The elephant in the room: Wildlife photographer Nick Nichols on conservation

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Baby Shukuru is shielded from the rainy season risk of pneumonia with a custom-made raincoat in "Elephant Orphans." Courtesy of Michael Nichols, National Geographic Baby Shukuru is shielded from the rainy season risk of pneumonia with a custom-made raincoat in "Elephant Orphans." Courtesy of Michael Nichols, National Geographic

From placid trunks and tusks to lively predators racing across plains, the African landscape holds a certain romance for most Westerners, and few are as familiar with it as National Geographic photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols.

Nichols has worked with African elephants for over 20 years, capturing poignant images of these gentle giants, and his new book Earth to Sky: Among Africa’s Elephants, A Species in Crisis compiles his work and brings attention to the need for action.

Nichols offers his audience a captivating firsthand look at the plight of the elephant, whose survival is severely threatened by mankind – particularly in the ivory market. From the wide savannas most animal lovers imagine to the stark realities of human-ravaged terrain, Nichols’ photography draws the viewer directly into the elephant’s habitat. Accompanying quotes from conservation leaders call on readers to protect the species.

Nichols has an ongoing presence in Charlottesville–as co-founder of the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, his innovative techniques and diverse wildlife experience are familiar to fine arts buffs throughout the community. His decades of experience also extend to work with Serengeti lions, published in the August 2013 issue of National Geographic, and sequoia trees, featured on a 2012 National Geographic cover.

Nichols kicks off his national book/lecture tour at The Paramount Theater on Thursday where he will discuss his work with both elephants and lions, and sign copies of his book.—Danielle Bricker

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