Humans of Campbell River: Eiko Jones
A lot of people who know I grew up in New Zealand do not know that I was born in Whitehorse, YT. A few months later as winter rolled near, I think I “told” my parents that I already didn’t like the cold. So off to El Salvador, we went, an epic 10,000 km road trip with a pre-toddler. After a few months of being an object of fascination in Central America, we flew to New Zealand to start a new life. (My parents actually met there several years earlier in a youth hostel.) After that my sister was born and subsequently, we started on an adventure to move to what would become my hometown of Wanaka.
Not content to live a normal life, my parents decided to buy a derelict hotel from the late 1800’s gold rush days in the Cardrona Valley. My days as a young kid were spent clambering around various outbuildings, building tree houses and helping with the reconstruction of the old historic building. I helped out where I could with my trusty kid’s tool belt. But I was far more interested in riding my bike and horses all over the valley with my friend in search of the motherlode of gold that was missed by the earlier miners. We never found it, but we sure were dedicated. We actually got into trouble by the roads department one time for sluicing too close to the main road and causing the bank to be destabilized. The rest of my life when I wasn’t disrupting the roadways, I spent time skiing, sailing, diving, climbing, kayaking, and keeping and breeding every kind of bird and other animals I could get my hands on.
I was fascinated by the birdlife in New Zealand, as well as exotic species. At thirteen years old I borrowed money from my sister and bought a large aviary to house my growing collection of birds. I was a bit of a bird nut, one could say. This interest led me to want to go to Australia at fifteen by myself to visit friends and see all the cool parrots that lived there. It was on this trip that I bought my first SLR camera and started taking pictures of all the birds I could find. My own birds I kept, and also released at times, became my favorite photo subjects.
At one point when our historic hotel restoration had been finished a National Geographic photo crew came for a couple days to shoot it for an article about New Zealand. This was the first time I was intrigued to be a professional photographer. I liked that they had a seemingly unending supply of film, and someone to change out the rolls for them. I thought I would have arrived in life when I had my own film roll changer.
I didn’t always really know what I wanted to do when I grew up. (I think I do know now)
After a series of other types of businesses and jobs, I finally dove into my current career of underwater photography and video. This happened by a series of choices that I made that could have taken me in a very different direction. One day in 2012 I was exploring a local waterway with my new underwater camera when I came across a scene I had never seen before. Thousands of Western Toad tadpoles swimming in formation. I took a few photos, and one particular image has served me very well and garnered a lot of attention.
In my later years in high school, I really wanted to be a Marine Biologist. Not an Ornithologist for some reason. Once I started in my path as an underwater photographer years later, I became known as the “Tadpole Guy”, due to the exposure I had with the previously mentioned image. I tolerated that for a while but wasn’t really happy with that title, for obvious reasons. So, since I was living in the Salmon Capital of the World, I decided I would have a crack at chronicling the lives of the salmon that return to our rivers each year. This became my niche. It still is today, even though I am more involved in shooting video for natural history shows now. Most underwater image makers prefer the ocean, and in particular warm tropical seas. By making my main subject a cold, freshwater group of fish I was able to be in a small group of people that have a big collection of images of these iconic fish. This has enabled me to sell stock images and video during a time when so many people say it’s impossible to make money in stock photography.
It has been a journey of many cold days spent laying in a shallow, cold river, waiting for a particular salmon behaviour to occur. But the rewards of this have been that I have literally made a living laying around watching fish. I couldn’t ask for much better than that.
I never formally studied biology past the high school level, but I do spend countless hours observing the amazing salmon that call these waters home. I feel an intimate connection to them and the watersheds that they return to and nourish. It has become a big part of my life sharing this world with others that don’t get to see it, especially from the underwater perspective. Due to my work in this world, and the associated underwater realm of the oceans, I have been able to meet so many amazing people, from all walks of life. Sharing bits of this world that I get to see and experience with everyone from elementary school kids to rotary clubs and others has been one of the most enjoyable things I can do. I do not have answers to many of the problems facing salmon, and the world in general, but I do have the ability to share my love and appreciation of these environments I get to work in. Through the film I produced called Heartbeat of the River I have been able to bring people into the incredible world of the salmon story in an up-close and personal way. Seeing people witness the struggle that the salmon face in their quest to continue the cycle of life has been all the reward I need for my work so far. If people are changed even a little by watching, then I feel like that is the work I am meant to do.