BEHIND THE SCENES
People often ask us what it’s like out there and what kind of equipment we use. We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions and behind the scenes anecdotes that we hope you’ll enjoy. If you’d like to know more, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re happy to share our passion for the WILD. Happy reading!
Looking up to somebody is always great and it doesn’t even have to be someone in your own field. Here are some people who have truly inspired us.
Nick Nichols – To us, Nick is probably the single most inspiring photographer around. His wildlife and nature stories have a gritty documentary style to them that you don’t really see anywhere else. He dares to take and present images that no one else does.
Tim Laman – Tim’s dedication to his projects makes him truly inspirational. His work with Edwin Scholes on the Birds of Paradise is absolutely amazing.
Sebastiao Salgado – The real master of black and white. His images and projects are driven by his dedication to changing the future of our planet.
Orsolya Haarberg – One of those extremely talented photographers who really knows when to press the shutter. Orsolya spends her time together with her husband Erland chasing the light and beautiful landscapes.
Sisse Brimberg & Cotton Coulson – Our dear friends, two people whom we hold very close to our hearts. Unfortunately Cotton is no longer with us, but his legacy of fantastic image will always be here. Sisse and Cotton have always been our mentors and will always be photographers whom we look up to.
Well, first you have to decide if you want to do it as a hobby or if you want to make it your living. In short, you need to get a camera and learn how to use it. A photographic course is a great way to get around this part fast, but to be honest, we have never taken a single course in our lives.
The real energy behind it all is that if you are really interested in joining the world of pro photography, it probably won’t be something you even think about! It will be something that you just do because you can’t help it. You can google everything, read books, become inspired by other photographers, copy their work and then find your own style. Don’t worry, it will all come if you stick with it.
The real secret is passion and we believe it is also having the right network. This is where you have to be bold. Ask people questions and don’t be afraid of writing emails to your peers and the people you admire. For sure, you will not get an answer every time. But sometimes you will get through and get help. It will probably take you some years to start earning money from it, but with dedication, you will get to that point as well.
Social media like Facebook and Instagram are important, but you can easily drown in having to be online all the time. So figure out where you want to be and then make a serious plan on how to get there. Each and every photographer has his or her own way, and with dedication you will find your own. You probably can’t help it anyway!
We are not saints and we live lives like everybody else. Using fuel, eating the wrong stuff, not to mention all the CO2 we put into the atmosphere when we fly from place to place. We do, however, both believe that we are truly on a mission to make change, and with our project WILD we hope to create a positive influence. The world is already showing signs that we are all changing our attitudes towards the planet.
People around us think more and more about what they are doing. What we need to do is to make legislators aware that they need to make rules. Rules that will ensure we shift from fuel, like coal and oil, into alternative energy like solar panels and windmills. If we want to, we can do it, there’s no doubt about that. What You Love – You Will Protect!
We attended a serious course in jungle expedition medicine before going into the jungle of Borneo to look for wild orangutans. The Special Forces doctor who taught us said that we could encounter more then 1,400 different kinds of parasites. Sometimes we both suffer from the occasional nausea that comes and goes and we should probably see the doctor some time soon to get a cure. We have both had parasites and Helle has been hospitalised in Africa on a few occasions, as well as, in Denmark. Uri had cerebral malaria a few years back and spent some excruciating weeks in the hospital with nightmares and hallucinations. He couldn’t even remember who came to visit. It all ended with black water fever, where he peed pure blood for a couple of days. It was terrible.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we travelled through areas with many rebel groups to photograph mountain gorillas. In Papua New Guinea, we flew to the Hela Province and found ourselves in a tribal war. Many large animals, including a female lion, elephants and hippos have attacked us both. All of these episodes could have been very dangerous, but when you are there in the situation, you don’t perceive them as such (except for the lion attack). For some reason our brains seem to accept reality as something quite normal so we never really considered doing something else. Since the malaria, there has been malaria again, dengue fever, stinging bees, biting ants and more than a hundred ticks on our bodies in a single day. It is all a part of the game and we would not change it for the world.
There is a drive within us both. We love being in nature and it is here we are at peace and where we feel the happiest! This drive is like a bright, bubbling energy that can’t be stopped. This is love of the wild. We believe that we are all nature; we are all one.
And as we described in “Isn’t it dangerous”, there is also a certain kind of kick to it and we have become addicted to this. But the whole reason behind it all is different.
We both grew up surrounded by nature and spent most of our time hanging out in the gardens of our parents and sailing the Danish waters. This we believe created a great love for nature in us. A love, that in the end led us to understand that nature is suffering and we need to protect it. Right now, at this very moment, we believe that we are on the edge when it comes to the future of the planet and us as people. We can choose not to act, and then we will certainly lose. Yes, the planet will remain, but humanity will disappear because of food and water shortages, deforestation, pollution and global warming.
If we realise that, then we have no choice and we will have to act! And that is exactly what we are trying to do. We really and truly believe that we can save this planet with love. When we people really care about something, we will protect it with our own lives. We know that our images will not save the planet by themselves, but they serve to tell the stories that will need telling.
The ones who will save this planet are all of YOU. We all have the power to vote for the right people to lead our countries and we all have the power to choose what we buy.
Let’s rewrite the future of our planet – what you love, you will protect!
No doubt the best part of our job is being out there together in the WILD. We feel truly privileged to be able to do this for a living and we are living our dream and following our hearts!
We travel about six months every year to destinations as diverse as Borneo, Africa, the Arctic and Antarctica. The airports are by far the worst part of the job and right after that comes being down with malaria. Sure the malaria might kill you, but sometimes it seems like airport personnel are trained in ‘the art of evil towards photographers’. They spot you right away with your heavy luggage and although we always try to keep smiling and being kind to them, it always ends up with the same answer:
“You guys are way overweight and we have to check in your luggage.”
We recently paid an excruciating amount of USD 2,000 when flying home from New Zealand for just 15 kg of overweight.
This is a question we get a lot and of course, the equipment is important, because you won’t get any photos without a camera. But in general, photographers today worry too much about the equipment and too little about the job itself. Being a nature photographer is a great mix of being able to get ideas, research and plan as well as having artistic skills.
The equipment is important only in the sense that you need it to get your vision down in a media format for others to see. As photographers, and having seen so many other photographers’ work, we know that you can do a great wildlife or nature story with everything from a mobile phone to a big camera with a huge lens.
Are you really serious about it? Then you will most probably start to think about the quality of your pixels and the possibilities of changing lenses. We both use Canon 1DX mkII cameras and a full assortment of lenses from 15 mm to 600 mm.
In general for wildlife, (even though, there is no such thing as in general with wildlife photography) Uri often photographs with the 600 mm lens and Helle the 200-400 mm lens, both on the 1DX mkII cameras. It is heavy to carry in the jungle, but this is what it takes to get the images. Besides that, Helle always has her Swarovski EL 10×42 mm binoculars – as she says, “She feels ‘naked’” without them and it is an important tool to scan for wildlife! A third 1DX mkII camera is often shared between us, with either a 24-70 mm or a 70-200 mm lens.
This is important for our job as photographers as in some places a cheaper camera would simply not survive the wild. We are very proud to be Canon Ambassadors and really love our Canon gear! An example was in Gabon and Borneo. We worked two months in humid jungles, crawling in mud and getting into the water chest deep to get our images. This kind of work takes a camera that is made to last ,as you cannot afford to have mechanical problems when you are in the middle of an assignment.
We still own a tripod, but rarely use it anymore. Carrying a tripod through the tough terrains, in which we work, is simply not worth it. Sure we might miss an image or two, but so will any photographer working with a tripod.
So in short – Buy the best lens and camera you can afford. Think about where you want to go with your photography. Do you want to work professionally or will it be a hobby? This will influence your choices. And don’t forget that there is an amazing market for used equipment, where you might get a better camera, for the same amount it costs for a brand-new one.
On two occasions, we tried to pack everything into pelicases and check it in while following all the rules. Both times the luggage was lost in some airport for several days. And the problem is that we don’t always have a forwarding address at the destinations we go to. So when the otherwise kind clerk, says:
”Hey, don’t worry, we will make sure your luggage gets to your address…”
We always feel like saying that we can’t really give them an address, but we can give some GPS coordinates! Everything usually works out in the end, either by us paying extra or by the clerk calling the airline to confirm that they can allow us to take it onboard anyway.
And then … finally, you get to your destination. It is truly exciting and always a positively daunting experience. Everything might have been planned from home, but it is not until you actually get there, that you understand how huge this area really is and how difficult it will be to find your subjects. Then you start to ‘dig in’.
We get all our gear out and sort it, talk to the scientist or the fixer, which we usually work with and start the real planning. We always make sure to talk to these guys first. Explain to them what kind of images we have in mind and then we just get out there and start to have all the frustrating fun in the world!
Days are often tough and we work almost 16-18 hours. In the jungle you walk a lot or spend time paddling on the rivers. It is tough as hell with all the insects after you all the time and with bad food every day you lose your energy. So most of our time goes to preserving energy and then spending it when there is finally a chance to see something.
In the Arctic, life seems easier. You have a broader view of everything and the mosquitoes there do not carry malaria. When you are sitting out there on the tundra in the middle of a blueberry field while musk oxen are circling you within 15 metres or so, life is a dream. Or when you are on a dog sledge in wintertime, breathing the clear cold air and the local hunter will turn around and smile at you or laugh with you, and the only other sounds around you are the wind and the panting of the dogs. Although it can be really, really cold, the Arctic is a true paradise.
On the savannahs in Africa, life is just as amazing. These places often teem with wildlife and whether we are in a safari camp or in our own tent, everyday is just breathtaking! Safari life on the plains of East Africa easily makes up for all the hard work and frustrations in getting the good shots.
The main thing here is to enter the lifecycle of all living things on the plains, follow the flow, and see where it takes you. You might have a few bad days, but in the end when suddenly everything like light, situation and timing comes into play, it is truly like being offered a part as an instrumental player in the worlds greatest symphony.
The hairs will tingle on your body, the adrenaline rushes through your veins and your head is filled with true happiness. Sometimes when it is really, really good, tears of happiness will stream down our cheeks. This is when you forget all the hardship and know that you are truly alive. At this point even the airport clerks seem alright.
It all started when I was about seven years old and I was already very interested in animals. I was watching a Jacques Cousteau documentary, where Jacques and his team had a model of a hippo they had built and put under water. It took two guys to carry the ‘hippo-suit’. As they walked on the bottom of this river, they were able to document the secret life of hippos below water. I thought, hey … that is what I want to do and it somehow stuck with me ever since. I picked up my first camera at around 12 and have never really put it down since. I did try a few other jobs along the way and even managed my way through business school (although I took a year off when I was 17 and spent it working at a factory and in an Irish pub in Italy). Later I took courses at the Danish School for Graphic Design to complete a degree in graphic communication. That was fun, but photography and planning future adventures were always there, lurking in the shadows. One day, some years later, I was sitting on the couch at home with my wife Henriette (now ex wife). I was looking through one of my many books on photography and was admiring some images of polar bears taken by a Canadian Ranger.
I said to Henriette, “You know what, one of these days I really want to quit my job and do this.” To which Henriette replied, “Uri, stop talking about it all the time and just do it. We don’t need a lot of money and you should at least try.”
I got up from the couch and we talked about it the whole evening. The next day I quit my job at a travel agency and bought my first 500mm lens. And since then I have never stopped making images.
Since childhood I have loved nature and I have always been fascinated by it. I loved being outside and loved sailing with my family on our sailing boat. I clearly remember the first little flat and rectangular camera I had. Since then I have always had a camera! My dream was to become a primate biologist and study mountain gorillas and document it. I wanted to be Diane Fossy! But life works in mysterious ways and I became a near eastern archaeologist and a ranger in Africa. There was only one problem. What about seeing all the other parts of the world? I had to figure out how to see our amazing planet’s wildlife in my lifetime without it costing a fortune. And I wanted to document what I saw.
I became a wildlife guide and since I needed a rifle and pair of binocular in the field, I had to let go of my precious camera. My job was to protect people from wildlife such as polar bears, while showing them how beautiful nature was. I had a fantastic time as expedition leader on vessels in the Arctic and Antarctica, leading overland safaris all over Africa, finding tigers in India, whales, sea otters and brown bears in Canada and Alaska, dingoes and kangaroos in Australia etc. The seven continents were my workplace for many years in that way.
But after falling in love with Uri, I realised that I had to protect wildlife from people and not the other way around. My camera has made it back into my hands again along with my rifle and binoculars!
Uri is my ‘Yoda’ in photography, he has thought me everything I know and he showed me the ‘force’ of imagery. He is my true inspiration andhas patiently spent hours and hours going through big and beautiful photo books by various professional photographers. This was so inspiring that I just has to get back out there on all seven continents. This time with my pro Canon camera and Uri by my side!