Spring 2024

Monterey Bay Life New Book Features Iconic Images by Famed National Geographic Photographer Frans Lanting B Y D I NA RU I Z I f a human sees an estimated 25 million images in an average lifetime, iconic wildlife photographer Frans Lanting has probably seen double that. Lanting, known worldwide, lives quietly just outside of Santa Cruz with his partner in life and work, Chris Eckstrom.They’ve spent decades traversing the globe for National Geographic , and spend much of their “free time” leading expeditions in locations such as Antarctica. But now the couple is pulling focus on what exists in their literal and figurative backyard— the greater Monterey Bay region as revealed in their startlingly beautiful “Bay of Life” project. In “Bay of Life,” they show us what is right in front of our eyes, but mostly unseen. “We’re inspired by the beauty and the diversity of the Monterey Bay. Chris and I have been world travelers for decades, so we look at Monterey Bay, both as local residents—we’ve been here for a long time—but we are also able to look at it from a global perspective.We’ve long known that this place is really unique,” says Lanting.The project includes a breathtaking book, exhibits and educational programs all around the bay. The Monterey Bay, its bordering mountains, and finger-like valleys are home to such an astounding amount of life—be it winged-creatures, fish, land or marine mammals—that it's left the dynamic duo stunned. “Monterey Bay is the hottest hot spot for biodiversity in all of North America, and that’s based on science from the Nature Conservancy. We have a diversity of plants and animals that is unparalleled.You can travel all the way from the shores of the Monterey Bay to the East Coast, and not see anything that compares. It’s a combination of the marine resources and the land resources— it’s off the charts,” says Lanting. Lanting and Eckstrom have been making magic together since 1989 after a friend introduced the staff writer and photographer while both were working for National Geographic . “We actually met in the National Geographic cafeteria where all sorts of interesting people turn up,” Eckstrom says.“We’ve been together ever since.” Lanting is behind the lens, and Eckstrom provides the words and video content for their projects. Lanting uses the word “we” to describe all the work that bears his name. The first book they created together is called “Forgotten Edens,” and the pair feels their “Bay of Life” project brings the concept full circle.“We are wanting to inspire people to treasure this region which we con- sider to be an Eden, as well,” Eckstrom explains.“Don’t you think a lot of people who are privileged to live here regard it as such?” Lanting adds.“It’s not a place that is pristine, because there’s a million people who live in the larger Monterey Bay Region, but we’ve cultivated a relationship with the natural world that has been very nurturing. I’m not saying there are no big environmental issues, but we’re really on a good path to take care of the place that sustains us.” 126 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G 2 0 2 4