Lifetime of photography lands National Geographic feature for E-team associate

November 2nd 2015
Michael Kern's striking portrait of iguana eyes hangs in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Turning a hobby into a career

After 25 successful years as a technology consultant, Michael Kern walked away to pursue wildlife and conservation photography ... in Uganda, of all places. How he arrived at that chapter of his life will surprise you just as much as it surprised him!

 A tree frog contemplates its own reflection


Michael’s big break came when his photo won the grand prize in a photo contest hosted by a reptile pet supply company. This landed him a trip to Uganda to photograph reptiles in the wild. Friendships he made there led him to Madagascar, where he spent an entire month searching for new species of geckos with a team of scientists. After another lizard-seeking tour, this time in New Caledonia, he returned to the San Francisco Bay Area to pursue photography full time.


The iridescent plumage of the tropical Nicobar Pigeon takes center stage in this abstract image 

The Eye of the Beholder

The “aha!” moment came as Michael was creating a letterhead for his new photography business. To help people focus on the beauty within these beasts, he zoomed in closely on the eye of an iguana. Taking this idea even further, he used photo-editing software to create a mirror image. The result was a surreal pattern of green-blue scales surrounding a haunting gaze. That very first abstract image now hangs in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. 


The stunning view from Essex property Fox Plaza in San Francisco, as interpreted by Michael Kern's kaleidoscopic perspective

What’s Next at Essex

After ten years as a nature photographer, Michael began a new adventure as the Advanced Visual Technology Lead on the marketing team at Essex. In this role, he ensures that the unique architecture of each community is captured for everyone to appreciate. If you’ve ever visited, you’ve likely seen his handiwork.

While each community is a masterpiece, Michael can’t help but view the world in abstract. He’s even begun transforming photos of Essex communities into beautiful abstract works of art. 


View more of Michael Kern’s photography on his website: The Gardens of Eden, Photography by Michael D. Kern

Check out the incredible images in National Geographic: Abstraction Finds Beauty in Beasts, National Geographic

Local news takes notice: Beauty in the Beast, Palo Alto Online