My goal is to show and share the beauty of the nat­u­ral world… when you love some­thing, you want to pro­tect it.

Qui­etly spo­ken and reclu­sive by na­ture, Vin­cent Mu­nier is one of the world’s most ad­mired wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers. He tells Keith Wil­son about his pas­sion for win­ter, Ti­bet and liv­ing alone with a wolf pack in the high Arc­tic…

NPhoto - - Front Page - Vin­cent Mu­nier, Na­turepho­tog­ra­pher

row­ing up in a moun­tain­ous re­gion of France with a fa­ther who taught him a re­spect for na­ture from an early age, Vin­cent Mu­nier’s sub­se­quent life as one of the world’s lead­ing na­ture pho­tog­ra­phers hardly seems sur­pris­ing. “I na­ture was lucky re­veals to its grow beauty up in in an whim­si­cal area where sea­sons,” France is still he says. home Al­though to him, Vin­cent this part now of seeks out more dis­tant hori­zons and ex­treme con­di­tions to pho­to­graph the nat­u­ral world… When you were grow­ing up in France, which in­ter­est came first, na­ture or pho­tog­ra­phy? I grew up in the Vos­ges, in the east of France near the bor­der with Ger­many, where na­ture is still quite wild. So my love for na­ture def­i­nitely came first. What was the most im­por­tant les­son you learnt from your fa­ther about the nat­u­ral world? My fa­ther taught me to be re­spect­ful to­wards wild plants and an­i­mals, but also how to watch and iden­tify them. An­other im­por­tant thing is to stay hum­ble re­gard­ing the knowl­edge you have about wildlife: an au­then­tic nat­u­ral­ist al­ways re­mem­bers that he can­not pos­si­bly know ev­ery­thing and will al­ways be sur­prised by the wild world – in­clud­ing the weather!

Which was your first cam­era? My first cam­era was a com­bi­na­tion of a Ger­man-made Novoflex 400mm tele­photo lens with an Olym­pus OM-2N. Soon af­ter­wards I got a Nikon FE2 and then the F-801s, both of which I used with the Novoflex lens. My first Nikon lens was a 300mm f/4 tele­photo. Did you have any pho­to­graphic train­ing or are you self-taught? I am to­tally self-taught. My only train­ing con­sisted of learn­ing how to hide and

‘dis­ap­pear’ from the an­i­mals in the for­est, un­der the trees or in a pond. It’s still the case to­day when I need to pre­pare a pho­to­graphic trip to a new des­ti­na­tion. I had to learn how to dis­guise my­self on the ice, for ex­am­ple. How im­por­tant to your ca­reer has been the Wildlife Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year com­pe­ti­tion? This com­pe­ti­tion helped me a lot on my way to be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional na­ture pho­tog­ra­pher be­cause it al­lowed me to show my pic­tures to a wider au­di­ence and pay for my first over­seas travel to the is­land of Hokkaido, Ja­pan. Mak­ing that jour­ney it was a dream come true for the young pho­tog­ra­pher I was then. Your beau­ti­ful books have quickly be­come col­lec­tors’ items. How much im­por­tance do you place on the cre­ation of a new book? Well, thank you! Books are in­deed very im­por­tant to me be­cause they both leave a per­ma­nent trace and they al­low you to cre­ate some­thing be­yond the pho­to­graphs you take. Snowy, white lo­ca­tions fea­ture promi­nently in your pho­tog­ra­phy. Why do you think this is? I be­lieve it is linked to my ge­o­graph­i­cal ori­gin. When I was a kid grow­ing up in the Vos­ges, I was used to long win­ters, some­times very cold and wet. I have al­ways loved snow for its pure­ness and mys­tery,

and I still get very ex­cited – just like a child – when I see it fall out­side. You re­cently spent a month alone in the Arc­tic pho­tograph­ing and video­ing white wolves. Did you at any time think you had taken too big a risk? Of course, this ex­pe­di­tion was risky. All through the trip I ex­pe­ri­enced ev­ery feel­ing and emo­tion you can imag­ine: ex­cite­ment, hap­pi­ness, fear, melan­choly. But these were the ex­tremes I was look­ing for, so I was just so ter­ri­bly con­scious of liv­ing my own life. You’ve de­scribed this ex­pe­ri­ence as the ‘great­est mo­ment of my ca­reer’. Can you ex­plain why?

The trip to the Arc­tic to see the white

wolves was, of course, my long­est trip alone in such ex­treme con­di­tions, and it was un­ques­tion­ably the most dif­fi­cult trip I’ve taken too. But meet­ing the white wolves up there was a big dream of mine. Their life is so harsh and chal­leng­ing, you know. Get­ting in touch with them in the wild was just fab­u­lous!

Meet­ing the white wolves up there was a big dream of mine. Their life is so harsh and chal­leng­ing, you know

Vin­cent Mu­nier Wildlifepho­tog­ra­pher

With nine wolves run­ning to­wards you in the mid­dle of nowhere, and no one to turn to, weren’t you scared? No, even when the whole pack of wolves was around me, I never felt scared of them at all. Hon­estly, adren­a­line and joy were the strong­est things that I felt at that point. I felt more scared of the pos­si­bil­ity of hun­gry po­lar bears ap­proach­ing my tent at night, or of a ter­ri­ble big wind tear­ing it from the ground.

What is your ‘desert is­land’ lens? If there were an­i­mals on the desert is­land, I would use the Nikkor 200-400mm f/4, but if all I could pho­to­graph were land­scapes then the Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 would have to be my choice. What’s the most un­usual thing in your cam­era bag?

Only my GPS! Can you list for me the Nikon cam­eras you have used and what was the best thing about each one? My first Nikon cam­era was an FE2: so strong and re­li­able, but noisy and heavy. I then got the F-801s, which I used a lot. It’s a won­der­ful cam­era, light and re­li­able.

The F5 fol­lowed and it too is an ex­cel­lent cam­era. I used two of them be­cause it was strong, fast and ac­cu­rate.

Un­for­tu­nately, the F6 ar­rived two years too late. It’s an amaz­ing cam­era, but I switched to dig­i­tal when it was ready. The D70 was my first good dig­i­tal cam­era, then came the D200, which to me was not so

I was lucky enough to work se­cretly with Nikon Ja­pan on the D3s. It’s won­der­ful for shoot­ing in low-light sit­u­a­tions

Vin­cent Mu­nier Wildlifepho­tog­ra­pher

good. The D300 was the per­fect DX cam­era and the D2x was also ex­cel­lent. I worked a lot with that, and with the D3 too. Then came the D3s and I was lucky enough to work se­cretly with Nikon Ja­pan on this cam­era. It’s won­der­ful for shoot­ing in low-light sit­u­a­tions. The D4 is an ex­cel­lent cam­era and with full HD video. Now, the new D4s is even bet­ter for video, with 60 im­ages per sec­ond in full HD, and es­pe­cially in low light.

I mainly work with two D4 bod­ies, al­though soon I will switch to the D4s. This cam­era is very re­spon­sive and sen­si­tive for pho­tograph­ing an­i­mals. For land­scapes, I pre­fer to use a D800e be­cause it pro­vides greater im­age de­tail, which is good when you want to make a beau­ti­ful en­large­ment. Which cam­eras, lenses and other ac­ces­sories make up your es­sen­tial wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy kit now? When I was alone in the high Arc­tic, with­out as­sis­tance, I used two pro­fes­sional Nikon D4 bod­ies, plus the fol­low­ing lenses: 24-120mm f/4, 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 and the 500mm f/4 – it’s light and ef­fi­cient. But when work­ing in Ti­bet, I pre­ferred the 600mm f/4 or 800mm f/5.6, and also the 200-400mm f/4, es­pe­cially to change the frame size, which is nec­es­sary for video. Of course, you shoot video as well. What is the best thing about video com­pared to stills? Video is the per­fect medium when you want to share great mo­ments on the

in­ter­net, and es­pe­cially for en­abling you to show the back­ground to the mak­ing of the still pic­tures. Red-crowned cranes, white wolves, musk oxen… what is your favourite an­i­mal sub­ject to pho­to­graph? I don’t re­ally have a favourite sub­ject, but it is true that the big mam­mals, and large preda­tors in par­tic­u­lar, have been a fas­ci­na­tion of mine for a long time. I couldn’t tell you why, but this feel­ing has prob­a­bly been in­side ev­ery hu­man be­ing since time im­memo­rial. There is a gen­tle­ness and grace about your im­ages that owes much to the com­po­si­tion and tim­ing of your ex­po­sures. Do you have some per­sonal golden rules about your pho­tog­ra­phy? My only golden rule is to have pa­tience, tenac­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence. I am not a tech­ni­cian of pho­tog­ra­phy. Tak­ing pic­tures is a re­flex ac­tion for me, since I’ve been tak­ing pic­tures since I was 12. It has be­come a nat­u­ral thing. Where do you de­rive your pho­to­graphic in­spi­ra­tion? Is it from the work of other

pho­tog­ra­phers, from other art forms, or from na­ture it­self? Of course, I take my main in­spi­ra­tion from na­ture, but also from the late Ja­panese wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher Mi­chio Hoshino. He was one of the first wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers to travel to ex­treme wild places, alone with his tent. He im­mersed him­self to­tally into the wild in order to take pho­to­graphs, and I ad­mire his very per­sonal ap­proach to his work. The phi­los­o­phy and art of Swiss painter and sculp­tor Robert Hainard deeply in­spire me too. How does your pho­tog­ra­phy make a dif­fer­ence to pre­serv­ing the en­vi­ron­ment? What is your mes­sage? My goal is to show and share the beauty of the nat­u­ral world to­day. The im­plicit idea is sim­ple: when you love some­thing, you want to pro­tect it. I feel the same about na­ture and wildlife, so I hope my pic­tures can help peo­ple fol­low that same course of di­rec­tion. What do you think you would you have been if you hadn’t be­come a pho­tog­ra­pher? I would have liked to be­come a na­ture illustrator… or maybe even a poet. But this will have to be in an­other life be­cause I don’t have the nec­es­sary qual­i­ties and skills for those ca­reers in this one! What is the best piece of ad­vice you can give to some­one want­ing to be­come a na­ture pho­tog­ra­pher? I would just say: in order to pho­to­graph it, you need to spend as much time as pos­si­ble with na­ture. Get to know bet­ter the many dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments and the dif­fer­ent species liv­ing there.

A long climb Nikon D2x, Nikon 70-200mm 1/200 sec, ISO 400

Snowy owl (top)

Nikon D3s, Nikon 600mm, 1/250 sec, ISO 800

Owl adrift (Be­low)

Nikon D3s, Nikon 70-200mm, 1/250 sec

Leop­ard (above)

Nikon D800e, Nikon 500mm f/4, 1/250 sec, ISO 800

Preda­tor (Left)

Nikon D800e, Nikon 500mm f/4, 1/250 sec, ISO 400

At play Nikon D4, Nikon 500mm, 1/500 sec, ISO 800

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