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The wildlife photographer who turned heads in London Natural History Museum [Interview]by Bianca van der Bergh


Andrew Schoeman is a wildlife photographer, passionate about landscape and aerial photography too. Picking up a film that fitted his camera sparked his fascination with photography. Years later, Andrew had his work receive a thumbs-up in the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards in association with the Natural History Museum in London.

1. How did you get into photography?

When I moved from the city to the bush in 2000 to start my guiding career, I didn't have a great interest in photography - I owned a Vivitar 110 camera but I had no film for it. One day I found a film lying on one of the roads in the game reserve where I worked, and by sheer luck it was for a Vivitar 110 camera! I took my camera and new film on a game drive and happily snapped away thinking I would get great pictures, but I was wrong.  My very first roll of film was a complete disaster but I was hooked on photography and from then on I was determined to improve and take great wildlife images.


Above: Flying pursuit

2. What type of photography are you most passionate about?

Most definitely wildlife photography, but I also love landscape and aerial photography as well.

3. As a photographer, who is your biggest inspiration?

I don't  think that there is one single person, but rather a few great photographers, and a combination of their styles, that inspired me. When I started taking wildlife photos back in 2000, two well-known South African photographers at that time were Richard du Toit and Daryl Balfour. I loved their photos and they inspired me to improve. I am also a big fan of Frans Lanting; he has captured some amazing and iconic wildlife images.


Above: Inquisitive

4.Have you ever fallen short of taking the perfect shot?

As a photographer I don't think there is a "perfect shot". There are many great shots but there can always be improvements. This is what drives me to get out into the bush and wild places as I am still searching for that perfect shot!


Above: Final approach

5. What is the strangest question somebody has asked you?

As a field guide at many of the private lodges in South Africa I was exposed to different people that went on safari and everyone had different experiences and backgrounds. For many, it was the first time they had been to any wild area in their life, so there were always a few strange questions. One question that springs to mind is someone once asked me: "how fast can impalas run backwards?"


Above: In the crowd

6. What are some of the challenges with being a wildlife photographer?

The challenges we face often change depending on the situation and the environment, but there are a few. The weather is always a challenge - rain, hail, snow, wind, clouds and mist will always play a huge part in wildlife photography. Often we need to travel to remote places and there are weight and luggage restrictions. The mode of transport is also a challenge.  Knowing what gear to take with and what to leave behind can be quite challenging. I think successful photographers can overcome challenges and adapt to any situation at hand.


Above: Morning splendour

7. What is your greatest achievement as a photographer thus far?

My greatest photographic achievement so far was having one of my images ranked 'highly commended' in the Mammal Behaviour category of the 2010 Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in conjunction with the Natural History Museum in London; this is one of the biggest wildlife photographic competitions worldwide.


Above: In the light

8. What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Never give up, keep trying and always experiment with new ideas and techniques. You need to know your camera equipment intimately and understand how your camera reads and captures the light. Don't be afraid to ask questions and learn from others.


Above: Cleaning house

9. As a photographer, what do you live for?

I live for those once in a lifetime moments when the subject, light, camera and cameraman all work together in perfect harmony to capture an "almost perfect" moment in time.

10. What is your biggest fear?

My biggest fear - this is a tough one. I don't know if there is one thing that really jumps out, except that I'm a nervous flyer. The first couple of hours on a flight are very nerve-wracking for me, so I would guess that flying is a fear that I have.


Above: The crossing

11. How would you describe your style as a photographer?

I think that my style would be raw wildlife in action - I like to capture the moment faithfully and where possible I like to try and show the behaviour of the animal. If you enjoyed this interview and want to see some more of Andrew Schoeman's amazing work, check out his website.

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