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Award winning ANZANG photographer Glenn Ehmke!

Glenn Ehmke
Is an award winning nature photographer. He regularly shoots for Wingspan, the magazine of Birds Australia.

What’s your earliest ‘photographic’ memory?
Photographing ‘big game’ in South Africa when I was 14 or so. It was on a family trip back to visit relatives and we had seen elephants, giraffe, buck, rhinos etc., but one day we saw two young lions rear up at one another and I managed to get a shot of it. It was a bit far away to be honest, but it’s always stuck with me.

What prompted your interest in nature photography?
National/Australian Geographic and nature documentaries in general initially, but later on I realised the importance images play in the science of wildlife conservation. We use them lots at Birds Australia to educate and promote awareness and I got hooked seeing my photos in magazines and on signs, and knowing they were making a difference.

What are the essential elements for capturing a great wildlife/natureshot?
Good equipment I guess – long lenses 300mm+ and a decent SLR capable of high ISO work are certainly essential for some subjects, but time and knowledge (of your subject) are the things that set you apart I think. Catching animals doing what they do – in interesting natural behaviors – is the pinnacle of a great wildlife shot for me. But to get that, you need the time and the knowledge.

You were the overall winner of the ANZANG nature photo competition– could you describe how you achieved the shot?
That particular shot was mostly about being in the right place at the right time. I was lecturing on a ship on a Sub-Antarctic wildlife expedition cruise and I took the shot on on one of our stops at Macquarie Island. It was a fleeting moment between two of Macquarie’s amazing animals. The Elephant Seal was quite innocently moving down the beach but happened to be going towards a crèche of Gentoo Penguin chicks. Obviously the adult Gentoo wasn’t happy with that and let the seal know. It’s just a young seal in the picture (only recently weaned) and the look on its face says it all really. It all ended well, the seal took a slight detour and everyone was happy.

Given the unpredictability of your subjects – how much control do you have over the shot – how much is about being in the right place to capture the moment?
Right place and right time are definitely the keys. Right place is a bit more in your control, knowing what the light is doing (eg. where the sun’s going to rise or set) is important but you can figure that out ok, anticipating how animals are going to behave is the real challenge. So you’ve got to get yourself in a good position photographically, but also make sure the animal isn’t disturbed. That’s easier with some species than others – like the penguins and seals in the sub-Antarctic which have evolved in the absence of humans so don’t fear you – but others can be extraordinarily challenging. Then it’s all about knowledge of the species’ ecology and time, lot’s of time.

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