Pete Muller@petekmuller

National Geographic Photography Fellow. Visual case studies on human ecology, masculinity and conflict. Nairobi, Kenya.

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The Clearwater River winds through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in Idaho. The water moves swiftly over rocks yet remains gin-clear for a great many miles. I stop occasionally, collect my fly fishing rod and make a few casts along the banks. I never understood how disconnected I was from the rhythms of nature until I endeavored to catch fish with a fly. For over a year, I paid little mind to the basic disposition and desires of the fish I hoped to catch. I understood little about the entomology of the rivers in which I fitfully cast my line. I thought less about where fish might be or how I might entice them. I assumed that--by matter of miracle--a fish would simply take the fly. For longer than I care to admit, not a single one did. I could almost hear them laughing. As I explore issues related to humans and the natural world, fly fishing offers me perspective and humility. Follow @petekmuller on this unfolding journey for @natgeo. #idaho #clearwater #USA #nature #fishing #flyfishing #AmericanWest


Ground growth changes color along the Wallowa Mountain range in eastern Oregon. At this time of year, the air here is as brisk as it is fresh. I’m astounded by the variation in landscape in this part of the United States. High, sparsely-vegetated desert plains suddenly give away to green, snow-capped mountains. It’s a fascinating topographic shift that seems to have had an effect on social culture, too. I find autumn more invigorating and nostalgic than any other season. Thinking a lot about my relationship with the natural world—which has varied considerably over the years. #USA #Oregon #PNW #America #mountains #nature #wallowamountains #wallowas


Shades of yellow along the banks of the Deschutes River in central Oregon. As I fished this wide and fast-flowing channel, I was overwhelmed by the smell of wild sage growing prominently along the banks. It was the second time in as many months that the defining element of a scene was its smell. I find this incredible and frustrating at once as it is one aspect of experience that simply cannot be shared. I can photograph the landscape and record the sound of the river’s flow but I have no tool that allows me to preserve and share that defining aroma. #nature #outdoors #fishing #USA #Oregon #west #Deschutes #river #flyfishing


Kenyan and Tanzanian wildlife rangers gather for night operations along the border of their two countries. The same ecosystem spans the border, known as Masai Mara in Kenya and Serengeti in Tanzania. Rangers units from the respective countries collaborate in order to deter and disrupt poachers that operate on both sides of the border. While elephant poaching is down, particularly in Masai Mara, bushmeat hunting remains a persistent and consequently problem in the border zone. #masaimara #kenya #Tanzania #wildlife #conservation #poaching #antipoaching


The rescue team struggles to load the elephant calf into the aircraft. #Kenya #masaimara #conservation #Africa #elephants #wildlife


Part 4: The nervous elephant calf, unaware of the team’s helpful intent, charged and trumpeted as men grasped at its tail and hind legs. It took several minutes—and a few close calls—for the team of rangers and veterinarians to bring the animal under control. #Kenya #masaimara #conservation #wildlife #elephant #animals


First, the veterinary team used a dart gun to administer a small dose of sedative, careful not to use too much. Once the sedative took effect, a team of rangers and vets set about safely taking down the calf. The process resembled calf-roping at a rodeo, but less graceful. The elephant, unaware of the team’s helpful intent, charged and trumpeted as men grasped at its tail and hind legs. The scene played out like a Marx brothers sketch on the open savannah. As a photographer, I wanted to capture the contorted faces of the vets and rangers as they struggled to—quite literally—catch an elephant by the tail. This forced me in front of the melee, standing before the struggling elephant like some kind of witless, accidental matador. The elephant seemed to surge new anger and energy each time it spotted me in its line of vision. I was in a precarious position. #Kenya #Africa #wildlife #conservation #elephant #orphan #rescue


Shades of pale. Eastern Oregon. #Oregon #thewest #USA #america


The mornings are brisk in Kenya's Muranga County, particularly at this time of year. Fog defines the early hours, especially in the county's upper reaches where the altitude climbs to nearly 6200 feet (1850 meters) above sea level. This rural county, approximately 2 hours north of the capital city of Nairobi, is home to lush and seemingly endless tea plantations, beautiful rolling hills and gin-clear rivers. While many relish Kenya's world-famous savannas, I often opt for its rich, green highlands instead. I pack my fly fishing rod, my pup, a few days worth of food and set out for these serene and restorative hills. #Kenya #Africa #nature #outdoors #green #fishing #flyfishing


Here's a self-portrait that I made while fishing with my dog, Mosi, along the banks of the Mathioya River in Kenya. Over the years I've taken countless pictures of the landscape, and of Mosi, and of Mosi in the landscape, but I really wanted a picture of all of us together. It's the obvious yet strange irony of being a photographer: your life is defined by and chronicled in pictures, yet you so rarely appear in any of them. #kenya #africa #fishing #flyfishing #adventure #nature #outdoors


Headed to new fishing beats along the Mathioya River in central #Kenya. #Kenya #flyfishing #Africa #outdoors #nature


Along the Mathioya river, the sound of rushing water makes the world beyond feel like tracing. Deep in Kenya's Muranga County, the river meanders between hills and sustains artisanal tea plantations, which in turn sustain the community. Foot paths span its banks, from which I cast my fly line with rainbow trout in mind. Owing to Muranga's high altitude, the days are both radiant and temperate at once, allowing for comfortable wading in pursuit of fish. In between assignments, I visit Muranga as often as I possible. It is, perhaps, the most serene and restorative place I know. #Kenya #Africa #rivers #outdoors #nature #fishing


Two elephants graze on the savanna in Kenya's Masai Mara National Park. After nearly a decade of living and working on the African continent, I am still amazed to watch these large creatures in the wild. And while we have ascribed a near-majestic status to elephants, it is important to remember they are but one component of a vast and interdependent ecosystem. #Elephants #africa #kenya #masaimara #maasaimaranationalreserve #conservation #wildlife #nature #animals


Thousands of wire snares, removed from areas of Kenya's Mara Triangle, stacked at a ranger station. Individuals from adjacent communities set the snares with the aim of trapping wildebeests and other animals for consumption as bushmeat. Occasionally, rhinos and other endangered species become tangled in them. I struggle at times with the definitions of "poacher." Sure, bushmeat hunting is problematic, but to me it is a different category than commercial ivory poaching. Unfortunately, the two are often conflated. #kenya #masaimara #maasaimara #conservation #wildlife #africa #animals #nature


Kenyan rangers from the Mara Conservency set out on a foot patrol just before dawn. Each night, ranger units set up ambush points where the aim to disrupt & arrest potential poachers. Kenyan and Tanzanian rangers often work collaboratively and across borders in order to address shared concerns in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. This picture appears as it does because of the use of infrared technology. #conservation #kenya #maasaimara #masaimara #poaching #antipoaching #Africa #wildlife


A vet from the Mara Conservency readies a stimulant injection to wake a female rhino after he attached a tracking device to her ear in Kenya's Maasai Mara National Park.This rhino has been ranging farther afield in recent months, making her more vulnerable to poachers. Conservationists wanted to implant the device in order to gain a better and more consistent sense of her whereabouts. Rangers from the Mara Conservency work day and night to deter poaching threats to wildlife in the park. #wildlife #conservation #rhino #MaasaiMara #Kenya #nature #


Cool new goodies from the folks in the @natgeo photo engineering department. Now, let's go see what poachers are up to. #poaching #wildlife #conservation #Kenya #Africa #nature #animals


"Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn’t. Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters." -Norman McClean. #Norway #driva #river #fishing #flyfishing #scandinavia #adventure #outdoors #nature


Smoke break, Trondheim. An interesting week working with Norwegian and refugee youth in this small, subdued city. We embarked on a verbal and photographic exploration regarding notions of home and belonging. I've long been interested in the anatomy of national identity and this has certainly been an inquiry on that question. Grateful to those with whom I shared the journey. #norway #trondheim @ngphotocamp @ngpcnorway #Scandinavia #Norwegian


I wander into churches because I have an abiding yet inexplicable draw to them. I am not religious and my views on the subject can, at times, be disapproving. But I often sense something powerful in places of worship; the energy that believers emit within them. Today, in the Nidaros Cathedral in the Norwegian city of Trondheim, I discovered a performance and conversation with @daniellanois, the legendary music producer who brought to fruition some of the most notable tunes by U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and many others. When asked which U2 song he was most proud of, he selected "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." "I think most of us never really find what we're looking for," he explained in a poignant tone. "The song was really born from that humble premise." He spoke at length about his musical philosophies, often borrowing the photographic term "depth of field" to explain musical layering and complexity. It was nice to get my kind of religion inside a church. #Trondheim #norway #senendipity


A moment of decompression on the shores of Lake Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of #Congo.


My good friend, @giaxomo, submits to cheek-squeezing by his aunts in the southern Italian village of Bovino. Giacomo's mother, Dina, grew up here before emigrating to the United States. While he has visited Bovino most summers since his childhood, his presence remains novel and welcomed. Friends and relatives react with pleasant surprise when they recognize him, often approaching with an endearing warmth stoked by elapsed time. They bite their lips, kiss his cheeks and playfully slap his face. It is a pleasure to watch every single time. #family #Italy #Italia #Bovino #Puglia


The set sets over the agricultural fields of Bovino, Italy. The summer days are hot here and the fading sun offers some respite. The fields beyond this small, mountaintop village continue to sustain many of its inhabitants. While farmers and shepherds reside in Bovino, their work exists in the surrounding lands. I'm interested in communities that retain pace and rhythm with their respective environments. In Bovino, it feels as though most people understand the intricacies of connection between season and sustenance. #bovino #italy #italia #travel


Carlo, a retired barber, looks out over the agricultural fields of #Bovino, Italy. To occupy his time, he makes wine, cheese and other traditional foods and runs a small space devoted to the preservation of history and culture in this tiny mountain village. Expecting no payment, he took us on a guided tour of Bovino's historic districts, telling stories going back to the pre-Roman period--tales of bandits, agricultural development, counterfeit money, and illicit romances. I wonder who in my generation is taking it upon themselves to learn these tales. Bovino is beautiful. #Italy #history #puglia


Members of the @intotheokavango Wilderness Project look through samples of insects in an entomology institute outside the Angolan city of #Huambo. The collection is vast and exceptionally well organized. More remarkable, still, is that it remained perfectly intact throughout Angola's vicious civil war. The facility has only intermittent electricity and lacks the capacity to undertake much contemporary research. Expedition team members, many of whom are regional field biologists, marveled at the samples and lamented the fact that such a collection remains largely out of reach of the broader scientific community. "I did my masters research on a particular type of regional butterfly," said Goetz Neef, the expedition's chief researcher. "I knew that the species also lived in Angola but I had no access to such specimens. We didn't even know that such an amazing collection existed. My research would have been much richer had I had access to this place." As we prepared to leave, Dr. Paul Skelton, a South African fish biologist approached me. "Pete, you're not a biologist so perhaps you might not immediately appreciate how much time and effort went into building this collection," he said. "This took decades of the lives of many people." I've covered a lot of conflict but it is often these moments, when I see how war's residue continues to undermine potential, that I find most poignant. #intotheokavango #cubango2017 #conservation #Africa #biodiversity #expedition #Angola


Photo and caption by @petekmuller. A hearty congratulations to @adjanycosta, Assistant Director of Nat Geo's @intotheokavango project, who was named a 2017 #EmergingExplorer at the National Geographic Explorer's Festival in Washington, DC. In this picture we see Adjany moving through the grass as she collects fish samples along the upper reaches of the #Cubango River in her home country of #Angola. Beyond being an extraordinary ichthyologist (fish biologist), Adjany is, in many ways, the beating heart of the Okavango Wilderness Project. Her intensely human, emotional connection to her work underlies her focus and devotion. Even when she was sick with malaria, Adjany found encouraging words for the rest of the team. Few are more deserving than she of this important honor. Follow the @intotheokavango team as they survey the headwaters of the Okavango Delta with the aim of protecting them for future generations. #Africa #conservation #biology #biodiversity #science #exploration #expedition


Once in a while, grunts get to feel like rock stars. Grateful for an incredible and deeply inspiring week at the National Geographic Explorers Festival. #natgeofest


Each day, as the @intotheokavango river team arrives at their campsite, data collection specialist Abhi Ravivarma sends up a drone to make aerial images of the surrounding area. As the team moves down the Cubango River in Angola, they collect water samples, note various flora and fauna and create exhaustive visual records of the river system. Throughout every paddle stroke, Abhi oversees a camera rig that collects 360 degree images from the boat level. The Okanvango Wilderness Project aims to create exhaustive surveys of the main tributaries that support the #Okavango Delta, a pristine and biodiversity-rich wilderness in northern #Botswana. In order to ensure the ecological health of the Delta, the project leaders aim to protect critical swaths of the tributaries. #intotheokavango #cubango2017 #Angola #science #biodiversity #conservation #river #Cubango #Africa #expedition