Camargue France | Flamingos

National Reserve Camargue| France

The Reserve, which covers more than 13,000 hectares in the Camargue region, is one of Europe’s largest wetlands reserves.
This vast, intact expanse of land, located in the municipalities of Arles and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, benefits from total protection.This unique reserve draws its internationally-renowned heritage from the diversity of its habitats and its native species (in particular the 276 bird species, 258 of which are heritage species) and from its ecological contribution.

My trip to the Camargue took place in February 2011 and my photography goal was to shoot some images of flamingos in their natural environment -full colour, silhouettes or just with nice evening light. Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed in all my wishes. Due to the warm weather lots of birds had already moved on to their next destination. So the wetlands were almost empty most of the time .
The old house where we were sleeping was located in the middle of the reserve, surrounded with lakes. A great starting point and for one week I was up before sunrise. While waiting for the sun to rise you could hear the birds wake up and the wind sing. The weather was not great so the light was poor and grey sometimes, that was a shame. Anyhow the experience was great, hear the flamingos call and see the colours change in the landscape.

See more images in the gallery : Fauna | Camargue gallery
(Most images taken with 500mm Sigma lens and 40D or 5DMII, polarising filter or ND filters)

Later this week I will post some images from prints and texture on the beach.

Interview with photographer Marsel van Oosten

Visions and Nature
Nature Photographers interviews


Most nature Photographers are obsessed with reality, with nature as it is, with ‘truth’

Marsel van Oosten (about)

When I started this item, interviews with nature photographers, Marsel was at the top of my list. I was not introduced to Marsel’s work by one of his nature photos. But one with the title flow: in an old, deserted diamond mining town near the Namibian coast. I had it on my desktop for a long time. I loved its great study of line, shape and texture!

By following his work I noticed that I liked the images which conveyed atmosphere and mood. A great example is his personal favourite: an African elephant standing at the edge of Victoria Falls.

Taking photographs began as a way to escape from life in the fast lane. After a trip to Tanzania things started getting more serious, close encountered with the animals of the Serengeti fuelled my passion for wildlife photography.
And five years later I swapped my established advertising career for the precarious life of a nature photographer, a move that demands unyielding devotion ad commitment
, Marsel

Who is your inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is a German landscape painter, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840).

What made him/her inspire you, with what kind of image(s)?
Friedrich incorporated people as small elements in some of his landscape paintings, giving scale to the image and adding drama. This is what I like to do most with my wildlife photography as well – the animal as a part of a much bigger scene.

What do you like about Nature Photography?
I have worked as art director, and later a creative director, in advertising for over 15 years. I have created myths; worlds of make belief, using images that are far beyond reality. What I like about nature photography is in the first place nature itself, but also the fact that nature can be just as impressive or touching, and often even more, than the fake world that we see on billboards and in commercials every day. In many ways my switch to nature photography is basically an escape to reality. And finally, I like the fact that in nature photography you don’t have full control over your subject, nor over the circumstances. This is often frustrating, but in the end it is what makes me want to try over and over again to get the shot that I have in my head.

Are there things you don’t like about Nature Photography?
Nature photographers can be very fundamentalistic. Most of them are obsessed with reality, with nature as it is, with ‘truth’. They condemn everything that has to do with image manipulation; some even to the extent that removing a piece of grass from the image is considered not done. Photography is an art form, and art is all about freedom of personal expression. The camera is just a tool for the photographer in the same way that a paintbrush is a tool for the painter. Unless you’re shooting for forensic evidence, scientific research or the news, there should be no reason to limit yourself artistically in a way that you’re merely taking photocopies of reality. Nature photography, from a creative point of view, is by far one of the weakest genres. Look at wildlife photographs from two decades ago and compare them to the images that are taken now – the differences are very small. We’re basically still doing the same thing in the same ways; only our cameras and workflow have changed. When you look at fashion photography, nude photography, advertising photography, and even news photography, you see that those genres have changed a lot. There is a reason that art galleries don’t take nature photography, and wildlife photography in particular, serious, and this is it. There is no real creative component in it, it’s all the same. As long as nature photographers keep being more focused on photocopying reality instead of on creating artistic images, our genre will never be seen as art.

Do you have any tips for Visions and Nature readers who would like to become professional nature photographers?
Think again. To earn a living from nature photography is virtually impossible. Contrary to much more commercial photography genres such as fashion and advertising, the subjects in our photography don’t really change. As a result, there is little to no demand for new nature photographs – the market is already saturated. The introduction of digital photography has made this even worse, as so many people are now into photography, and nature photography is probably the easiest genre to get into. Amateur photographers are willing to give their images away for free if they can get published in magazines, resulting in publication prices falling down. Micro-stock, images for as little as $1, are another example of how difficult it is to earn a living from just selling your photographs. There are already millions of photographs of lions, deer, elephants, bears and penguins etc., so demand for new images of the same subjects is extremely low. If you want to become a professional nature photographer, you have to be better and different. A good way to find out if your work is indeed better than the rest is to participate in photo competitions. If your work wins on a regular basis, then your photographs stand out from the crowd. It’s still no guarantee for commercial success, but at least it will help people to notice you. And of course: go out and shoot.

What are your specialities?
I am very fortunate that I’m pretty all-round. Most wildlife photographers are poor landscape photographers and vice versa. I’ve been very successful with my wildlife images, but also with my landscape work, and I’ve published a book with a lot of travel photography. I think that probably has to do with my background in advertising, where I had to do an ad for a car one day, and a commercial for ladies underwear the next.

Wildlife photography is my speciality. In my photography composition is crucial, and I go to great lengths to get a clean and graphic look with strong shapes. The habitat is very important for me and I often say that I’m a wildlife photographer that thinks like a landscape photographer.

Share with us one of your personal favourite photographs?
My personal favourite photograph is that of an African elephant standing at the edge of Victoria Falls. For me, this image is the perfect example of what I like to do most; a combination of landscape photography and wildlife photography in a single image.

Describe how it was taken?
I was visiting Victoria Falls when I was shooting for the Wild Romance book, and I heard from one of the local guides that an elephant had been spotted in the vicinity of the falls. I decided to stay some extra days, hoping to get a shot of the elephant and the falls in one image. I think it was the third day that we saw this particular elephant halfway in the Zambezi River, feeding on the fresh vegetation on one of the many small islets. A few hours later it suddenly walked all the way up to the edge of the falls, and I had to run to the edge myself in order to see as much of the falling water as possible. When I had taken the shot, I knew it was very special. Later I heard from the locals that no one had ever seen an elephant that close to the edge of the falls before.

You are now on Visions and Nature Blog, a Nature and Landscape Photography Blog from Kristel Schneider. Do you know her work?
When you look at her gallery which image pops out for you and why?I didn’t know about Kristel’s work. I had a look at her website and the image that pops out for me is the one of a fly hanging on grass; I like the composition and the lines in the background. I do wish the fly was a bit brighter though. Click here so see the image Marsel selected.


Photo Travel Review Magazine recommended Photo Seminars – Kristel Schneider

There are hundreds of photo seminars advertised on the Internet, many of which are offered by very well known photographers.  Seminars can be very expensive, some of which can cost well above $10,000.  What the PTR Team has learned, however, is that sometimes the best opportunities for learning about photography is to find someone who is filled with enthusiasm for photography, whose photographic skills have been recognized by others, and who charges a modest fee to attend their workshops.

Just because a seminar is expensive, does not mean that one will improve one’s skills.  There are other more important factors to consider.

One key criterion is whether the workshop leader has the patience to work with someone who knows little about photography and is eager to learn.

It is this latter criterion that the PTR Team can’t emphasize enough.  It is of little good to attend a seminar where one feels intimidated by the workshop leader.  Or worse, a seminar where the leader spends his or her time shooting for themselves.

Kristel Schneider has developed a reputation for teaching without intimidating as can be gleaned from the comments of her workshop participants:

“Kristel gives you a lot of space to expose your skills without the feeling you are a dummy.” – Dorothé | France

“Had a fantastic day. I arrived not really knowing how to use my camera properly and I left a manual shooter. I left with lots of new skills and I’m really pleased that I followed through on the impulse to join one of Kristel’s workshops.” – Patty | UK

“I am very pleased because it has been extremely worthwhile doing a one-on-one nature workshop. In that way all my questions were answered. Kristel’s enthusiasm, patience has definitely encouraged me. The workshop is excellent value for money and I would recommend it to anybody who would like to improve his skills.” – Ilse |The Netherlands

PTR Team Member Bill Lockhart first became acquainted with the work of Kristel Schneider while serving as a Moderator at — he was impressed with her work as a photographer because of her way of capturing the extraordinary from the ordinary.  Several of her photographs have been featured as Photos of the Week at the site.

Her offerings are very reasonably priced, … read more on: Photo Travel Review Magazine

Interested in one of Kristel’s workshops click here for an overview.

Interview with photographer Stéphane Hette

Visions and Nature
Nature Photographers interviews

I think we should respect the integrity and the living environment of the species that we photograph

Stéphane Hette

When I first saw some images of Stéphane Hette in a French photography magazine, Image Nature, I was stunned and wondered how he could create such images with butterflies. Maybe with a white piece of paper behind the scene or at home but then I was still wandering how. It was on his own Facebook page that he published a link with the answer to my question. To see Stéphane at work click here. I think Stéphane has created his own style of images with a great feeling of composition and contrast, like he is mentioning himself,  in an Asian art style.

‘I studied illustration in Belgium and discovered photography by chance when I was around 37 years old. After a year of trial and error, I developed my own techniques and photographed living subjects in my home studio set-up. I always respect the environment and integrity of my subjects. I think it is only with my patience and knowledge of the species that I can take this kind of photography’, Stéphane Hette

Who is your inspiration?
I’ve only very recently become familiar with few nature photographers, even if I appreciate the work of quite a number of them. I’ve mainly been inspired by painting, and more particularly by Asian art, whose effects can be seen in my work.

What made him/her inspire you, with what kind of image(s)?
Some photographers tempted me to take on nature photography but they did not really inspire me. The work of Bruno Calendini or Vincent Munier allowed me to think that we could be free and do what we liked above all. It is what I do, far from rules and restrictions, just with respect for my subject in mind. I often make small preparatory drawings before taking photos, to have an idea of how things will look. I have also just recently discovered the work of Karl Blossfeldt which I find fantastic and very inspiring.

As a photographer I particularly admire Stephen Dalton for his freedom and the power of his imagination, as well as Gislhain Simard, his inspired follower. But I will not list here all the nature photographers whom I like because the list would be very long:)

What do you like about Nature Photography?
In fact I would not know how to define what I like in nature photography, but it certainly makes me very happy when I practice it. Happiness, or the quest for happiness is important in life. I believe I have found what makes me happy and I am lucky to be able to share this happiness with others.

Are there things you don’t like about Nature Photography?
I don’t fight anything and I do not practise proselytism. I suppose that other people have the same passion I have who only shoots the things I really like. I would find uncalled-for to judge them. Too often I find that we lose interest in the young or in what is close to us by being interested in endangered species. The small is essential in the chain of life and I think that it is what you should not forget. For the rest I think we should respect the integrity and the living environment of the species that we photograph and to try to have the least possible impact on the environment. I hate those who give lectures and who often do not do what they say. I prefer not to give lessons as I’m sure I make mistakes too, even if I am very careful.

Do you have any tips for Visions and Nature readers who would like to become professional nature photographers?
Due to low-cost agencies, which are now all around the world, I shall tell them to be careful and to work near where they live. It will allow them to remain free to photograph what they like, and not travel all over the world in pursuit of subjects, which won’t appeal to them. But I shall especially tell them to rush as we are so happy to do something we really like!

What are your specialities?
The photography of butterflies of course but more generally the photography of small size species: birds, insects, and rodents.

Photographs are Copyrighted © 2011, Stéphane Hette — All Rights Reserved

But I also do other things from time to time just for fun.

Photographs are Copyrighted © 2011, Stéphane Hette — All Rights Reserved

Share with us one of your personal favourite photographs? It is really a difficult exercise but I think that my favourite photo is the next I am going to take. But if I have to try to choose just one only I would say that it’s the photography which deals with Hanami (spring in Japan). I once wanted to take one special shot, but I had to wait for the Japanese cherry trees to bloom for that!

Photographs are Copyrighted © 2011, Stéphane Hette — All Rights Reserved

Describe how it was taken?
I had to choose a branch of cherry tree, that I arranged nicely in my studio (in fact in the lounge of my house). After that Cathy -my wife – and I sorted out the petals. When I had them on a wide ruler, I put my camera on a tripod, adjusted the flashes, and connected the remote control. I then set the butterfly on the branch – I was really hoping that it would not fly away immediately! I again verified my camera setting. I took my ruler covered with petals in one hand and the remote in the other. I took a series of 3 images while bringing down the petals over the scene. And finally I jumped with joy by seeing the result: it was really the image which I had wanted to make! Happiness is often that simple.

You are now on Visions and Nature Blog, a Nature and Landscape Photography Blog from Kristel Schneider. Do you know her work?
No I did not know her work because, as I said above I do not know the world of the nature photography that much. But I am always happy to discover a new glance on the nature, which surrounds us especially when this glance is talented!

When you look at her gallery which image pops out for you and why?
I like the series on mushrooms very much undoubtedly because one more time it is a world  I do not know and I like discovering beautiful things –  I admit it!

See the images Stéphane likes from Kristel’s Gallery:  Mushrooms and Fungi.

New: A series about Nature Photographers

Visions and Nature
Nature Photographers interviews

I can’t paint, but I can create artwork with my camera

Mike Moats
Mike Moats is an award winning professional Nature Photographer from Sterling Heights, Michigan, USA.

His articles and images have appeared in many magazines like for example Outdoor Photographer, Nature’s Best and Nature Photographer.  My first introduction with Mike was via Nature Photographers Net a great nature forum where he is the Macro moderator. His way of looking at nature made me follow his work and I am sure after this little interview you will do the same.

‘I started in photography in 2001 as a hobby and by 2007 it became a full time business specializing in macro nature photography.  I sell prints through art shows, teach three-day macro boot camps throughout the US, and have written many articles for magazines and have a soft cover book and five e-books. I run a forum just for macro nature photographers’, Mike Moats.

Who is your inspiration?
When I started in 2001 I didn’t know of any nature photographers, so I was not inspired by any photographers, I was inspired by the artwork that is created in nature, and decided I wanted to record this artwork with a camera.

What do you like about Nature Photography?
It gets me outdoors. I can’t paint, but I can create artwork with my camera in nature.

Are there things you don’t like about Nature Photography?
Only one thing that I don’t like about shooting in nature is dealing with the wind.  Wind can keep a macro photographer from shooting, as it causes our subjects to move, making it impossible to shoot many days.

Do you have any tips for Visions and Nature readers who would like to become professional nature photographers?
You have to work harder then the next photographer if you want to get ahead.  No one knows you’re alive and in business unless you tell them. So marketing properly is the key to making it in this business.

What are your specialties?
I only shoot macro, so when people think of me as a nature photographer ; there is no confusion on what I do.Share with us one of your personal favorite photographs?
My favorite image is one of my most successful images, which is a green fern on a burned downed tree trunk that was shot in Yosemite. It has been published in magazines many times, won in photo contests, and has appeared in newspapers, TV, and advertisement in postcards for many art shows that I’ve participated in.

Describe how it was taken?
The new spring ferns were over taking the blackened tree trunks that had fallen in burned area. I was using my first digital camera which was a Fuji S2 Pro and my Sigma 180 mm macro lens. I used an f-stop of f/32 to get all the nice details and textures in focus.

You are now on Visions and Nature Blog, a Nature and Landscape Photography Blog from Kristel Schneider. Do you know her work?

When you look at her gallery which image(s) pops out for you and why?
I obviously am drawn to the macro, and she does a nice job with her flowers images.

See the images Mike likes from Kristel’s Gallery:  Flora.

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