way it’s to get awareness, educate, and make people realize why it is so important to keep that place as it is right now.
At the beginning of 2021, I started a three years project in the county I live. Here we have a diverse landscape and ecosystems, from plains and wild rivers to wetlands, mountains, and wildlife such as bears, wolves, lynx, and so much more. Most locals are unaware of what diversity they have next to their homes. As the entire county is in continuous development, the impact on natural places is more significant from one day to another; some ecosystems are even destroyed. Through this project, one of the main goals is to get more local awareness about the natural diversity, to help local people to care about these places, to get them close to nature, and not, at last, to make them understand what benefits they have if the nature remains wild.
Also, through this project, I spend almost 2 years, and I have on more photographing just local, without traveling far away, so my lifestyle has become more sustainable and with a lower carbon footprint.