Interview with wildlife photographer Shannon Wild

Shannon Wild is an Australian wildlife photographer and cinematographer currently based in Africa.

Shannon Wild

Tell Us a Bit About Your Background

I’m a self-taught wildlife photographer and cinematographer.  Six years ago I sold everything, packed up my life in Australia and moved to Africa. The previous 10 years I’d worked in Australia as an animal photographer. Before that, I was a graphic designer.

What Are Your Favorite Wildlife Locations?

Africa is truly incredible for wildlife thus the reason I moved there.  There is so much diversity within the continent. From the savannahs in East Africa, the deserts in Namibia, the Okavango Delta in Botswana and lush forest in West Africa. Another favorite is Madagascar.  This African island is abundant with unique and endemic species found nowhere else, including mainland Africa.  There are endless photographic opportunities.

Malagasy giant chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) also known as Oustalet’s Chameleon, photographed in Madagascar

I also adore India and just returned from filming a documentary there for 18 months. India also has a lot of variety.  My personal experience was within one region as that was the focus of my film. This alone was full of stunning wildlife and unique forest environments.

Next, I’d have to say the Arctic, unlike anywhere else, a truly magical place to photograph.  I’ll never forget all the wonderful opportunities I’ve had to film polar bears!

Polar Bear, Artic

Do You Have Any Trips Planned for the Year?

I always have trips planned well in advance and at this stage booked into 2021.  For this year though I’ve just returned from India and a new home in South Africa. Thereafter I’m headed to Fiji, Australia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mexico, and the US. That’s what I know of for this year, but things always pop up at the last minute which I like to take advantage of.

Most of these are filming assignments.  Some are purely photographic while Australia is to visit family after being away for 6 years.  The US trip is a mix of meetings and photo shoots.

A Black Panther in Nagarhole National Park, India

What Makes a Good Wildlife Photographer?

Respect, patience and calm energy are of the utmost importance when it comes to wildlife photography. Knowledge and experience of animal behavior are especially important.

What Makes a Great Wildlife Image?

For me, a good wildlife image is one that not only grabs the viewer’s attention but also does justice to the subject. It should make the viewer feel some sort of connection, even if just sparking curiosity.  This will hopefully lead to more of an appreciation of the natural world.

The leopard (Panthera pardus) is a member of the Felidae family. With a wide range in some parts of Africa and tropical Asia, from Siberia, South and West Asia to across most of sub-Saharan Africa.

When you first start out in photography there is often a lot of time spent checking the back of your camera to check if the exposure and focus are right. Over time it becomes much more intuitive. After 15 years of shooting, I am usually very aware of when I have or have not got the shot.  I am able to focus more of my attention on really capturing that precise moment.

My style is to shoot shallow so I love incorporating bokeh and strong color into my compositions to really accentuate the subject.

The black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata) is a Critically Endangered species of lemur endemic to the island of Madagascar

What Is Your Favorite Animal to Photograph?  

That’s a really tough question and one I get often. I enjoy working with all animals; some are obviously more difficult than others. I especially enjoy working with reptiles and recently filmed the impressive Komodo Dragon on Komodo Island in Indonesia. It was an awe-inspiring experience to spend time with these living dinosaurs in the wild.

The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), also known as the Komodo monitor, is a large species of lizard found in the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang, and Padar.

What Is Your Go-To Gear in Your Camera Bag?

FILMING

Cameras

  • RED Digital Cinema cameras including the Helium 8k, Gemini 5k, and a Dragon 6k.
  • Sony a7Rii camera kit with a 4K recorder
  • Heavy-duty tripods: Miller & O’Conner

Aerial

Shannon Wild in India

AUDIO

LENSES

Asian Elephant mother and baby, India

PHOTOGRAPHY

Verreaux’s sifaka photographed in the Berenty Reserve of Madagascar.

BAGS

HARD DRIVES

EXTRAS

I’ll always have my phone, lip balm, my Wild In Africa bracelets and a hat!

What Is Your Editing Workflow?

I always shoot RAW and process through Lightroom with editing presets that I apply on import.  I am very conservative and critical on my selections so culling a batch of images is quite fast and efficient.

What’s Your Advice to Those Starting Off?

Practice, patience and persistence! Keep going. Get out there again and again and again until your camera becomes an extension of you. It is like driving a car: the more you practice the more intuitive it becomes. Trust me, it does get easier! The worry of the technical ‘details’ fall away and allows you to focus on the subject at hand.

Also, have patience with yourself. It is easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated, so focus on learning one aspect at a time, such as aperture, until you really understand it, before moving on to the next thing. This will make the process far more enjoyable because remember, photography is supposed to be fun!

The Leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) is a large and attractively marked tortoise found in the savannas of eastern and southern Africa, from Sudan to the southern Cape.

Ask yourself what are you passionate about aside from photography? Is it something you can combine? For me, that’s the ultimate. I’ve been passionate about wildlife long before I ever picked up a camera. Being able to combine these two loves is a dream come true and helps to give me the persistence, patience, and energy needed to make it in such a niche and competitive industry.

Don’t give up. That’s what will set you apart from all of the others trying to do the same thing. I’ve had to make many sacrifices on my journey and it’s still very hard work being a freelance cinematographer always working to find my next project. If you truly are passionate about your work then the sacrifices are worth it.

Leopard, South Africa

Do You Have Any Upcoming Events?

This year I’m wrapped up with some documentary projects for National Geographic but will continue with some events in 2020 including the NatGeo Live speaking Tour across the US commencing in January.

In May 2020, I will be speaking at the PhotoPills Camp in Spain.  I am also a keynote speaker at the Sedona PhotoFest, Arizona in June.

All dates and locations will be posted to my website once confirmed.

A Springbok looks into the camera backlit by golden afternoon light.

Tell Us More About Your ‘Wild in Africa’ Jewelry Line?

I founded Wild In Africa in 2017 to help raise money for wildlife conservation. We donate to various charities that I have worked in the field with.

We donate a massive 50% of the retail price from our charity bracelets to wildlife conservation and animal welfare in Africa and India.

Wild In Africa™ is a socially and environmentally conscious bracelet brand that supports conservation so you can #WearYourKarma™”


If you would like to follow Shannon’s work, check out her website and Instagram.

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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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