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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Concepts Of Nature


Andy Rouse is among the top wildlife photographers in the world. His new book takes readers into his overall thinking and approach to photography.

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andy rouse
Outdoor Photographer: How would you describe your style?

Andy Rouse: A combination of many. I’ve learned by looking at all kinds of genres. My inspirations? Ansel Adams, obviously—I learned light from him and the art of black-and-white—and some of the great photographers like Robert Doisneau and his amazing street photography, and Finnish nature photographers because they use light in a way that’s exceptional. Lord Lichfield did a picture of a boxer here [in the UK] named Frank Bruno. British boxing has never been that good, but Bruno was an exception. We had someone who could actually punch and knock down Mike Tyson. Lord Lichfield did a classic black-and-white photograph of Bruno lit from behind. He’s covered in sweat, look-ing over his shoulder. It’s an awesome portrait. I learn so much from these photographers working in other genres—portraiture, light, composition.

Outdoor Photographer:
Composition is a very strong element of your work. Regarding your use of space, why do you often pull back? Is it to get more of a feel for the subject’s environment?

Rouse: I think the style of a lot of American photographers and some Brits is to shoot tighter. French photographers such as Vincent Munier use space cleverly. I don’t have a generic style; I can illustrate a concept with whatever style the shot needs. I can do a portrait of an animal looking at the camera filling the frame, but then I can take a much wider view and look at the animal in its ecosystem. I’m now also forcing myself to do more landscapes.

andy rouse
Outdoor Photographer: What’s the motivation behind that effort?

Rouse: Because I’m in such beautiful places. I’m experienced at taking pictures of animals; I can do it easily. I like to challenge myself. I think when you do that, all your photography gets better as a result. I worked with a couple of landscape photographers, including Joe Cornish, who uses a large-format camera. We do seminars together. We bring things out in each other’s pictures that the other doesn’t see. I found that, when I was in the Antarctic, I began to think and get more in tune with the landscapes. I’m not a natural landscape photographer, but when there’s something there, I’m now good enough to see it and use the light to record it.

Outdoor Photographer: What makes one a good landscape photographer versus a wildlife photographer?

Rouse: Landscape is all about light and composition and seeing something that isn’t there all the time. Landscape photographers find a location and wait for the light to magically change the landscape. The best of them have the ability to foresee what the light is going to be like. They often have to set up their equipment in the dark. They have a feeling for it. It’s the same with wildlife photographers. We have a feeling for the wildlife, for the animal’s behavior. We anticipate what the animal is going to do.

Outdoor Photographer: What photographic equipment are you working with, and how do you use it?

Rouse: My main camera now is the Nikon D3. I love the Nikon 200-400mm lens. It’s great for wildlife. The quality is awesome all the way through the zoom range. I also have lenses from 600mm down to a 14-24mm lens, which is great for photographing environmental portraits of animals in their habitats. I use polarizers to do things such as reducing the highlights off a tortoise’s shell. I never use a tripod or a monopod. I use ISO 800 most of the time—with the D3, there’s no noise at that setting. Most of my shooting is done very early and very late in the day. In India, I was able to photograph tigers fighting in incredibly low light and didn’t get any noise.

I recently did a lot of underwater work with a Nikon D300 with a 20mm lens in an underwater camera housing in the Galápagos. I set the ISO to 800 to photograph seals, turtles and penguins, which are pretty fast-moving creatures.

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