Featured Photographer – Staffan Widstrand

Professional photographer and writer. Author of 9 books (3 of them awarded the title ?Panda Book of the Year? by WWF). Winner of 11 awards in the ?Wildlife Photographer of the Year? competition. ?Nature Photographer of the Year? in Sweden 2001. Founding fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), Founding member of the Swedish Ecotourism Society, initiator of the quality label ?Nature?s Best? in Sweden, co-founder also of the Swedish National Carnivore Centre ?De 5 Stora?. Had exhibitions in 11 countries. Born 1959, Swede. Speaks 7 languages. Captain in the Royal Swedish Tank Corps. During 15 years a tour leader and a tour production manager for nature tour companies. Father of multiple award-winning nature photographers Liisa (1992) and Mimmi (1999).

Website: www.staffanwidstrand.se

Why nature photography?
Photography (and writing!) – because they just happen to tickle my creative nerve best. I have tried other crafts but failed or not quite felt the right tickle.
Nature – because I just love to be in nature, and I am deeply emotional about trying to protect it, and I love to inspire others to get the same feeling.
But really I feel as a Photographer, not ?only? a Nature photographer. And I also like to take pictures with people in them, people having fun and doing things.
All my best friends are actually people.

What’s best about it?
It is very fun, very enjoyable, very rewarding and at the same time very challenging and demanding – and in many different fields at the same time.
To take great pictures, you really have to spend a lot of time out there.
And I truly love spending time out there!
I also really enjoy the bubbling feeling, the kick, when you know you have just managed to make a great shot, almost like champagne in your blood!

What’s worst about it?
All the bureaucracy and crazy paper- and formfilling that takes so much of my time. More and more permits are needed just to take some pictures! And government tax forms in x countries!
Also the lack of understanding among many, of how much work, time and skills it takes to succeed with making truly great photos.
The most difficult by far is to keep creativity flowing enough to surprise yourself as an artist now and again.

Favourite species and places in Europe?
All large carnivores and raptors, big colourful or striking birds and graphically well designed flowers. Favourite places are many: (1) Norwegian coast, (2) Laponia in Swedish Lapland, (3) Caucasus, Russia, (4) Extremadura, Spain, (5) Kuhmo, Finland, (6) Stockholm-Turku Archipelago, Sweden-Finland, (7) Transylvania, Romania…, (8) Svalbard, Norway, especially in Winter, (9) Qaanaaq, NW Greenland

What’s in the bag?
Too much always. I use several bags. Frequently also someone who helps carrying them. A backpack and 3 different lense bags. Nikon camera gear (D3, D3X, D700, D90, crystal clear Nikkor lenses from 10 to 600 mm, Nikon flashes, teleconverters 1,4 and 1,7, Gitzo carbon fibre tripod and ball head, macaroni bags, Wimberley head, glasses, notebook, R?my Martin XO Cognac, a Saami knife, a huge rubber airblower and of course an enchanted good luck charm from Guyana.

Your specialities / skills?
People say I am pretty good at graphics, colours, composition and people.
Also at project ideas and visionary concepts, in which I can work together with others. Working together with Top Pro’s is much better than working alone.

What will you do in your next life?
I am really very pleased with the present one, and I wouldn?t change it for anything! Too busy enjoying it to bother about the next. Which I am sure there isn?t one anyway. If there was, I would do pretty much the same, but begin serious photography much earlier, right from start, instead of at 25, like I did. I would also learn graphic design and video editing. Which I just might do already in this life…

3 tips for beginners
1. Have fun 2. Do good, 3. Work hard.
There is no way like photography if you want to reach other people?s emotions and urge them to act. It works on me, at least.
I believe that Nature photography yet has far too small a role in all conservation work. That will change, and make a difference.
Yes, we can! You can.

Well, I was in the privileged position to be one of them who decided on who goes where. So I got three main missions – Bears and wolves in Finland, Sea eagles and Golden eagles in Norway, and Iberian ibex, Griffon vultures and Great bustards in Spain. The large carnivores were something extra of course, and I did three trips for them. Even if I have seen bears, wolves and wolverines many times before, it still is very exciting to see and to hear them! The eagles were pure pleasure and I love the Norwegian coast with its still living sea. The Ibex in Sierra de Gredos were tame and confiding, but stayed on the mountain crags, so it was really hard work to get to them! The vultures were fascinating and the Great bustards incredible – but quite shy and careful and very patience-requiring!

Best Picture

I haven?t taken it yet, but I promise that I am working hard on it. In the mean time I could always show for example this one, which I like a lot.

What’s cool about it?
I like the swivel-joint feel of the capercaillies head, and the fact that one point in the middle is reasonably sharp and everything else rotates around it. It is a very uncommon capercaillie picture. I also like the looks of this male, he was impressive, with a magnificent beard. And I like the clean background, which is green and thereby complements perfectly the red of his eyebrow.

Could it be better?
Always can. Background could have been cleaner, the light could have been more beautiful, I could have used a bit of fill-in flash, to get both the swivel movement and the sharpness. Next time…

Behind the Scene
The capercaillie is such a symbol for the boreal forest and it is so much photographed by virtually every northern nature photographer, ever since the invention of the camera. So what to do? Well I took all the classic shots too, of course, but also wanted to get this very crucial moment, the climax of his display dance. And I think I got it.

Date: 1 May 2006
Location: Flatanger, Nord-Trondelag, Norway
Gear: Nikon D2X, AFS Nikkor 600/4, TC 14B teleconverter, Gitzo Carbon fibre tripod, Arca Swiss ballhead w Wimberley Sidekick, tent hide.

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