Interview with Wildlife Photographer: Graeme Green

Sunday 3rd March is World Wildlife Day. In celebration of this, Atta spoke with Wildlife photographer Graeme Green on his favourite African wildlife hotspots, unsung heroes and how photography can help protect the natural world.

Interview by Andrea Moreno.

What makes a great wildlife photo stand out?

It has to be original. There are so many photos and photographers out in the world now, so for any chance of standing out from the crowd, there has to be something striking and different in your pictures.

Taking your time is the best way to achieve that. A lot of people hurry through a wildlife location with their cameras, trying to take quick snaps of everything they see. A photo where you’ve taken your time and thought about you what you want to achieve, including your position, the light and the animal behaviour, will always result in a better picture. One outstanding shot is worth more than 1000 hurriedly taken, clumsy snaps.

It also helps to study animal behaviour. When you spend time around some animals, you can see patterns and sometimes predict their movements, which means you can be ready to take the best photo at the right moment.

You’ve worked in many different parts of Africa. Is there a particular country you feel attached to?

I’ve visited Tanzania several times and the wildlife across the country is incredible. Uganda’s very under-rated, as is Malawi. I like Botswana, especially for the desert-adapted species, like meerkats and ostriches in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.

The list goes on… I’m always happy to take any opportunity to go back to work in Africa. There’s so much of the continent that I haven’t explored yet. The more of Africa you see, the more you want to see.

Have you been anywhere particularly interesting recently?

I was working in Ruaha National Park in Tanzania recently. It’s a massive, remote wilderness area that gets far fewer visitors than Serengeti or Ngorongoro but the wildlife there is phenomenal, including lions, cheetah, leopard and elephants. I watched a leopard hunt from a baobab tree, leaping down the trunk onto an oblivious impala, which is the kind of thing you might see once in a lifetime, if that.

I also spent time in several of the Maasai conservancies outside the main reserve, which are doing great work. In Naboisho, in particular, I got to photograph so many big cats.


Have you had any close encounters with animals you’ve photographed?

I had a Silverback mountain gorilla thunder past me in the mountains of Uganda. Thresher sharks have swum right over my head. In Zambia, lions came pretty close, though they were more interested in a nearby troop of warthogs. Most animals aren’t all that interesting in attacking humans, of course.

Has there been one standout photographic experience from your work in Africa?

Getting to see mountain gorillas in Uganda is certainly one. It’s an unforgettable feeling to be so close to an animal that is so large and powerful, yet at the same time so gentle and ‘human.’

But one assignment I particularly enjoyed was photographing Gelada monkeys in Simien Mountains National Park in Ethiopia. I sat among a few hundred of the monkeys on the high grasslands, photographing them grooming, grazing and playing. They can be a challenge to photograph; they don’t like to be watched while they’re eating. But they’re also full of character and quite regal, with their big manes and red chests. I happily spent days up there with my camera.

Big animals, like lions, gorillas and elephants, get a lot of attention. Are there any ‘unsung heroes’ that you’ve photographed?

Yes, I really like to photograph less well-known creatures, including lizards, birds and bugs. In Ruaha, I saw quite a few rock agamas, a type of bright blue and orange lizard. I spent plenty of time photographing them. They’re otherworldly, and the patterns and textures of their scales is like a shining mosaic.

Smaller creatures can be just as fascinating to photograph as the big beasts.

What good do you think wildlife photography can do to encourage people to protect wildlife and the natural world?

Photos can get a message and a feeling across in a very direct, immediate way. I’m also a journalist and travel writer, and I believe in the power of the written word. Words and pictures combined can be very effective.

Wildlife photography is a big part of promoting tourism and bringing people to Africa, and tourism is vital to protecting wildlife. Without tourists and the money from tourism, it’s much harder to protect areas from poaching and other threats.

In the bigger picture, it’s always hard to know what good a photo does. We see so many pictures and hear about so many urgent issues that it’s easy to turn the page and move past the story. But a powerful image really can get someone’s attention. Without photography, I think we’d find that people care far less about the natural world. When someone tells you one of your pictures made a big impression, it’s a very satisfying feeling. 

 

Graeme Green is a wildlife photographer and journalist for The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, BBC, The Guardian, Wanderlust and more.

Follow him on social media to see some of his fantastic work!

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To find out more, visit http://www.graeme-green.com/