How long have you been a photographer?
Photography began for me when I was 12. Growing up in the Vosges region of France meant I was surrounded by wildlife and the forest became my playground. My Dad gave me my first camera in the same year – a Nikon FE2 – which, looking back, helped to kick off my career in photography. I’ve always remained faithful to the brand and have been using Nikon products for 28 years now.
I will always remember the first picture I took. It changed my life. While exploring the forest near my home, I came across a small deer. I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement at being able to photograph such a beautiful creature in its natural environment, and I still find it exciting today.
After learning the craft for a number of years, I decided to leave school early to pursue my passion for photography. I travelled a lot during these years and took various jobs in order to save up for the NIKKOR lenses I dreamed of owning. In 1999, when I was 23, I was lucky enough to receive a grant to travel to Hokkaido Island in Japan for three months. It was my first shoot as a professional photographer. I secured my first job as a photojournalist the following year and my photography career progressed from there.
What are your proudest achievements?
I’m most proud of my work in 2013, photographing white wolves in northern Nunavut, a remote part of Canada. I had always dreamed of encountering such elusive wolves native to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. My dream was to photograph one that had never interacted with a human before. I made the short trip to Ellesmere Island and was able to photograph them in their natural habitat.
This was by no means an easy trip, as working in arctic conditions has its challenges. I wanted to work alone because a big team would disturb the animals. Some days were difficult and I had lots of equipment to carry around, but it was worth it for the thousands of images I took. I felt a strange sense of ease around the wolves – it felt, on some level, like we had a connection. My main goal is to try to reduce the gap between man and nature. I felt like I achieved that during my trip to Canada.
What drives you as a photographer?
I’m driven by curiosity, a thirst for adventure, and realising childhood dreams of encountering my favourite wildlife.
What do you love about wildlife photography?
I have always been interested in wildlife. There is something magical about capturing animals in their natural habitats, especially when they don’t know you’re there. Being a professional wildlife photographer has enabled me to travel the world, meet new people, and encounter such incredible animals.
What professional challenges have you faced in the past?
From a young age, I knew this was the profession I wanted to follow. But you can’t become a professional photographer overnight - there are many hurdles to face first. To begin with, you need the right equipment and this can cost a lot of money. I worked hard to pay for my first professional camera, and it can often take longer than you’d hoped to save up. It’s a struggle for all aspiring photographers and frustration can take over when the end goal seems so far away. My advice is to stick with it. If you’re passionate about something, you can make it happen.
What photography projects have you worked on and which have been your favourite?
On my first project in Hokkaido Island, I photographed swans and cranes in Japan’s winter scenery. It was beautiful. I had a very small budget but very big ideas, and I was determined to get the best shots I possibly could. I was absolutely mesmerised by the country and its wildlife and would love to have spent more time there. This project was the first step in my professional career as a wildlife photographer, so it really sticks in my mind.
Who or what inspires you?
My father, a photographer himself, is my inspiration. He helped develop and shape my career. When I was a young boy, my father and I would spend a lot of time in the forest. He taught me about all of the different kinds of wildlife that lived there and instilled in me a deep respect for nature. This respect has only grown stronger as I get older. My father taught me to get to know the animals I capture, to learn their habits and personalities. That’s how to achieve the best possible image without interfering in their lives.
What is your favourite Nikon gear and why?
The Nikon D5 is great for wildlife photography. It has a faster frame rate than previous models, a fantastic ISO range, and a quiet shutter release mode, which is imperative when shooting wildlife in their natural habitat. I also love using big lenses. The NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR and NIKKOR 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR have a fantastic reach, allowing you to take detailed photographs of your subjects without disturbing them.
Which kit will you be using most in the coming months?
I will mainly be using the Nikon D5 and the Nikon D500. I am keen to work with the Nikon D500 because of its lightweight body, quiet shutter release, and 4K video capabilities.
I’m also hoping to use my NIKKOR 800mm lens during my upcoming trip to Tibet, where I will be looking to capture the snow leopard – a notoriously shy and reclusive animal.
How do you feel about your new role as Nikon European Ambassador?
I am excited and honoured to be one of the European Ambassadors for Nikon. I hope that – through my images – I can share the beauty of nature and wildlife with those who perhaps do not appreciate it as much as they could do. I have always had a strong connection with Nikon, stemming from my first camera. This is a great opportunity for me to strengthen this connection and further develop my relationship with Nikon teams around the world.
What’s your advice for aspiring wildlife photographers?
Becoming a professional photographer is by no means easy. If you want to take the next step, it is important not to give up. if you really want it, you will achieve it. In terms of wildlife photography, it is important to be enthusiastic and patient. Nature is unpredictable and you have to be prepared for things to not go as planned. But, most importantly, you need to be respectful - know the animals, their behaviour and habits, and never, ever disrupt them.