Photographer Joel Sartore spends his days helping endangered and extinct species get ready for their closeups: patiently herding beetles, waiting for a single fly to land, approaching a wolf from just the right angle. The end results, collected in his book, Rare, offer a look at endangered -- and extinct -- species you may never see anywhere else. (These quotes from Joel are from both Rare and and an interview with TreeHugger.)
Baby Least Terns
Take these baby least terns. Joel says, "I had spent a day at an abandoned sand and gravel mine along the Platte River in central Nebraska to do a portrait of an adult least tern, working with a Nebraska biologist named Mary Brown. Mary insisted that, because the chicks were so adorable, I needed to make the time to do a quick portrait of them at day's end. We found a pair of hours-old siblings in a nest, and I photographed them for a few minutes on a white board in the deep shade of her truck, where I noticed the light had turned blue. They slept through it all, exhausted after hatching."
From Rare: "Hours-old least tern (Sterna antillarum) chicks sleep as they're photographed near North Bend, Nebraska. (Interior population is listed as Endangered.) Found across the U.S., the least term is a victim of dams: Impoundments and new channels disrupt historic waterways, drowning the sandbars that terns use for nesting colonies. Reservoir water is often too cold for the fish the birds eat."
Click through for more stunning photos of birds, bugs, and mammals, and to read Sartore's own take on getting the perfect shot.
Credit: Joel Sartore/Rare