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The quest for the ‘perfect’ picture

The quest for the ‘perfect’ picture

Interview with Wildlife Photographer James Gifford
Always an avid traveller, it was the continent of Africa and its wildlife that first captivated James Gifford from an early age, beckoning repeatedly until it could eventually be called his home. Combining much enthusiasm and a smattering of technical knowledge, he eventually managed to ditch the London life and settled into what is a photographer's dream location in Africa.

James now spends much of his time in the bush, either photographing wildlife for editorial features, running specialist photographic safaris or shooting stills and videos for safari lodges for their marketing campaigns.

James will leading our photographic tours in Botswana and Zimbabwe. We talked to him about his passion for photography.

Interview with James Gifford, professional Wildlife Photographer in Botswana

James,why did you get into photography?
I always enjoyed taking photos but I only started to get serious when I began travelling. I was seeing some of the most spectacular sights in the world yet my pictures weren’t doing them justice. Frustration forced me to improve my photography to share the wonders of nature with the rest of the world and the hobby soon became an obsession.
What type of photography are you most passionate about?
Wildlife was always my primary passion. From a very young age I was fascinated by the behaviour of other creatures and the thrill of searching for them in the wild, and although I enjoy shooting lansdscapes and people, the unpredicatability of wildlife and its infinite variations will always be number one.
Young lions trying to master a surprise attack

Young lions trying to master a surprise attack

What or who do you draw inspiration from?
There are so many talented photographers in the world and the digital and social media age has opened up their work to the world in a unique way. As well as some of the more obvious big-name photographic stalwarts, I am excited by the latest generation of technologically savvy nature photographers who are stretching boundaries of lighting and techniques like never before.
How would you describe your photographic style?
Personal and emotive – I like to portray not just the general character of the species but the mood of the animal at the time. Often this is not the ‘cuddly’ persona that many documentaries like to portray but a rather grittier, more realistic portrayal of survival of the fittest.
What do love most about photography?
The unpredictability is what keeps it so fresh. You never know when you are going to be faced with the circumstances for a fantastic image and it only takes one push of the shutter to record that moment for posterity. I also find the (impossible) quest for the ‘perfect’ photograph highly addictive.
A black-backed Jackal on the prowl

A black-backed Jackal on the prowl

What are some of the challenges that you face as a photographer?
The advent of inexpensive technology has meant that competition is fierce especially in the wildlife genre- nowadays, every tourist is a photographer of sorts. It has also meant that image buyers tend to pay less, so it is harder to make a living out of photography. Often it is as much about how well you sell yourself as your photography, which isn’t my forte.
What tips do you have for aspiring photographers?
Don’t be afraid to experiment and go your own way. Seek inspiration from as many different sources but don’t be afraid to break the rules, and persevere. You need a thick skin to make it as a photographer.
A leopard captured with the panning technique

A leopard captured with the panning technique

What is your style in teaching photography during a safari?
I am pretty hands-on and like as much feed-back from clients as possble. If we are practicing a certain technique, like birds in flight, I am happy to spend several hours shooting at a scene until everyone feels they have mastered it. I also like to push boundaries. Once you understand the basic technical aspects, there are so many creative opportunities open to you and it is my duty to ensure you can master them and return with a portfolio of ‘Wow” images.
9. What can clients expect on a photo safari with you?
Diversity – although everyone wants the classic predator images, we will also cover landscapes, macro, black and white, panning and many more subjects and techniques. I am entirely flexible in what I am teaching to respond to the desires of the group, so every trip is different. One thing that is constant is the need for patience, which is essential to capturing interesting behaviour or making the most of a perfect lighting situation.
A lilac breasted roller returning after a succesful hunt

A lilac breasted roller returning after a succesful hunt

A classical African Sunset

A classical African Sunset

Buffalo Attack

Buffalo Attack

Big Cats getting wet in the Delta

Big Cats getting wet in the Delta

Starry sky in Savute

Starry sky in Savute

We are excited that James will be leading the following photographic tours in 2016

Magical Simbabwe
Botswana Wildlife Explorer
Interview: Thomas from Amazing Views Photo & Adventure Tours
Images: James Gifford

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Jennifer Brühlmann
Jennifer Brühlmann
Reisen und Fotografie sind unsere Leidenschaft. Auf unserem Blog berichten wir über tolle Foto Locations weltweit, Tipps und Tricks in der Naturfotografie, unsere Fotoreisen und vieles mehr.