Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Denis Palanque and Nathalie Houdin

A day in the life of a conservation photographer


Just how much action can one pack into a single day? Conservation photographers Nathalie Houdin and Denis Palanque share a day in their lives in this short film from a recent project documenting human wildlife conflict in South Africa’ Karoo region.

Credits : Photo Credit: Nathalie Houdin and Denis Palanque




Peering “behind-the-scenes” is often fascinating. As one can see, compelling conservation photography may be part art and part science but it is also a vocation that demands lots of energy, equipment, ingenuity and plenty of long days – sometimes in uncomfortable conditions. Getting “that” shot can be incredibly rewarding however, making it all worthwhile.

Winning a financial prize for that photographic story is an additional and valuable bonus – nobody pursues this career to get rich. Instead it is the wealth of experiences gained that is priceless, the stories one touches on and even lives through and the prospect those stories may help change the world for the better by touching others too.

For Nathalie and Denis, winning the IUCN Bourse during the Terre Sauvage Nature Image Awards 2016, will help finance another story in their portfolio. Visiting an SOS funded project in late 2017 as part of the process, their work will feature exclusively in an edition of Terre Sauvage magazine sometime in 2018. We look forward to sharing updates of their progress along the way.

This timeframe may seem drawn-out, but conservation storytelling also requires extensive research and planning before going on-location. Logistics can be complex too – think about all that equipment and those remote places, cultural idiosyncrasies and unpredictable weather to name just a few challenges. Nathalie and Denis spent two months in 2015 criss-crossing the Karoo, building trust with local farmers, documenting their lives and photographing the region’s wildlife following an ongoing conservation project focused on the Karoo's caracals and jackals. Finally this was all condensed into a dozen photos with captions.

Such preparation underscores the importance of communications planning. There is perhaps a valuable lesson for conservation actors here to incorporate communications planning – what is the story we wish to tell during and after this project is finished - into project design rather than being an afterthought.

On a broader scale, conservation needs communication experts and innovative strategies to help inspire and engage the wider public to grow and sustain support for what is a universal priority. Photography (and increasingly video) is a key component – a picture speaks a thousand words – and brings us that bit closer to experiencing the story, being immersed in its living colour.

And with this video we can see just how much living goes into getting “that” shot.  

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