Meet the award winning wildlife photographer James Gifford, from UK, hes been photographing wildlife since 10 years…lets see what he said about his career and life in this interview…
Hello and welcome to snaptured, please introduce yourself, and tell us about your career in photojournalism, and how did you get into this?
My name is James Gifford. I was brought up in the UK but have lived in Botswana for the last 11 years. I always enjoyed taking pictures but came out to Africa initally to work in the safari industry. When a magazine wanted to publish one of my photographs as a cover shot, I decided to see if photography was a viable career. That was almost ten years ago.
You have a fantastic and inspiring portfolio Can you tell us how you got started into?
I remember taking photos as a youngster when I came to Africa on holiday with my family but I only started to take it seriously when I travelled to South America just before I moved to Botswana. I saw so many amazing sights on that trip and was frustrated that my photos didn’t capture what I was seeing and feeling. That was when I decided I needed to improve my photography to do justice to the world’s natural beauty.
What genre of photography you like to do?
Wildlife photography has always been my first love but I do enjoy the variety of shooting landscapes and people as well. I have also built up an impotant commercial client base. Each genre requires a different skill set: from knowledge of light and composition in landscapes to building up a rapport with your subject for portraits and extreme attention to detail and understanding the importance of angles for my lodge shoots. But most of these aspects are transferrable and will enhance other genres of photography – I often find myself translating something I have learnt from one genre to another.
What difficulties you face in the field of your photography?
In wildlife photography, the biggest hurdle is the intense competition. The advent of digital opened up photography to the masses which is fantastic but it means that now there are millions of potential photographers who come out to Africa on holiday. It is almost inevitable that some of them will witness a piece of wildlife behaviour that a professional may have spent months in the field trying to capture. Consequently, patience and knowledge of your subject – which used to be vital aspects to wildlife photography – can only take you so far. The key now is to differentiate your images from the masses and that often means thinking outside the box in order to come up with something original.
What motivates you to take pictures and make them great?
I guess I have always been a bit of a perfectionist and what started as a hobby soon became more of an obsession, a neverending quest for the perfect photograph. It is an affliction that affects many wildlife (and other) photographers, something that has only been exacerbated by the surge in social media which gives you a permanent window into other photographers’ work. There are so many fantastic photographers out there, it is easy to gain inspiration from what they are creating.
Typical question, which image is your very best till now? We know all of your images are best but we want to know that one best image.
I have learnt from experience that I am probably not the best judge of my own photographs – knowing what went into capturing an image sometimes deflects from the pure aesthetic quality of the photograph. The sequence of the fishing leopard has won awards in a couple of competitions so I guess that is probably up there especially as I waited two years to capture it, but I prefer some of my more artistic images. I took a shot of some drinking elephants at night, which took several weeks and multiple attempts to capture as I wanted and that is certainly one of my favourites.
What gear you usually use for different genre of photography you do?
I have aways shot on Canon and have a 1DX ii and a 1D iv. I use a whole range of lenses from a 500mm f/4 to a 14mm f/2.8 wide angle. My 24-70mm f/2.8 lens is my workhorse and I couldn’t do witout my 70-200mm f/2.8. If I need the extra reach I have a 1.4x extender. Having made the mistake of many before me in buying cheaper tripods, I have settled on a Manfrotto which appears to be almost indestructible. I also have a couple of flashes and remotes. Finally, I got another Canon body converted to shoot infra-red which I like to use for wider shots in the harsher light of the day when we have some good skies.
What gear and lenses you usually use for portrait and travel photography?
For portraits I rely heavily on my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and a flash which I like to use off camera whenever possible. My 14mm wide angle is my favourite for landscapes while I am travelling.
Do you like to do indoor/studio or outdoor Photography
I do some indoor work when I am doing commercial shoots for some of the safari companies, but I will always try to include the view outside in the shot as well. In general, though I am much happier shooting outside rather than in a studio.
Which programs you use for editing purpose?
I moved across to Lightroom quite late (I used to edit everything in Photoshop) but was quickly converted. I still use Adobe Bridge to quickly scan images from a shoot beforeI import them into Lightroom but most of my editing work is now done in Lightroom rather than Photoshop.
What is the best advice you can give for the young upcoming photographers?
Don’t be afraid to experiment and always shoot what you love. You have to have a thick skin and sometimes it might feel like you will never make it, but if you love what you photograph, it will show in your images. Never give up and be persistent.
Finally, what is your goal for life? As a photographer
I still have so much I want to accomplish both in terms of the quality of images I take and (hopefully) achieving the recognition for them. At the end of my career I would like to be able to look back on the work I have done and honestly say that it has helped in some way to conserve the nature I have been so fortunate to see and live amongst. Africa’s wildlife has been at a crisis point for a while and it is vital that we do all we can to conserve every animal we have left.
Some of the awards James acheived so far
- 2016 Winner Photograph of the Year, Nature’s Best Photography Africa
- 2016 Finalist, BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition
- 2017 Winner, Oasis Magazine Award, Oasis Photo Contest.
- 2017 Finalist, Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year