The world of wild animals by Andrey Gudkov

Photo by Helen von Sternberg

A bit about animalism

Professional animalism is very specific and complicated genre of photography. This especially attributes to animals photography in natural environment (wildlife). This means colossal financial expenditures on photo equipment and techniques, expedition organization, purchase if licenses for shooting, time-consuming correspondence with authorities and management of national parks, organization of significant number of people for shooting, etc. Besides, photographer-animalist must have special knowledge about object of shooting; otherwise all your titanic efforts spent to organize expedition might go awry. If this hasn’t stopped you, arm yourself with enormous patience and calmness. Wait patiently — that will be your main rule. As far as it is impossible to shoot professionally an animal, say, as roll mount. Sometimes we have to spend 6–9 months to organize expedition, and then have only 3–4 shooting days. Be ready to 12–15 hours workday. Be ready to bad household conditions and camp life. Dirt, dust, rains and grill sun, exhaustion and injuries will be your constant company. And if you shoot in tropics, be ready to inevitable bouquet of tropical illnesses, such as malaria, for instance. And especially on your first steps there will be more disappointments than successes.

Your family should make up their minds to constant trips and your chronic absence when it is usual to band together at family’s table. If this again hasn’t stopped you, be prepared to permanent creative experiment. You have to learn how to work with your equipment with wiz’legerity, to understand its caprices, and squeeze all inside resources from it. When you wake up at 4 in the morning for several days in a row and realize that your have to walk yet another 15 kilometers in rain washy tropical forest of close to 100% humidity carrying equipment which weights 20 kg in order to make several shoots, and sometimes only one shoot, ask yourself a question: “Do I need it?”. If the answer if yes, this job is for you. If no — do not torture yourself and others.

What is the secret of animal’s photo? There are no beautiful and ugly animals. The most important, from my point of view, is to find in the animal something human and try to pass it via photo. Astonishment and fear, tenderness and care, anger, indifference, perplexity — all these features are natural for wild world representatives. Photographer’s task is to be able to get a sight of it and pass it to a viewer. Each shoot should carry on a piece of your own feelings and have something of your internal world.

Animal’s eyes are very important detail, which tells about character, helps to understand it. Concentrate viewer’s attention on eyes. But anyway I want to repeat: experiment and experiment again. There are no dogmas and established rules in this photography genre. His majesty “EXPERIMENT” is the main rule for photographer-animalist. Only via experiment you can obtain good result. And, once getting carried away by process, do not of course forget about elementary safety. Indeed you will have to work not with home hamsters and cats, but with wild animals, that will mainly perceive you simply as food, especially predators, and as its best, as competitor, who entrench its territory. You know, even the most felicitous photo does not worth humans’ life.

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to translator Irina Kharakterova for qualified texts translation.