What is your favourite piece of equipment?
Each piece of equipment in my kit is my favorite in one way or another. But I have to say my 500mm is of particular importance. For the first couple years while getting started, I needed to rent a 500mm for wildlife photography trips. I couldn’t ever really just roll out and photograph when I wanted to, as each wildlife shoot needed to be planned and saved up for. When a 500mm lens finally became part of my kit, I really felt like I’d arrived as a wildlife photographer. This was finally my chance to simply load gear in the car and go photograph critters on any day of the week. This lens is also of particular sentimental value, since it was a gift from my incredibly generous and supportive spouse.
Define your photographic style.
It’s difficult to put words to a definition of style when style tends to rely on intuition more than active thought. I do like to work with a shallow depth-of-field whenever possible to bring attention onto the subject, even when it is in the middle of a larger environment. And I prefer to focus on capturing moments that have a quiet beauty even when the image is telling a very active or difficult story. Overall, what a photo says is more important to me than anything else, and so I think that I am still evolving a style as I shift among back and forth between wildlife portraits to landscapes to conservation storytelling and photo essays.
What are your photography goals?
So many! While I certainly have quite a few career goals, the large goal that acts as my lighthouse is conservation photojournalism that makes a positive and recognizable impact on improving and preserving life on Earth. Whether it is creating visuals that encourage wildlife and habitat within city limits, or photo essays that shed light on pressing ecological issues, or photographs that help conservation groups reach and connect with new audiences, I know that my primary goal is to create images that are helpful - directly or indirectly, in the short term or the long term - to the subjects I am photographing.
What is the biggest lesson you've learnt as a wildlife photographer?
Patience. Priceless moments often come only when your subject has relaxed, or when you have learned enough about your subject to predict action. And that takes time. There is no substitute for patience if you want to guarantee both current and future photographic opportunities with your subject.
Patience with myself is equally important. I cannot get angry at missed moments or stupid mistakes, but instead have to calmly ask myself what went wrong and how I can prevent it from happening again. The same goes with a tough photographic situation. If I’m not getting want out of an opportunity or a subject, all there is for it is to take a deep breath, find a different approach, and roll forward again. Patience is absolutely everything. It’s the only way to stay sane when it comes to wildlife photography.
What is your favourite subject and why?
Canids hold my perpetual interest, but coyotes have a particular draw for me. I’m deeply inspired by these opportunistic, scrappy, complicated, misunderstood, beautiful animals. Their gumption mirrors our own, yet in our stubborn and jealous way, we hate them for it. Well, some of us, anyway. Others like me admire that tenacity and independence. I founded The Natural History of the Urban Coyote project in early 2015, which delves into the stories and science of urban coyotes. I hope that through this project, we can all gain not only a new appreciation for the resilience and adaptive abilities of coyotes, but also inspiration to coexist with wildlife and create a little more space for all species no matter where we live.
What advice would you offer other wildlife photographers?
Use your skill for good. We photographers have a particular set of talents that can be used to benefit not only our subjects and thus ourselves, but the world as a whole. With each image you take, I encourage you to think: “What good can I do with this? What purpose does this image have?” When you begin to ask these questions, a vast new array of opportunities, interests, and inspiration opens up — from new assignments to new creative ways of photographing a subject or a topic. Whether we help out by volunteering with a conservation group in our home town, or crafting loftier goals for our work, I think it is imperative that all of us together take action to protect and preserve the wild species and wild spaces that we all love so much.