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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Power of an Image

According to a blog called "Open Spaces" published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the image below was one of the main inspirations for President Theodore Roosevelt to create the first refuge west of the Mississippi in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Finley and Bohlman's Three Arch Rocks photograph that later helped
Three Arch Rocks become the west coast's first bird refuge in 1907.
This shows the incredible power for change that an image can provide. This photo of Three Arch Rocks in Oregon was created by nature photographers William L Finley and Herman Bohlman  in a series. The images were transformed into meticulously hand colored glass slides. Finley was disturbed that the plumage from birds such as picture in these photos was being used for womens hats and bird populations were being decimated. The skill and "daring-do" of these photographers is amazing, considering the equipment at the time. Also, the skill of "hand coloring" a slide is virtually unused any more, but it give the images a uniquely beautiful quality.

But President Theodore Roosevelt was apparently very moved by this photograph and the plight of the birds being affected. He was inspired in 1903 to create the very first refuge at Pelican Island, Fla. He apparently did this with amazing speed. The United States now has 553 Refuges in it's system.

President Theodore Roosevelt said, 
“There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.”

Looking Back: William L. Finley

Dramatic photography, captivating lectures, memorable movie scripts and magazine articles – William L. Finley used them all to convince the American public that it was time to give birds a home of their own.

Finley, who was born to a pioneer family in California in 1876, and his boyhood friend Herman Bohlman hauled cumbersome camera equipment up cliffs and into marshes and trees along the Oregon coast. They used block and tackle to raise their equipment onto ledges. They followed the development of hawks, eagles, herons, murres and cormorants from egg to fledgling.
In a history of the Audubon Society of Portland, Tom McAllister wrote that Bohlman and Finley spent four months photographing a California condor nest.
“Bohlman was the reserved and skilled photographer … Finley was the clean-shaven extrovert who spread a message across the land of the need to save habitat as well as pass protective bird legislation. Their derring-do and the results captivated audiences and readers nationwide. Finley packed the lecture halls.”



  1. Pelican Island is in Florida, not Mississippi, and TR established the Pelican Island bird reservation in 1903. During his presidency, TR established 51 bird reservations nationwide, including Flattery Rocks, Copalis Rock, Quillayute Needles, Keechelus, Kachess, Clealum, Bumping Lake, and Conconully in Washington. The first three are still units of our National Wildlife Refuge System, but the other five are now under Bureau of Reclamation jurisdiction.

  2. OOps! Thanks Jim for clearing up my facts. Still pretty cool that this image was one inspirations.