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.


Interview with Photographer Jeroen Stel

Visions and Nature
Nature Photographers interviews
by Kristel Schneider

..“do my own thing” and not be bothered with the opinions of others and this works well for me

I attended my first nature photography workshop with Jeroen in the Netherlands, many years ago already. He had a great way of telling us about his passion and this was really inspiring and motivating people, as he did with me. I saw Jeroen’s  first images on,  they were macro images of all kinds of topics.

His work made me want  to read and experiment more about that type of photography. Jeroen’s photography passion is bird photography and although  this is not one of my favourite subjects I love his bird images as they do not look like registration images but show the birds in their natural habitat, surrounded in a great atmosphere, blue light or sunset tints.  I am personally happy to add Jeroen to the list of Series Photographers interviews on Visions and Nature and I hope you will enjoy his work.

Who is your inspiration?
Nature in itself is extremely inspiring and its shapes and movements inspire me the most.

What made him/her inspire you, with what kind of image(s)?
I like the “element of surprise” nature offers me on a daily basis. Be it  rainstorm whilst photographing Kingfishers or the last rays of light during sunset, providing a rim of light around a Roe Deer for instance, can create a big smile on my face.

What do you like about Nature Photography?
Having worked in the fashion industry for many years as a fashion designer I realised I was always working and thinking in boxes which limited my creativity. By working as a full time nature and wildlife photographer I have now limitless possibilities in making creative  images. Moreover  nature is the most beautiful “office” to work in. This does not mean it is easy, but I have always liked a challenge.
Furthermore the freedom and peace of mind nature provides me with is something to be found nowhere else.

Are there things you don’t like about Nature Photography?
When I left the fashion industry I was glad  not to elbow my way in any more and get rid of all that envy and animosity that surrounded me. Unfortunately as time passed by I have noticed that things are not that different in the world of nature photography. That is one of the reasons I decided to “do my own thing” and not be bothered with the opinions of others and this works well for me. Luckily I still get to meet many interesting and friendly people in nature photography and I would not want to swap my “job” for any other.

Something else I do not like is that many nature photographers are fixed on photographing exotic species and tend to forget about the beauty that’s around the corner. I see many interesting photos of lions, bears, elephants or eagles showing up on forums but so few outstanding photographs of a “simple” black-tailed godwit for instance. I am not saying that it is easy to take good pictures of exotic species (just look at the fantastic work of the earlier interviewed Marsel van Oosten and ask him how many hours he spends on his images..) but I am disappointed that many nature photographers just focus on creating full frame “registration images” of our own species instead of creating art.

Do you have any tips for Visions and Nature readers who would like to become   professional nature photographers?
Do not quit your current job…..or at least not until you are certain you can make a living with nature photography as this is very difficult. I have always believed that if there was something you really wanted to do you could do it. It has to be your lifelong dream though and you have to be mentally and physically strong in order to be able to cope with the many disappointments you will face. Besides, the image quality you produce has to be top-notch all the time.

Something I would advise people is to specialise in a certain subject or in photography style as this is the only thing stock agencies will still be interested in. If you have a passion for what you do and strive to be the best then anything is possible.

What are your specialities?
I started out with macro photography as I liked experimenting with all sorts of lenses and equipment to produce extreme macro photographs. Macro is still one of my specialities but I have become pretty much an all rounder as I shoot anything from Landscapes to Mammals and from Insects to Star Trails. In terms of species I’d like to think I am a Kingfisher specialist as I have been working with Kingfishers every year since 2003 and have more than 15.000 Kingfisher images and many HD film clips in my files.

Share with us one of your personal favourite photographs?
It is always hard to mention your favourite photograph as there are many photographs which might not have turned out as prize winning shots but they are my favourite memories in terms of wildlife experiences.

Describe how it was taken?
One of these experiences was the time I was laying in a clover field hiding behind my lens and waiting for a fox which had just been hunting Grey-lag Geese and had caught one. She was on her way back to her den and walked only 2 meters past me. This shot was taken at my minimum focal length at a distance of about 4 or 5 meters, as when she was walking  toward me.

You are now on Visions and Nature Blog, a Nature and Landscape Photography Blog from Kristel Schneider. Do you know her work?
I have known Kristel for several years and have seen her photography style grow in to her own “handwriting”. Whether her name is mentioned or not I can recognize a true “Kristel Schneider” from a mile away and that is a big compliment and a huge achievement on her side.  I like the romantic touch her images have and the way she uses depth of field.

When you look at her gallery which image pops out for you and why?

I do not have a personal favourite as I like many of her images and hope she will continue to make this beautiful work in her own style.

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