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The photographer chosen for September is William Dixon, a fellow volunteer and wildlife enthusiast. William and I (Anthine) volunteered at the same organisation in Namibia, Harnas Wildlife foundation . As both share a love for cheetahs and photography, this interview was bound to happen at one point or another.
To get started, could you give a brief introduction of yourself and how your interest in photography started?
I have no formal training as a photographer. In fact my college degree is in pharmacy. However, my interest in photography has greatly increased over the years. I started taking pictures as a small child with a Polaroid instamatic then progressed to film cameras and years later to digital format. When I was young I mainly took travel photos or local areas of interest but later developed an interest in wildlife photography.
What sparked your interest for photography, especially the field of wildlife photography? Why do you enjoy it so much?
I was always fascinated by the ability of the camera to take a snapshot of time or its ability to preserve a memory but as I got better at my craft I marvelled at the ability of creating an image and making a true connection with the viewer. There is no greater beauty than that found in nature so I developed a concentration on wildlife photography with the hope that my photographs might generate an appreciation for nature and an interest in protecting it. I have volunteered extensively at various conservations or reserves( using vacation time) and have worked with animals directly in many cases. This gives me a better appreciation of the animal as a species as well as learning the behaviors inherent in that particular species. It is not the best camera that makes an image but taking the time to learn about your subject and trying to create an image that captures its role in the ecosystem as well as the beauty of the animal itself. There is nothing more demeaning to a photographer than someone who cracks the phrase “you must have an expensive camera. The camera is just a tool like the brush to a painter. I wonder if artists are told your painting is magnificent you must use high quality brushes. I enjoy immersing myself in the harmony of nature and its peacefulness. You just forget about the world and all its problems if just for a while.
What do you think is wildlife photography’s role in creating attention around conservation?
I think wildlife photography plays a tremendous role in drawing attention to the plight of animal conservation. The key is for the image to connect with the viewer and incite empathy for the conservation effort. Whats the phrase- a photograph is worth 1000 words. Sometimes a photograph can stir such emotion within an individual and lead them to care for a cause when they may have had little interest in the effort before seeing the photograph. Ideally great images and effective writing are even more effective.
You have a pretty extensive portfolio. If you could choose one shot to represent who you are as a photographer, which one would that be?
Great question! To be perfectly honest I cannot choose one shot. Yes I have a few favourites for one reason or another but it would be like choosing your favourite child. Each shot evokes a memory to me and each moment spent with these incredible creatures is truly a treasure. To me I enjoy watching the viewer and their reaction to the photograph and it never ceases to amaze me which photographs they like most and the reasons behind it.
What does your equipment bag look like, what do you bring when you go out to take photos?
I have a travel bag on wheels, as the equipment can be quite heavy. I carry a backup camera and a few lenses as well as flash equipment, memory cards and backup devices. My camera of choice is a Nikon D4 and my favourite lens is the 70-200mm 2.8 lens. My lens choice is dependent on the subject of the day but that lens is used for the majority of my photos.
Finally, what animal or object is your “holy grail”, i.e. the ONE scenario or animal you really want to take photos of before you hang up your camera strap?
One?? I would love to photograph a cheetah taking down a game animal after a long chase or perhaps an action photo of a great white shark. I hope it will be a long time before I hang up my camera strap and pray there will be many more animal encounters to come.
And there it is! A big thanks to William for being a good sport and for answering our questions. If you want to take a look at more of William’s work, have a peek at his portfolio at www.williamdixonphotography.com.
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