Thomas D. Mangelsen, LIGHT IN THE FOREST, 1998

Thomas Mangelsen - A Life in the Wild, Part 1
August 2, - September 30, 2025

Thomas D. Mangelsen, LIGHT IN THE FOREST, 1998 ©
"Light in the Forest" is a moment of perfect timing with the sun highlighting a wild Bengal tiger, critically endangered due to a dwindling population, as it rests in the forest.

American nature photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen has traveled across every continent in the past five decades capturing wildlife in their natural and sometimes hostile habitat. Viewers will see vast, colorful, scenic vistas, animal families, and striking close-ups in a large photo format that has used no digital manipulation. Mangelson uses a Nikon D5 and a Nikon D610 camera. 

Mangelsen intends to elevate public awareness about the global poaching crisis, animal extinction, and circumstances of climate change through his stimulating imagery that makes you realize we all share this planet, even though many choose to never go into the wild.

60 Minutes interview by Anderson Cooper with Thomas D. Manngelsen aired May 6, 2018

MAHB Blog July 20, 2017 by Todd Wilkinson:  The Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB, pronounced “mob”) is a meeting place for global civil society — citizens concerned with the interconnections among the greatest threats to human well-being: this is the human predicament. Please visit the "MAHB Arts Community" to share and reflect on how art can promote critical changes in behavior and systems. An initiative of Stanford University,
bringing the best science to civil society.

Wilkinson collaborated with Mangelsen on the book Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek, An Intimate Portrait of 399, the Most Famous Bear of Greater Yellowstone which won a 2016 High Plains Book Award.

View the entire Mangelsen portfolio online 


Financial assistance for this project has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

All photographs are copyrighted ©.
Thomas D. Mangelsen - A Life in the Wild
Produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C.
David J. Wagner, Ph.D., Curator/Tour Director


Renowned American nature photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen has traveled throughout the natural world for nearly 50 years observing and photographing the Earth’s last great wild places. From his humble beginnings in Nebraska to becoming one of the most prolific and award-winning nature photographers of our time, Mangelsen has captured rare moments and vast panoramas during his photographic adventures on all seven continents. From polar bears in the Arctic to vast herds of game on the plains of Africa, from the deep jungles of South America to the tigers of India, to images revealing the diversity of wildlife in the American West, Mangelsen’s extensive portfolio includes several million images of wild animals and Earth’s last great wild places, with the finest selections released as limited edition fine art print collections.

When Mangelsen created his very first limited edition photograph, he made the decision to hold back his most valuable prints, numbered 1 to 20,  so that one day, as a career capstone, they would be offered as part of a Legacy Reserve Collection.  Many of the images featured in the collection have been sold out for more than a decade, complemented by recent masterworks destined to sell out in the future. Mangelsen’s first major retrospective of his illustrious career, A Life in the Wild, is a traveling museum exhibition containing 40 timeless masterworks from his Legacy Reserve Collection.  The exhibition will be featured in some of the most acclaimed museums and galleries worldwide, including Mangelsen—Images of Nature Galleries.  Viewers will be engaged on a dramatic visual journey into the haunts of iconic species, whose struggles for survival are fulcrums for reflection in the 21st century.

Mangelsen’s love of nature, his life outdoors, and business success were heavily influenced by his father.  An avid sportsman, Harold Mangelsen took his sons to favorite blinds along the Platte River in Nebraska to observe the great flocks of ducks, geese, and cranes that migrate through the valley.  From these adventures, Mangelsen learned important lessons for photographing in the field, most notably patience and understanding animal behavior. 

In 1965, Mangelsen began studying business at the University of Nebraska. In 1967, Tom transferred to Doane College in Crete, Nebraska, where he changed his major and graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology. Tom continued postgraduate study in zoology and wildlife biology at the University of Nebraska and Colorado State University.

In 1970 Mangelsen moved to Nederland, Colorado. He spent two years living in the Rocky Mountains in an old mining shack without electricity or running water with his English setter, black lab, and raccoon. Tom continued to work on his photography and studied arctic-alpine ecology at the University of Colorado's Mountain Research Station near Nederland. There he met Bert Kempers, a CU film producer, who later hired Tom as cinematographer and film editor for his company Westwind Productions, making educational and nature documentaries. Tom longed to make a documentary about the Platte River and its great wildlife resource. He returned to the Platte each spring to film the great crane migration. These experiences led to Tom traveling to the cranes' nesting grounds in Alaska and their wintering areas in Texas. National Geographic television wanted to produce a documentary, which would chronicle the plight of the endangered whooping crane and the efforts to bring them back from the brink of extinction. After learning that Tom had been photographing sandhill and whooping cranes for more than ten years, they hired him as cinematographer and associate producer for the television special Flight of the Whooping Crane, which was nominated for an Emmy award. Mangelsen also photographed and produced the PBS NATURE and BBC Natural World film, Cranes of the Grey Wind, a documentary on the life cycle of the sandhill crane.

Initially, Mangelsen was fascinated with photographing birds in flight. In the early 1970s, Tom and his brother David began selling limited edition prints of his images. In 1978, Mangelsen opened his first Images of Nature® gallery in Jackson, Wyoming. Since then a number of Mangelsen®—Images of Nature Galleries have opened across the United States.

One of the most prolific nature photographers of our time, Mangelsen is as much an artist as he is a conservationist. Tom was named the 2011 Conservation Photographer of the Year by Nature's Best Photography, placing his work in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. He was named one of the 40 Most Influential Nature Photographers by Outdoor Photography.

His image Polar Dance was selected by the International League of Conservation Photographers as one of the 40 Most Important Nature Photographs of All Time. He was chosen as one of Dr. Jane Goodall's Heroes of the Animal Planet and profiled in the television series of the same name. Mangelsen was named one of the 100 Most Important People in Photography by American Photo magazine and honored with Nikon's Legend Behind the Lens recognition. The North American Nature Photography Association named him Outstanding Nature Photographer of the Year, and Mangelsen also received the prestigious British Broadcasting Corporation's Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. He was presented with an honorary doctorate from Doane College and received an Honorary Fellowship from The Royal Photographic Society.

Mangelsen's photographs have been exhibited internationally. Vital Signs: Images of Biodiversity exhibit was a combination of Mangelsen's art and knowledge of natural history, and stressed the importance of maintaining a balanced and diverse ecosystem. Vital Signs opened at the San Diego Natural History Museum in 1997 and was also exhibited in museums throughout the United States and Canada. The Natural World: Photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen is an exhibit of striking panoramic photographs chronicling ten distinct ecosystems.  The show was on display at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming, and the San Diego Natural History Museum.  Tom's photography has been shown at the Natural History Museum in London and the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.

Tom joined fellow renowned nature photographers Frans Lanting and Art Wolfe in presenting the Masters of Nature Photography Seminars.  The three prominent photographers present a unique event drawing on their wide-ranging experience with subjects and locations around the world to change how photography is looked at and empower attendees to use photography to benefit conservation causes and other personal interests.  

Tom has produced several fine art and conservation-focused books; his first book, Images of Nature: The Photographs of Thomas D. Mangelsen, written by noted biologist Charles Craighead, was published in 1989 and contains more than 200 photographs that document the natural history of North America. Polar Dance: Born of the North Wind, published in 1997, was produced after photographing polar bears on the wild, western shores of Hudson Bay for ten years. Written by preeminent Canadian author Fred Bruemmer, this poetic story tracks a mother polar bear with her two cubs and a lone male through the seasons of a year. Spirit of the Rockies: The Mountain Lions of Jackson Hole, published in 2000, is the first photographic documentary of wild cougars.  Author Cara Blessley Lowe gives a rare inside look at these secretive animals as human development encroaches into their habitat.  In 2007, Tom released his third fine art book, The Natural World, with a foreword by Jane Goodall. This book of panoramic images was the recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Coffee Table/Large Format Book in 2008 by the PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association. The Last Great Wild Places: Forty Years of Wildlife Photography by Thomas D. Mangelsen was published in 2014. 

This book contains more than 150 of Tom’s most important images, spanning all seven continents and crossing the northernmost to the southernmost extremes of the Earth.  A forward by Jane Goodall and written by Todd Wilkinson, this book takes both an intimate and far-reaching look into the natural world that has inspired artists, conservationists, and adventurers for centuries.  In 2015, Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek:  An Intimate Portrait of 399 was published. In stunning images and words, Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek tells the dramatic story of Grizzly 399, the most famous mother bear in the world.  In a book that has been called unprecedented by Jane Goodall, readers are taken on a heart-palpitating adventure into the harrowing life-and-death encounters of both grizzlies and people as bears try to survive in the modern world.  This book has been awarded the Los Angeles Times’ Mesmerizing Coffee Table Titles, the Forward Indies Book Award, the High Plains Book Award, and the Outdoor Writers Association of America Excellence in Craft Contest

Mangelsen's work has been published in National Geographic, GEO, Le Figaro Magazine, BBC Wildlife, Life, Audubon, National Wildlife, Smithsonian, Natural History, Newsweek, Wildlife Art, American Photo, Nature's Best Photography, and many other publications. Tom has also been profiled on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN's World News, CBS News, and ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. In addition, Mangelsen is co-founder of The Cougar Fund, a founding Fellow of The International League of Conservation Photographers, on the international advisory council for the Jane Goodall Institute, and a board ambassador for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.