Interview with wildlife photographer Jess Findlay

Jess Findlay is a wildlife and landscape photographer based in
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Jess Findlay

Tell Us About Your Background

My name is Jess Findlay, a 26-year-old nature photographer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I struck up an interest in photography during my mid-teens. From an early age, I went out bird watching and hiking with my Dad. This greatly inspired me. In the early stages, I photographed nearly anything I could find, doing my best to build my skill set. I eventually focused my efforts on the natural world. Before becoming a full-time professional, I worked in the conservation biology field. My role was to survey at-risk species throughout my home province.

Why Did You Choose Wildlife and Landscape Photography?

Since I can remember, I’ve been captivated by the diversity of the British Columbian landscapes, and the creatures that dwell within them. Having such a strong interest and knowledge base made it a natural progression for me.

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Where Have You Traveled and Where to Next? 

I’m very grateful to be able to travel just a few kilometers from home to access beautiful areas of wilderness. As a result, much of my shooting takes place right here in southwestern British Columbia. My travels also bring me to Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru each year where I lead group photo workshops. There are innumerable exotic locations that nature photographers dream of visiting, myself included. However, there is so much close to home that I’ve yet to experience. I plan to continue exploring British Columbia as much as possible. 

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Who Has Influenced Your Career to Date?

It would be hard to list all those that have inspired me in some way. A few names would be Paul Nicklen, Floris Van Bruegel, Stefano Unterthiner, and Thomas Peschak. There are so many amazing people in the photography and outdoor adventure world that serve as huge motivators for me.

What Have Been Some Highlights in Your Photographic Journey? 

Being recognized in several international competitions has certainly been a great honor. Two main ones being Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the Nature’s Best Photo Awards.

As a result, my work has been displayed in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, the London Natural History Museum and the Royal British Columbia Museum. It isn’t so often we get to see our images printed large in such esteemed venues.

My best memories, however, are those from my time spent away from human habitation, alongside some of our most charismatic wildlife. A recent project was of particular significance to me. I spent over a week photographing a family of Great Grey Owls. This was done from a small blind, which a friend and I constructed about 50 feet up a large tree adjacent to their nest.

What Is in Your Camera Bag for a Wildlife Shoot?

My current Canon setup is:

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In addition to camera equipment, I typically travel with gear for backcountry travel, including a shelter, cookware and safety equipment.

What Are Your Thoughts on Editing Your Images? 

I use Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop to edit my images. I try to keep my images authentic to the moment I experienced in nature. As such, my adjustments are typically limited to slightly tweaking color, contrast, cropping and sharpness.

I don’t remove or add elements to my images using techniques like clone stamping, content aware fill, etc. While these are my personal preferences, I certainly wouldn’t impose judgments on photographers who prefer a different approach. The individual expression of image processing is all part of the fun and can help distinguish one’s work. 

What Are Some Things to Bear in Mind When Shooting in Nature? 

An understanding of my subjects assists not only my photographic success but also helps to mitigate any potential threats we as people may impose on a given animal, especially when working in close proximity.

What I’ve come to understand in my field of photography, is how a slower, more immersive approach can really pay dividends, and also greatly increase my overall enjoyment of the experience. Dedicating time to scouting, free of gear, has become a routine part of my efforts. Learning about the general ecology of the area in which I’m working, as well as techniques to track my species of focus have proven to be integral to the process. My enjoyment is derived from the entire experience, successful or not.

In addition to being proactive in your scouting, gear preparation is a key element as well. While I wouldn’t consider myself much of a gearhead, achieving the photos you have in mind to a certain extent relies on having the right tools for the job, as well as the proper clothing/equipment to keep you comfortable and safe. Just like a camera and lens, for example, investing in high-quality outdoor gear goes a long way!

What Is Your Goal as a Photographer? 

I’m sure like many other photographers, this is an ever-evolving idea. As of this moment, I wouldn’t say I have one particular goal in mind. Exploring my part of the world’s many beautiful regions, having great adventures while documenting its wildlife is very fulfilling for me. I hope to continue to have this privilege and to share my findings with others in hopes of increasing awareness and promoting the conservation of our most precious places. 

Do You Have Any Upcoming Workshops? 

Each year I have the pleasure of guiding fellow photographers to some beautiful areas here in British Columbia, targeting a wide range of subjects, from owls to bears to mountain vistas. More information about my workshops can be found here.

If you would like to see more of Jess’ work, check out his website, Facebook and Instagram pages.

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About the author

Jennifer Venter

I am a passionate trained photographer currently living in China. I love travelling & meeting new people so my photos tend to fall into those categories. I love coffee, fashion & Christmas. The only thing that makes me run away in horror are scorpions. Contact me via email ([email protected]) or Instagram (@fleetingtimephotography).

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