Award-winning nature photographer and Lumix Ambassador Chris Bray has some creative tips for close-up wildlife photography. [Article courtesy of Panasonic]
Chris Bray’s entire life has been an adventure; he grew up sailing around the world, went on to lead various arctic hauling and sailing expeditions before launching his own company, taking small-group photo tours to some of the most extraordinary places on earth.
“One of the highlights of my line of work is that I find myself in remote places where the wildlife is still so unafraid of man that sometimes they seek interaction to satisfy their own curiosity.
“I then get to share unforgettable experiences with people around the world, which helps raise the awareness and care for these special animals and environments.”
For wildlife photographers, getting the camera in close to reveal intimate perspective requires creativity and some unique inventions.
One of his current favourite set-ups in Africa is a Lumix GH5 mounted on a cheap, stripped-down, remote-control, 4WD toy car. Chris said the trick is to trigger the animal’s innate curiosity so that it comes over to investigate the camera of its own accord.
Over the 23 photo tours Chris has run in Kenya, he’s had everything from lions, cheetah and hyenas, through to elephants, rhinos, giraffes and even leopards come and investigate his remote cameras.
“I had a great result recently – I just left my Lumix GH5 with a motion-sensor trigger sitting on a tiny tripod on a patch of bare earth I knew rhinos liked to laze in during the heat of the day, and sure enough a herd eventually lumbered over.
“One rhino actually spotted the camera and came right up, so close most of her head was out of shot and all I was getting was photos of the inside of her nostril, until she gently knocked the camera over onto its side into the perfect portrait orientation and then stood back while the camera clicked away taking dozens of perfectly composed vertical portraits, horn and all. Even more unbelievably, she then stood the camera back upright!”
Chris turned his back on a decade’s worth of lugging around bulky and expensive pro DSLR camera set-ups after an experience with camera-envy on one of his photo tours turned him into a mirrorless fan.
“I’ve been watching mirrorless cameras evolve and become more popular with my photo tour guests but it wasn’t until a little over a year ago when a guest brought a Lumix GH5 to my Namibia and Botswana tour that I suddenly realised I was behind the times; my guest was capturing better photos and videos than I was able to – and utilising awesome features completely unavailable to me – with a tiny kit so much lighter, smaller and more affordable than mine! I borrowed his camera and did some direct comparisons, and before I’d even finished my tour I’d already bought a GH5 and set of lenses.
“It was a huge leap for me but after lugging both systems around the world for a while, pretty quickly I found that I wasn’t even bringing out the DSLR anymore, and even better than that, the joy of using this new kit had completely re-energised my photography.”
As you might expect from someone whose life is so intrinsically linked to the natural world, Chris is passionate about preserving the extraordinary wildlife, landscape and cultural experiences he photographs.
Chris sits on the advisory committee for The Australian Geographic Society, he’s the founder and CEO of Conservation United, and he recently created the new eco-accommodation ‘Swell Lodge’ on Christmas Island.
He continues to run photo tours to the world’s most amazing places too, including Alaska, Iceland, Greenland, Antarctica, Kenya, Patagonia, Tasmania, Kangaroo Island, Norway and more.