A variety of fish swimming, Osprey Reef, Coral Sea © Darren Jew

A variety of fish swimming, Osprey Reef, Coral Sea © Darren Jew

The stories behind the lens

25 Jun 2018

  • coral
  • coral sea
  • coral triangle
  • great barrier reef
  • marine turtles

You may not be familiar with their names, but their photos are instantly recognisable.

These iconic images have had a huge impact both in Australia and around the world. We take you behind lens and introduce you to two of our favourite photographers who we’ve been lucky enough to partner with over the years.


Meet Darren Jew

Darren Jew is a familiar name in the world of underwater photography. One of his famous shots is of a whale shark, spectacularly illuminated by sun rays.

In the late 90s/early 2000s I was hired to head-up WWF International’s Living Planet Magazine. The project was made possible by WWF-US and WWF-UK but WWF-Australia was also part of it. It was an exciting time producing a news-stand quality magazine designed to highlight global environmental issues and WWF programs across the planet.

The Ningaloo whale shark shot with WWF’s Paul Gamblin was taken when I was on a project shooting in Western Australia in 2005. I’d been in the Wheatbelt looking at salinity issues, and programs to protect wetland in the greater Perth area, before heading up to Ningaloo Reef to photograph whale sharks where Paul was working on ocean conservation initiatives.

Whale shark (Rhincodon typus), Ningaloo Reef © Darren Jew / WWF-Aus

In 2011, WWF-Australia’s Marine Protected Areas Campaign was front and centre, and I put together a expedition to the remote reefs of the Coral Sea, off Cape York. The expedition was designed to highlight the need for MPAs around Australia and we blogged about the trip on WWF-Australia’s website as a way of getting the images and stories out. The images produced helped show Australians this amazing region – and sadly they’ve had to been called-on again recently as the Australian Government works to downgrade the protection of the Commonwealth MPAs. It just shows that in conservation your work is never done.

It’s now been about 18 years since I first started shooting for WWF, and since WWF-Australia has campaigned for the Great Barrier Reef for many of their 40 years it’s been great to be able to supply the images that have helped those campaigns succeed.


An underwater selfie © Darren Jew

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Meet Jürgen Freund

Jürgen Freund has over 30 years of experience in photojournalism, conservation, adventure and commercial photography. He’s contributed over 3,000 stunning photos to the whole WWF network, but he and his wife Stella have a special connection with WWF-Australia.

The subjects of my photos in WWF’s Photo Library are not just underwater images, there are people & their cultures and of course, the different natural habitats of the Coral Triangle (predominantly from the Philippines, Malaysia (Sabah), Indonesia & Papua New Guinea). I’ve also shot a lot of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – living in Cairns since 2003 it’s our backyard, so to speak.

In 2008, we were approached by the manager of WWF International's photo library to do a three month expedition to three countries in the Coral Triangle –The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. We wanted to cover all countries of the Coral Triangle, including the Pacific countries of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. And we proposed to do it in a year, at our pace. The one year plan became 18 months and we were asked to maintain a blog to make this journey known to the world. Check out blogs.panda.org/coral_triangle for the stories and pictures.


A baby green sea turtle swims on the water surface © Jürgen Freund / WWF


While I’ve photographed many things on land, underwater photography is my true passion. I learned to dive in the 80s. But even before learning how to dive, I bought an underwater housing for my camera. I've never been underwater without bringing an underwater camera with me. Here I found freedom and so much nature I could capture with my lens.

I also like land and aerial photography. In 2011 we did a story on Lake Eyre – typically a dry salt basin in the deep Australian outback - back then it had water after all the monsoonal rains over the months before from Queensland and the Northern Territory. For three years in a row, rain waters from these two far away states trickled into Lake Eyre in South Australia as it’s the deepest part of this continent, the lowest point being about 15 metres below sea level! It's phenomenal! Water brings life into everything. We flew over the Simpson Desert, which is known for its red rust sandy dunes, but because of the water that came through, the dry desert was covered in GREEN vegetation! And where there are creeks, rivers and lagoons with water, the bird life is sure to be there! Water brought all this life in.

Water brings life into everything. If you’re interested in nature, flora and fauna, being involved in WWF activities can transport you to nature - to the water environments that cherish life.


 The Freunds with WWF Indonesia Cenderawasih Bay staff on Gurano Bintang educational boat during the Coral Triangle expedition © Jürgen Freund / WWF

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