Tom Mangelsen. Although he is counted among the world’s greatest wildlife photographers, you may not know his name. But I bet you’ll recognize his work. Especially this one: titled Catch of the Day, it’s one of the most widely circulated and published wildlife photographs in history.

Mangelsen bear
Other photographers have tried to duplicate this, without success.


Films, like Disney’s Lion, Chimpanzee and Bear movies, and documentaries such as The Cove, and Black Fish, as well as social media, are all increasingly important catalysts for conservation. And so are the images of Tom Mangelsen and other wildlife photographers.


As wildlife and wild places dwindle under the pressures of habitat loss, global warming, illegal trade, population growth and more, the closest many people around the world will ever come to these last great wild places and wild animals will be through an image of them.


And that is exactly why Tom lugs massive amounts of camera equipment around the world: searching for patterns and shadows in the sand dunes of Namib, trekking in Patagonia and India to find pumas and tigers, lying in bird and elephant seal poop in South Georgia, and sitting still for days at a time in bird blinds in Mexico, hoping to capture a once in a million moment that will inspire people to care.

Saving Wild tiger

As Todd Wilkinson writes in Tom Mangelsen’s just released book, The Last Great Wild Places, “He chronicles only wild subjects, brooking no shortcuts, venturing inveterately into the jaws of abominable cold where cameras freeze and hands turn frostbitten; through sweltering heat where the lens glass fogs over from steamy humidity; hunkering down in torrential downpours and braving outbacks where swarms of mosquitoes run riot on exposed flesh.” Often times alongside predators higher on the food chain than Mangelsen himself.


I’ve been with Tom in his hometown of Jackson Hole, Wyoming while he photographed the famous grizzly bears of Teton National Park. I carried one of his massive telephoto lenses to join a group of world-renowned photographers in front of a cottonwood tree clicking photos of fledging great horned owls peering out of a heart-shaped hole.

Great Horned owl with owlets in Cottonwood tree.

One time I found Tom behind a bush, semi-hidden from a crowd of tourists and other photographers watching a great grey owl. “He hasn’t eaten for 2 hours, so he should be hungry again soon,” explained Tom. “I have a million shots of grey owls against old weathered barns,” he told me. “I’m waiting for him to hunt.”


That’s Tom’s genius. He understands animals, their biology, behavior, desires and fears. He often plans his shot around what he anticipates the animal will do and he is often right, observes Wilkinson.


He’s searching and waiting for that split second when everything comes together – the light, the animal, the bird, the background, the shadows. It takes quiet observation and mostly patience to find those moments. Then it takes a combination of other qualities that are uniquely Tom Mangelsen – his background in biology, his passion for animals, and his deep commitment to conservation – to capture that moment in an image that will inspire others.

Join others who share your passion for Wildlife and Wild Places: 

“It seems to me he has the same kind of reverence for the spiritual essence of the wilderness as the Native American who believes that life on Earth is sacred, a gift from the Creator,” says Tom’s dear friend and one of his greatest influences, Jane Goodall.


That gift is evident on every page of The Last Great Wild Places where forty years of Tom Mangelsen’s work are displayed in a 2 foot by 1 foot, 10 pound testament to Tom the conservationist, Tom the artist, and Tom the lover of all things wild.


Mangelsen books
The Last Great Wild Places Book Cover


“I believe this book will stir in some a wanderlust they never knew they had and waken a desire for them to go into the wilderness themselves. I believe it will strengthen the commitment, shared by many who have experienced the wild places, to work to preserve them; and I hope it will inspire others to join that dedicated fellowship. Together we must ensure that the extraordinary beauty of nature, captured here, remains a reality,” says Jane Goodall in the foreword to The Last Great Wild Places.


It is with reverence that I turn the pages of my copy of The Last Great Places. Reverence for the wildlife and wild places the book showcases, and for all that Tom Mangelsen has done and continues to do for saving them.


Get your Copy of The Last Great Wild Places at Tom Mangelsen’s web site or visit one of his galleries. 



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10 Replies to “Tom Mangelsen’s Last Great Wild Places”

  1. This amazing famous photo encapsulates the sheer patience and tenacity of photographer and brown bear alike, the ability to hold out, remain steadfast and place yourself so that you are ready to grab the right opportunity when it flies past your waiting jaws.

  2. Tom captures the wonder and mystery of nature and wildlife in a way that very few other photographers can and do…..he has utmost respect, coupled with understanding of their behaviour and ability/talent with the technology. But….what I also appreciate enormously…he still sees with eyes that completely lack in world-weariness. He shows us what is breathtaking in the world around us.

  3. a few year ago i went to vegas for a animal conference. i was looking to kill some time so i looked thru the hotel mag and i came across an ad for a nature gallery, as i’m not a mall person, but it was a block or two away, so i went. all the way at the end of the mall was tom’s gallery, and what a sight! i can’t believe i never heard of him, since i always look and get books of pictures. i’m a wolf collector, so my first one was of a wolf. next year i go to colorado and he has a place in the airport, so i bought another picture. awhile later thru the mail i was able to get a picture at half price! he al-ways had a section in the back of the place for jane’s books as well as his own. now i see his pictures being used in periodicals. worth a look see.

  4. Hi Joan, sounds like you are a big fan of Toms. Join the crowd. He is so great and doing so much for wildlife and wild places. Great man. Thanks for commenting.

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