Monday, October 1, 2007
The Wild Life
Heather Angel got her start as a biologist photographing whales and has become one of the leading nature photographers of the past quarter-century, communicating her enthusiasm for the natural world through her writing, workshops and lectures
Outdoor Photographer: We noticed that you have a degree in biology. Do you think this level of understanding about nature helps your photography?
Heather Angel: From early childhood, I had a passion for nature, so it was a natural progression to study zoology. At this stage, a career as a photographer wasn’t even a consideration. But when I began marine biological research, I used a camera as a tool to document the marine animals I was studying.
My understanding of lighting or composition was nonexistent; but as I began to write articles and to study magazine design, I began to appreciate how composition can influence potential sales.
For instance, I learned that vertical eye-to-eye shots of larger mammals looking directly into the lens invariably make popular cover shots.
Right from the start of my photography career, my philosophy has been to provide images of the natural world that depict authentic behavior within the natural habitat, and having this core understanding of biology has helped immensely. In addition, everyone knows an African elephant or a brown bear when they see one, but it’s the smaller fry that are more difficult to locate and come up with the correct name. Therefore, a basic understanding of nature is essential for knowing where to find and how to identify insects, frogs, toads, reptiles and marine life, as well as plants.
A biology degree is by no means essential, but it provides shortcuts to how and where to research information and to know when you encounter misinformation on the Internet.
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