MARIO’S FAVOURITE SHOT
Unique compositions often require the most patience, as Mario retells
“Looking at this image you might think it is just another image of a cheetah on a dead tree. It is not an image with great visual impact, and I guarantee I have images that are technically and visually superior, but when you know the story behind it everything changes. This female cheetah, stalking a herd of passing wildebeest during the Great Migration season in Ndutu in Tanzania, was minutes away from attempting a kill. Earlier that day we found her walking on the plains. My guide knew that she had not eaten in a couple of days and that today had to be the day.
“The other vehicles saw her, took pictures and quickly moved on. We decided to stay with her and spent over six hours with this feline. We followed her, we rested with her and even had lunch while she rested under a tree. We always kept our distance to avoid making her uncomfortable. Minutes before I captured this image a herd of wildebeest moved in and the magic began. She climbed on this tree, looked carefully and planned her next move. Five minutes later we were witnessing a successful kill – a clear example of patience often being the key to capturing a great image, or at least
experiencing a fantastic sighting.”
“I focus on conveying a story”
getting the shot. In other words, luck has to be on your side. Having said this I will always look for unique behaviour, portraying the subject in its natural environment by going wide, or capture the animal’s natural beauty with intimate portraits. Landscapes are all about finding the location and waiting for the right light or a unique weather situation that will add drama. It is important to pay attention to your foreground and to achieve leading lines that will steer the viewer’s eye. With travel photography my goal is to make the viewer want to go there. It is important for me to portray the local customs, the colours and in a way, the smells and sounds. I also try to find a unique point of view if the subject is a popular one that has already been shot a million times.
ARE THERE ANY WILDLIFE SUBJECTS OR LANDSCAPE/TRAVEL LOCATIONS ON YOUR ‘WANTS’ LIST?
My bucket-list wildlife subjects are bears in Alaska or Russia, mountain lions in the wild (which happen to be my favourite cats), gorillas which I will hopefully be doing in 2019 and bison in the winter time in Yellowstone. As for landscapes there are many locations in North America that are on my list – Alaska, British Columbia and Yellowstone are some that come to mind right away. For travel photography I would like to explore the colours of India, the off-the-beaten-track areas of China and the amazing people of Ethiopia.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC STYLE?
In search of the ‘perfect moment’ sums it all up. What is a perfect moment? It’s a moment where everything comes together – light, timing and emotions – to create a memorable and forever lasting scene. I will always try to not simply document the animal, the scene or the place before me, making the image seem like a snapshot. There is an artistic approach in most of the images I capture. I will focus on conveying a story. With most of them I will have a very good idea of what will be done in process and whether it will be a colour or monochrome image.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST INFLUENCES?
A great wildlife photographer known by the name of Mitsuaki Iwago definitely had an influence on the kind of photography I wanted to pursue. I am talking of the Eighties and ‘analog’ photography. His book
Serengeti, which I still have, was mindblowing at the time and still is today. I page through it and think how difficult it was to achieve such images with the technology available then. Nick Brandt is another photographer that inspired me when I discovered him years ago. He has a unique artistic approach which results in timeless
art pieces. Nowadays inspiration comes in the form of social media. There are many great photographers out there sharing their work, which serve as a reference to develop and improve my photographic techniques.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN RUNNING WORKSHOPS? TELL US ABOUT THAT PROCESS.
South Cape Images was launched in 2010 while I was still living in South Africa. Today I run SCI from Southern Spain, where I am currently based with my family. Initially we were only offering African destinations like South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya. Costa Rica has been recently added and hopefully other destinations will come soon. Our photographic tours are conceived for small groups, so that I can give the required personal attention to all of my guests. We also pick very carefully the places we will stay, to avoid crowds and have a more exclusive experience. Private concessions or conservancies have no time restrictions and off-road is possible, allowing for closer encounters with wildlife. Photographers of all levels are welcome – you do not have to be an experienced photographer to join. In fact, I like the challenge of helping novice photographers return home with an amazing collection of images, worthy of being published in any wildlife magazine or book.
IN YOUR OPINION WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LANDSCAPE, WILDLIFE AND TRAVEL IMAGE?
As I said earlier, great wildlife images have a good deal of luck involved, but knowing your subject will help anticipate action and behaviour, so it is always a very good idea to do some research on the species you will encounter on your photo sessions or trips. Knowing your camera well is also important. Things happen very quick in the wild and if you do not know where the right buttons are you will miss opportunities. With landscapes composition is the key. An interesting foreground is important [as is] creating leading lines to draw the viewer’s eye to the important part of the frame. A successful travel image needs to make you want to go there. On many occasions the subject will be a popular one that has been photographed to death. Finding a different angle or shooting at a special time of the day will make the difference.
STRATEGYTHIS IMAGE REMAINS ONE OF MARIO’S FAVOURITES DUE TO THEINVESTMENT HE HAD IN THE SUBJECT. A STRONG APPRECIATIONOF AN ORGANISM HELPS TO DEFINE THE PHOTOGRAPHER’SINTENDED NARRATIVE
LeftSHOWING CONTEXT As these images demonstrate, extreme close-up shots are not essential for conveying emotion and character Top EXPOSURE mario’s shots successfully capture both the atmosphere of the environment and the recognisable features of well-known subjects Above rightFINDING ORIGINALITY mario believes that unique compositions can always be achieved by finding the perfect blend of lighting and weather conditions
Above left SIMPLICITY Correct timing and use of lighting can instil emotions in the viewer, mario maintains. here this is achieved with the simplest of compositions