Keen traveller, award-winning Australian wildlife photographer and owner of Houndstooth Studio Alex Cearns had a chat with bmag about her career and the best ways to snap a great wildlife pic!
As a wildlife photographer, you travel a lot – is this something you enjoy?
I travel because I seek adventure, culture and nature, but the destinations are often determined by the pro-bono philanthropy that is a large part of my life. I work with many state, national and international animal rescue organisations to transform the way people perceive rescued animals.
Whether they’re endangered Australian wildlife, puppies from an unwanted litter, malnourished Bali street dogs or Cambodian bears with missing paws – their faultless spirit shining through a beautiful image can mean a dog is re-homed, a donation is made, or that media will run a story to increase awareness.
What do you love most about travel?
I like travelling because to me, travel is food for the soul. It opens my mind to new experiences, and is a beautiful way for me to meet and connect with the people and creatures who share this planet. There are so many wondrous places to visit, and to see them in person is an incredible privilege.
What’s next on the agenda?
I’m also World Expeditions’ first female wildlife photography partner on tours to some very exciting wildlife destinations – so Tanzania and India in 2014, and Madagascar, South America and Galapagos in 2015.
Top three tips for good animal photography?
Think outside the box – take your photographs from different angles and zoom in close to highlight the part of your subject you want the viewer to notice most. To showcase the eyes, keep them in sharp focus, but don’t forget the other parts of the body like the nose, whiskers, tail and ears for quirky and interesting images. Look for patterns on feathers or fur or crop tight to show the details of a paw.
Approach the shoot without expectations – working with wild animals can be unpredictable and you won’t always get the shot you are visualising. The images I come home with at the end of a shoot are not always the ones I planned. I prefer to go with the flow, and watch while the animals go about their business and spontaneously catch those split second moments when they move in a certain way, or do something interesting or funny.
Have fun! Wildlife photography can be fulfilling and frustrating, all in one day. One instant you can catch a quirky expression on a giraffe, the next instant the herd takes off and you could capture a great wide angle shot. Regardless of the results, never forget that being in nature is a wonder to appreciate in itself. Some of the most amazing moments I’ve had, happened when I put the camera away – a lemur gently reaching out for my hand, or a cheetah walking up to lean on me. A part of me wishes I’d preserved the memory in a photograph, but the other part knows the experience was perfect exactly as it was.