Shannon Wild, Wildlife Photographer

Planet Of Animals
Planet Of Animals

BY Mohammad Namjoo

Shannon Wild, Wildlife Photographer

Shannon Wild, Wildlife Photographer

wildlife photographer

1. Tell us a brief description about yourself.

I'm an Australian now based in South Africa and working as a wildlife photographer and cinematographer throughout Africa and beyond.

2. How did you get into wildlife photography?

I didn't set out to become a wildlife photographer, in fact I was a graphic designer and art director for many years in Australia before taking up photographer as a hobby. Animals have always been a passion for me and even before photographing them I was a wildlife carer and often volunteered at wildlife sanctuaries.
I'm self taught and the more passionate about photography I became the more I practiced and experimented.
After several years I started to sell images and get paying shoots. It took many years of hard work, networking, marketing and shooting (not just wildlife but any photographic work I could get to pay the bills and increase my experience).

3. What inspires you about wildlife photography?

For me it's definitely the subject matter. I'm certainly not as passionate about photography as a standalone as I am about wildlife but to be able to combine the two is the perfect combination for me. To be able to capture and share what I find so beautiful and fascinating about animals inspires me.

4. What kind of equipment’s do you use now, and what did you begin with?

I started out with a Nikon D70 DSLR as my first 'real' camera about 12 years ago. Since then I've upgraded several times as budget allowed and now shoot still with a Nikon D800e & D800 and film on a RED Scarlet-W which can capture in 5k.

1. Tell us a brief description about yourself.

I'm an Australian now based in South Africa and working as a wildlife photographer and cinematographer throughout Africa and beyond.

2. How did you get into wildlife photography?

I didn't set out to become a wildlife photographer, in fact I was a graphic designer and art director for many years in Australia before taking up photographer as a hobby. Animals have always been a passion for me and even before photographing them I was a wildlife carer and often volunteered at wildlife sanctuaries.
I'm self taught and the more passionate about photography I became the more I practiced and experimented.
After several years I started to sell images and get paying shoots. It took many years of hard work, networking, marketing and shooting (not just wildlife but any photographic work I could get to pay the bills and increase my experience).

3. What inspires you about wildlife photography?

For me it's definitely the subject matter. I'm certainly not as passionate about photography as a standalone as I am about wildlife but to be able to combine the two is the perfect combination for me. To be able to capture and share what I find so beautiful and fascinating about animals inspires me.

4. What kind of equipment’s do you use now, and what did you begin with?

I started out with a Nikon D70 DSLR as my first 'real' camera about 12 years ago. Since then I've upgraded several times as budget allowed and now shoot still with a Nikon D800e & D800 and film on a RED Scarlet-W which can capture in 5k.
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5. What are the challenges wildlife photographers face on a regular basis?

There are many if you choose to see them as 'challenges' like very early mornings and long days, braving some serious extremes in weather and carrying heavy equipment on long, sometimes arduous treks. Your patience is often tested as days can pass without finding a specific subject let alone getting 'the shot'. There are plenty of dangers working in the wild for long periods and dealing with a variety of animals, many of which could kill you. But to be honest, I rarely ponder these as challenges ... they are simply part of the process and often the 'dues' necessary to be able to enjoy such a rewarding career and the amazing experiences that come with it.
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6. What are your thoughts on raw images vs images that have been edited?

There is a lack of understanding in the general public of what exactly 'raw' means and how it is used by photographers and filmmakers.
I’ll try to be clear and concise - a 'raw' file is like a digital negative packed with as much information a given sensor can manage including dynamic range in highlights and shadows. Professionals shoot raw to maintain as much image integrity as possible. A raw file will not resemble what a viewer has necessarily seen, and it will often look like a very flat, bland 'version' of the scene. Now when most non-professionals shoot they are seeing a final 'jpeg' file which the camera has already committed to 'editing' in-camera with things like sharpening, contrast and saturation. So the end product actually looks more like what you see with your own eyes. This is simply not the case for raw files which then need to have those adjustments made to even start resembling the scene. So why shoot raw? Because once a jpeg comes out of camera the adjustments are not reversible and often the image is degraded in quality. This is called 'destructive' editing and it's a big no-no for professionals who like myself will shoot raw, then manage and edit files in a 'non-destructive' editing program like Lightroom.
 Often people forget or never knew that plenty of 'editing' was also necessary in film days. Photographers with their own darkrooms would 'dodge' and 'burn' to bring out details or contrast in certain areas of an image by blocking and adjusting exposure times. Saturation and contrast were determined by the choice of film etc.  Those without a dark room were at the mercy of the ‘lab’ they sent it to which prints coming back depending on their particular settings, so sending a film to various labs would result in a variety of varying finished prints.
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7. What are the techniques you use?

This is a very broad question, which differs depending if I’m shooting stills or footage, if I'm trying to freeze action or imply a sense of intentional movement. The techniques vary depending on the equipment, the subject, the light and time of day and also what I'm trying to achieve with the final image.

8. What is your favorite animal if you had to choose one?

This is a question I get often and one I always struggle to answer. There is no 'one' species I can choose since they all offer something unique to me as a viewer and a filmmaker.

9. How do you plan your shoots?

When it comes to wildlife there is only so much one can 'plan'. That usually means being very prepared in terms of equipment ready, clean and charged. Understanding the terrain and area you are working in along with the potential dangers whether from nature or wildlife. Understanding animal behaviour is also fundamentally important and essential for predicting what a subject might do next and also knowing boundaries when working with wild animals.
interview

10. What is your favorite image? Can you explain the background story behind it?

I'm sure this will change over time but my favorite image to date is of a White Rhino with Cattle Egrets coming to land in its back. It looks as if I've photoshopped one bird at three stages of landing but it is in fact three separate birds in different stages of flight coming into land on the Rhino's back. Add to that the beautiful ominous storm clouds brewing behind it makes for a truly unique and once in a lifetime moment that I'm really proud I managed to capture.
planetofanimals.net

11. Do you have any tips to inspire junior wildlife photographers?

Practice, patience and persistence! And a back up plan! I hate to say it but it is an incredibly tough way to earn a living.It's wonderful and very rewarding as a hobby but if one wants to make it professionally they need to be prepared to put in some (very) hard yards ... and I'm talking years. It took over a decade of shooting wildlife professionally before my first National Geographic assignment.

 Always have a back up plan to earn money should you have financial responsibilities you need to meet on a regular basis. No one becomes a wildlife photographer or filmmaker for the money, let's get that out of the way. We do it for the passion. It doesn't pay consistently or well, especially considering the effort put it but what that means is that those of us who are left have truly committed ourselves above and beyond any pay-check and most have had to make many great sacrifices in the process. I have chosen not to have a family and the financial responsibilities that come with it. My passion is being in nature doing what I love and that's enough for me, but it's not for everyone.
Photo Credit: Shannon Wild
@shannon__wild