One of the most rewarding parts of my job is making an emotional connection with the wildlife I encounter. One of the most challenging aspects of my job is conveying that connection in a photograph. To do that, I have to make use of a very important compositional tool – perspective. Continue reading A perspective on the wild side
We often hear or read the quote, “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer”, meaning the creation of great photographs is not dependent on having the latest or most expensive gear but on having a keen eye, an open and inquisitive mind and the artistic skills to turn vision into a reality that is a photograph. After sixteen years as a professional photographer, I can attest this is absolutely true. Continue reading Art and Mind – 10 Days in Japan [Part Two]
When I first became interested in wildlife photography, I harboured a deep fascination with Japan. I used to study the work of some of the great Japanese nature photographers – Michio Hoshino, Mitsuaki Iwago, Nobuyuki Kobayashi – and found, in their images, a hidden depth, an elusive something that I could only describe as “soul”. I also noticed many of my early photographic heroes, photographers such as Art Wolfe and Jim Brandenburg, as well as my favourite artist, Monet, had been inspired by immersion in Japanese culture. Continue reading Photographers, We’re Storytellers – 10 Days in Japan [Part One]
Wildlife photography isn’t just about frantic action shots and animal portraits. An important area of the genre is capturing a sense of place – images that show the subject in the landscape.
Photographing animals in their environment is a critical area of my work because such images serve to further the cause of environmental conservation, which is a driving force behind my work. The primary cause of decreasing wildlife populations is habitat loss, so revealing the beauty of the land in which animals make their homes is, for me, an important aspect of my storytelling. Continue reading Wildlife Photography: Creating a Sense of Place
I first moved to the X Series four years ago because I was carrying too much equipment on trips and I wanted to switch to a smaller, lighter alternative. Now with X-T2s and the superb range of lenses available it is often difficult to decide what to take on assignments or trips, making sure it all fits in one backpack. But my kit is still smaller item for item than what it used to be before, its just a question of knowing exactly what you’ll need for each job (not always easy, particularly with nature photography). Continue reading Springtime at 50 megapixels
Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography
Photography has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I still have packets full of black and white negatives taken on 127 roll film with an old Brownie box camera – memories of family holidays and school trips from way back when. At the University of Edinburgh my interest in photography developed when I used still images and Super 8 film to back up field research on the feeding behavior of Ringed Plover, the subject of my Zoology Honours Degree dissertation. Having completed a second degree, my scientific “career” took a series of slightly disjointed steps through various biological research jobs, mainly ones with a wildlife theme. My interest in photography matured during this time until Continue reading BBC & NatGeo wildlife photographer Ben Osborne switches to Fujifilm
Flight of the Swans has finally left Russia, only ten days behind schedule… Ten extra days I am very happy to have spent in this dramatic country. Enormous in every sense of the word, we barely scratched the surface, but what we did see left a lasting impression. From incredible generosity to gorgeous autumnal scenes, this rugged place has wilderness to truly get lost in.
Hazard lights cast against the roadside trees as the convoy headed to Kimzha. We were very much alone on this dirt road and the stars were simply spectacular!
The 19th September greeted us with a 32 hour stay at the Estonian – Russian Border, an experience that I’ve recently had a case of deja vu with as we returned from the other direction on the 19th October for a 18+ hour stay to return to the EU. In-between that time we have raced up to Kimzha, Arkhangelsk region, 1800+KM away within five days, via roads where for periods our trailer towing vehicle had to crawl at 6kph. It was a mental run, marred by a diesel spill in the trailer at 2am and paramotor pilots arriving at the collection point ahead of schedule, resulting in some all-nighters.
X-T2 XF10-24mm (24mm) F8 ISO 400 1/20
X-T2 XF100-400mm (330mm) F16 ISO 1600 30 seconds.
Once we linked up with the pilots who had just crossed the tundra section, things were marginally less hectic, marginally.
X-T2 XF100-400mm (100mm) F8 ISO 200 1/125
X-T2 XF100-400mm (370mm) F5.6 ISO 1000 1/680
X-T2 XF100-400mm (360mm) F5.6 ISO 1000 1/900
X-Pro2 XF16-55mm (55mm) F10 ISO 800 1/550
X-T2 XF100-400mm (226mm) F11 ISO 800 1/550
X-Pro2 XF16-55mm (16mm) F6.4 ISO 800 1/1900
Sacha has done an amazing personal journey so far, she even dislocated her knee! But still going via a trike to take stress off her legs. The Flight of the swan’s team have been featured on news channels all around the world and the ground team are doing their best to engage local communities, particularly through school programs. All to raise awareness of the Bewick swan and other migrating wildfowl. The aim is to improve international awareness and cooperation, to find out more and to sign the WWT’s petition to help their conservation, which can be found here.
Personal highlights included witnessing the northern lights and catching a glimpse of a wolf as it slinked off into the darkness of a moonlit woodland road. But the biggest surprise has the be the incredible generosity that our team witnessed in Russia, I haven’t experienced anything like it before, where families would happily take in 8-12 people, feed us, give us a place to stay and even offer us a banya (Russian bath)! We were welcomed with open arms. Meeting conservationists, or simply random families along our journey, all seemed to have a deep connection for nature and the importance for managing it suitably, including the declining Bewick’s swan. We would be let into the lives of these people and get to know them, usually over a skinful of vodka.
Time-lapse taken with X-Pro2 and XF16mm F1.4 using the in-camera intervalometer.
X-T2 XF10-24mm (10mm) F4 ISO 200 960 seconds.
Frame from the time-lapse. X-Pro2 XF16mm F1.4 2 seconds ISO 1600
Cine Fujinon Lens
As well as using my personal X-Series kit on this project we are very proud to be sponsored by Fujifilm with a Fujinon ZK3.5×85 (85-300mm). Our media team are documenting the project in as wide a means as possible, from virtual reality experiences to documenting the project with various filming equipment, to hopefully continuing to share this project to a wider audience and help communicate the importance of Bewick’s swans conservation.
Here is one of our cameramen, Ben Sadd in the Gulf of Finland, Russia searching for swans.
Because so much of this trip is about communicating with as many people as possible, I have been using my instax SP-1 printer a lot to leave little mementos. It always gets a fantastic reaction, the business card sized prints are perfect for travelling with. Giving a physical print has such a positive effect on an experience compared to simply tagging someone in a digital photograph. instax has for a long time been one of the first things in my bag whenever I travel, this feeling has been encouraged further. The benefit-to-cost ratio isn’t even worth talking about as the effect it has on a situation is huge, it sounds cheesy but seeing the smiles appear as the photo develops on the instax is worth it.
I’ve found that it develops a situation from a set of friendly acquaintances to the start of friendships, leaving both the recipient and photographer with lasting, fond memories.
Some of our media team were taken in by a Russian family and joined them for a big meal. instax proved to be really popular and it was a pleasure to leave them with a dozen little prints.
Leaving a physical memory from one of our school visits.
It even proved popular with our team medic for her birthday!
As well as directly sending images to my SP-1 printer, the ability to send lightly edited files (via the in-camera RAW converter) to my phone and then share on the Flight of the Swans social media channels has helped to massively streamline my image sharing process. You can follow these channels here:
The team are now in Estonia. Russia was an amazing experience but the project is still very much on the move. There is a major set of wetlands in Estonia which we want to visit and hopefully witness more migrating Bewicks. You can stay up to date via our live map, with trackers on birds, vehicles and of course Sacha! Click here.
Flight of the Swans is a fascinating project, where WWT has taken a big leap into the unknown to try and reach a new level of engagement to help improve conservation of wildfowl. If you’re interested in travel, extreme sports or wildlife then hopefully this project will be of interest. If so, then please help us by signing our petition here. Until my final instalment in a month’s time, here are a few more photos from our Russian experience. In the next blog I will update you on the project as well as talking about the 4K capabilities of the X-T2 and how it has been incredibly helpful to film the swans.
X-Pro2 XF16-55mm (35mm) F2.8 ISO 400 1/750
X-Pro2 XF56mm F1.2 ISO 400 1/2700
X-T2 XF100-400mm (190mm) F5.6 ISO 1600 1/120
X-T2 XF100-400mm (150mm) F11 ISO 200 1/200
X-T2 XF100-400mm (150mm) ISO 200 1/200
X-Pro2 XF16-55mm (37mm) F2.8 ISO 1600 1/60
X-Pro2 XF16mm F1.4 ISO 1600 10 seconds
Steve Flanagan being won over by the X-Series. X-Pro2 XF16mm F2 ISO 200 1/250