Interview with Jim Brandenburg (part 2)

Visions and Nature
Photographers interview
Jim Brandenburg by Kristel Schneider 

The series of interviews with Nature Photographers is coming to an end and I thought with Jim Brandenburg I have a real Grand Finale.  Missed Interview with Jim Brandenburg (part 1), click here.

Jim Brandenburg

Do you have any tips for Visions and Nature readers who would like to become   professional nature photographers?
Nature photography is so accessible nowadays and you do not have to shoot 20 rolls of films and be disappointed after spending a day in Nature. Today you can always come back after a day out with a happy reward and enjoy it. Do not start to see it as a business, but study nature, follow some workshops, read your Blog and fully enjoy it. When you start to see it as a business it will spoil the fun. I see it every day- people who are enthusiastic photographers next to their busy daytime job, go off on vacation and come back with some nice images and are thrilled about them. This takes them to the next stage, wondering if they can publish these nice images and then they change…. when they start to look at it as a profession next to their daytime job. It is a job what I have enjoyed for many years now and it is sad and odd to see people play in a way with your profession as a Nature Photographer by thinking they can do this ‘on the side’.  But on the other hand as I mentioned before, I love to see these people out taking photos, it changes their lives. So that is the double thing.

In addition to this, all those social media and forums are puzzling me sometimes. I do not say it is bad –  it provides people a tool to get in contact with other photographers more easily –  but it is so far from my own world.  I have been in the photography business for so long now – almost 50 years – and I have never posted a tweet in my life. Everything is changing so fast that by spending a lot of time behind the computer people miss out on the best part, walk by them selves in nature, study it and feel the intimacy – which is the best part of Nature Photography.

Do you have any exhibitions coming up ?
I have a retrospective exhibit in Germany right now and it will be in France later on in 2012. 120 Pictures, amongst which the very first one I took when I was 14 years old and the last one recently from the Dalai Lama. The retrospective is not all about nature as there are a lot of people in it actually. Share with us one of your personal favourite photographs?

My first attempt at nature photography… the red fox. I made it with a cheap $3 plastic camera with no settings available. It was shot at the same place as the Bison in winter.

‘the very first one I took when I was 14 years old’

Retrospective exhibit:
- Iserlohn Germany on the 27th of January 2012
- Salo Finland on March 16th 2012, openings talk at the Museum.

Share with us one of your personal favourite photographs?
Four of my images where chosen for inclusion in a unique collection that represents the ’40 most important nature photographs of all time’. The images were chosen by members of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) a fellowship of the world’s top professional conservation photographers and editors. And what is odd is that amongst the 4 photos they picked, three of them are also my personal favourites, what about coincidence?
Here are the four images that where chosen:

The Arctic wolf  jumping is from my favorite. Nat. Geographic story and the most rewarding and thrilling professional experience. It is also in a very remote and wild place that has always drawn and attracted me: the Arctic. I lived on and off with this family of wolves for 3 years. Much like the primate researchers do in Africa. I lived in a tent near the den and spent intense time, almost 100%, watching and photographing them. This represents a time in magazine photojournalism that is virtually gone now in that this kind of complex and expensive support is no longer possible. Photographers need to do it alone now and be self supporting. I was indeed fortunate to have worked during that time. In the 1980’s.

The Gray wolf peeking from behind a tree is perhaps my best known and most successful image. I moved from the agricultural treeless prairie to live in the remote and wild forests on the Canadian border. The wolf was the main reason to come here where I live now. The only way one can truly tell the honest story of the wolf is to live with them because they are so illusive and shy. (I have spent many weeks in the French Alps looking for wolves- only seeing tracks)  This image speaks clearly of the wolf’s illusive and mysterious ways. At the same time it pulls one in and then for some creates a bit of mystery and perhaps a bit of anxiety or fear. That is the reputation of the wolf. I shot this image within walking distance of my home.

The Oryx ( Gemsbok ) is in the Namib desert. This image along with the jumping wolf illustrates my style of putting the animal in its environment and not necessarily trying to get as close as possible. I feel it is often more important artistically and tells a better story. I also grew up on a treeless landscape where I also learned my photography. I seem to often do better in that kind of simple land form. It is in my subconscious. This was from also a Nat. Geographic story I did on Namibia. It was a full cultural coverage and also included war/battle photography during their civil war. It is the strongest image that came out of the story, nature being my main passion. This image has won many notable awards such as BBC Photographer of the Year and American NPPA Magazine Photographer of the Year awards.

The Bison in winter was taken where I grew up, the place where I learned how to do photography. It is almost in the exact same spot where I made my first “keeper” image of a fox at age 14. It is not one of my top favourites but represents an important part of my history and work. Also it is part of the group of 4 that ILCP chose so it makes a nice and compact theme. This was not shot on assignment. It also shows that I often use wide-angle lenses for wildlife.

Before our interview Jim had a look at my website a couple of times and he picked out some images that really pop out for him. We had a nice discussion about my portfolio and he inspired me to move on and follow my goals. Thanks Jim!

We walked together through some of my galleries on my website:

Winter gallery

  • The sunrise view on Puy de Dôme ; very beautiful, the pastel light in combination with the white snow. Great light.
  • Snow waves structures, the two images from the snow waves  made me think about Ernst Haas. You would be surprised how identical it looks; it is one of Ernst Haas most famous picture.
  • Road in Winter scenery, Abstract frozen shape in water; I like these.
  • Three tops in pink sunset, Love this one, beautiful lighting. I like the soft delicate pastel colors in some of your images. This kind of images I enjoy taking.

Autumn & Tree gallery
In these gallery there also several but the one that made me very happy is the Beechwood in autumn vertical. It tells you something, I can not always explain, photography is obviously something that does not need to have words to describe it, that why it is a photograph, it communicates something…..for me when I looked at it I changed, something vibrated inside me, felt familiar, it made me happy it just felt right, Everybody has a different feeling when they look at each picture. I know you have a horizontal version of the same scene but I like the vertical better, it feels together for me, feels good.

  • Cascade in wood scenery:  beautiful, it remind me of right here, it looks like my front yard.
  • Autumn hill, another images that makes me happy to look at. For me this is what France looks like when I think about it.

Dream and Mood gallery
An image that also interests me is Abstract grass in snow; lines, dots, simple and that is the kind of image I would shoot also. I like it.

Mushrooms gallery
When I started in photography I was also very attracted by mushrooms, their shapes and there colors, yours are just great! Love the purple ones; I have never seen those before ever, I don’t think we have them in the US. The first three images with these purple mushrooms (Amethyst Deceivers) are just amazing. And I like these little tiny ones with the soft focus, you call them Milking Bonnet Mushrooms soft focus.


3 Comments on “Interview with Jim Brandenburg (part 2)

  1. Great interview! I’ve followed Jim’s work since the early 80s and has always been a great inspiration to me in my photography. Thanks for sharing his words and images with all of us.

  2. Pingback: Interview with Jim Brandenburg (part 1) | Visions and Nature

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