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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Nature Of Wildlife

Stefano Unterthiner gets incredibly close to the action to create his unique wildlife photographs

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"Actually," he says, "my background as a zoologist is very important for my work as a wildlife photographer. For my projects, I try to learn as much as possible about the species that I'm working with by reading scientific papers and contacting researchers, and then I keep learning in the field. My photography is improved if I'm able to know my subject well."

So it's no surprise that Unterthiner considers a carefully developed rapport with his animals paramount to his work. "When I become a 'friend' with my subject," he explains, "I'm able to work more relaxed, get close and start doing my photography. For this, I need time! For a story, I can spend several weeks, but sometimes I work for months on a single story. For example, working on my story on Whooper swans for National Geographic, I traveled to Japan to show the wintering of the swans, then moved to Sweden, documenting the migration of the species in Europe. Finally, I spent six weeks in Finland to photograph the nesting period. For this story, I worked overall for more than six months, but I think I've been able to produce a good portrait about this fascinating bird."

In 2009, a dream came true for Unterthiner when he became a member of the National Geographic contributing photographers. "Working for National Geographic magazine is not an easy job," he admits, "but I love it! You have to give the best of your best in the field, you are maybe a bit stressed, but your work will be displayed in the world's most renowned magazine! And this is so important to me as the Italian 'ambassador' for wildlife."

For his first assignment, he spent a total of five months in the subantarctic archipelago of Crozet shooting a remarkable series on the local penguins, and it was one of Unterthiner's most personally rewarding expeditions.

"I'll never forget this remote land and pristine nature," he says.

He's on another assignment for the venerable magazine at the time of this writing, with no emails and limited contact with the outside world for nearly two months.


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