1.What are the essential qualities/gear a wildlife photographer must have? / What makes you Pursue this Thrilling genre of Photography?
Patience and commitment are absolutely vital. There's no beating about it, it's a hard way to make a living, to begin with, and the competition is truly immense. You have to keep going, pushing yourself to improve. Try new things, make mistakes, learn from them. I don't really believe that equipment makes a wildlife photographer, the skill is in making a photo, not taking it - so don't let equipment hold you back. Your time is much better invested looking at what great photographers and artists have done before, learning from them, and also identifying why you are different. In the end, it's the differences, not the similarities, that will make you stand out.
2. Can you mention some basic traits for being a Wildlife Photographer?
For me, wildlife photography has to come from the heart first. You really have to love your subject to make that path a reality. It's only if you really live it, really breathe it, that you'll make it happen. What's more, it's so important to understand wildlife to give you a fighting chance to predict what might happen next. This might just give you a few seconds to consider your photo and, with that, you can really elevate your wildlife photography. Patience is so vital - you will have days that nothing happens, that's just the reality of working in nature. A good wildlife photographer will take the slow days in their stride.
3. What makes animals so special for you and can you please mention any special moment with them?
I grew up in a very dog-centric house. Our dogs were family members, not pets. From these animals, whom I really do consider to be friends, I learned that animals have emotions, characters, that they're sentient beings like us. So any time I spend with wildlife is truly special for me, to share in their lives if only briefly. I consider myself enormously lucky that i have had more breathtaking wildlife experiences than I can count. But one that really stands out for me was my time with Ulysses. We were headed to Amboseli when we heard the devastating news that Tim, the iconic tusker elephant, passed away. Having never had the chance to meet this beautiful animal, I was devastated. In many ways this was a great success story for conservation, an elephant with such large tusks dying of natural causes is a real testament to the anti-poaching efforts in Amboseli. But with Tim being the only tusker regularly seen in these parts, and with only a handful of these giants remaining, our chances for seeing one were surely dashed. As always, I was in the jeep as dawn rose. The elephants habitually spend their evenings up on the grasslands at the foot of the mountain, making their way to water as the sun rises, so I had placed us tactically between the nearest water source, knowing that we would only have to keep still to let the elephants come to us.
At this time in the morning, the air is cool and sound seems heightened. Some gentle rumbles let us know that a herd was coming our way. As soon as they broke into open ground, it was clear that there was something electric here. A huge bull escorted the herd and, what’s more, his tusks were unlike anything I had seen, barely clearing the ground. A tusker, it had to be – but who? And from where?
In a hushed, distinctly bewildered voice our guide told us this was Ulysses. A very close friend of Tim’s as young calves, Ulysses hadn’t been seen in these parts for years. Yet here he was, not a couple of days after his old friend had passed away and a hundred yards from where this great elephant had taken his last breaths.
Elephant grieving is hotly debated, but witnessing this encounter left me with little doubt in my heart. The timing was too unlikely, the appearance too co-incidental. Ulysses was here for Tim.
4. How important is mastering fieldcraft or animal behavior?
How do you balance the two and avoid making a cliché image? Absolutely critical. I am truly committed to showing wildlife as it is supposed to be - Wild and Free. Not baited, harassed, or trained. I also never use triggers or any other remote contraption. So to get in close we rely on a wealth of experience in animal body language learned over years in the field. We know when we are welcome and where we have outstayed our welcome, and this helps capture a pervasive sense of calm in my images. What's more, understanding what might happen next gives you just a bit more time to compose the shot you're looking for.
5. When on a Safari, do you look for specific species, if so how would you recommend preparing for that?
No, not really. I always look for light first. So I will spend my time with my eyes glued to the heavens waiting for the light that I want in my shot. Once there is compelling light, I find a subject that I can frame it with. The best subject in poor light will never make a compelling photo. Even the most unassuming subject, in the right light, can be a masterpiece. Focus on light not subject and you will instantly elevate your photography.
6. Has there been one standout photographic experience from your work in ANTARCTICA?
Sadly my trip to Antarctica has been delayed due to the pandemic, so I will be going for the first time in October 2021. However, I have spent a fair amount of time in the Arctic which has offered up some amazing shooting potential. Polar bears in particular. No other animal has such raw power - a true apex predator. My favorite shot from these trips is a photo called the 'Pathless trodden'. In many ways it breaks the photographic rules, the bear is walking away and it is taken from a very high viewpoint - but for good reason. I chose the high viewpoint as it emphasized the footsteps that make for a pleasing leading line and then turned back helps drive home the lonely feel to the photo. A lone bear in a barren world of white, eking out a difficult life against the odds.
7. You have traveled to more than 80+ countries across 6 continents, Is there a special country you feel attached too?
I know it’s a cliché, but this is such a hard question. The problem is each location is very different, so it’s like comparing apples and pears. But I like true wildernesses, not those couched as such, with a 5-star hotel perched just out of sight. I felt true silence for the first time north of Svalbard in the arctic circle, and it was electric, I will never forget that, as well as spending time with polar bears, such powerful animals, so the arctic is a high contender. Looking into the eyes of a female mountain gorilla was also a deeply personal encounter, the huge primate curiously approaching and settling near me, locking eyes with me. I could see such personality, I really felt I could see a soul, and affirmed more than ever the belief I have that animals are just as emotional beings as us. Often I suspect more so when I look at what we do to our planet. Then on the other end of the chart, Papua New Guinea was a true adventurer’s adventure, the only place I have ever had a bow pulled in my face. Made me feel the age of exploration isn’t over just yet.
8. What is Generation Tusk? How did you come up with such an idea?
Tusk is already an existing charity that does truly fantastic work around the world. I was asked to be involved and I was thrilled to support. But I and a couple of other like minded people felt there was something to be gained by focusing on a younger demographic. As these people will become the next leaders, CEOs, and conservationists of the world, we wanted to get them involved and part of the Tusk family. It's about spreading the message and empowering all ages to feel they can make a difference.
For more amazing photos from Harry Skeggs please follow him on WPC.