Alain Hogue - Nature photographer
It is ever awkward to explain who we are and what drives us. In fact, when I look back, I see that my personal history as a wildlife photographer is rather plain. As most I am self taught, I love animals since childhood, etc. So I'm sure you won't mind me skipping that part. Let me rather share with you my vision of nature photography and the way in which it may be different.
Why photograph nature ?
Why not ! Some work in an office, others build homes, I photograph nature. To me, it's the best of jobs ! Original and diversified, photography is one of the rare specialty disciplines to rally art, technology, physical effort and ingenuity.
Some find noble and refined the practice of nature photography. I rather think that this activity brings us closer to our more primal instincts. The search for the prey to be caught (by the camera), the use of ruse and strategy (the blind), the sly and laborious approach, the killing (Click !), and finally, the exhibit of the capture to the tribe (publication). A full range of behaviours worthy of the most ferocious predators.
A different approach
There are several excellent nature photographers. So standing out is not an easy task. I therefore sought to find a style all my own. An original way to create images.
The first aspect I worked on was my relation to distance. The animals are sometimes tiny and fearful. Being able to get sufficiently close to them is often a main difficulty. Instead of going for ever more powerful lenses, I prefered to invest time. Time to develop approach techniques, time waiting patiently in a blind, time for study and reading to better understand the ways of wildlife. I took an excellent decision ! Field experience has proven to me many a time, that a far distance from a subject is perceptible and affects image quality. I also discovered other unsuspected benefits to proximity to a subject: when close to an animal, the interaction is not the same. The mimics and behaviours are more varied and livelier. The subject may show worry, curiosity, even intrigue. This brings about an added facility to anticipate its movements.
Obviously it is far preferable that photographers use powerful lenses so not to disturb animals due to lack of time, methods and adequate preparation. When these are mastered however, nothing equals the intimacy shared with the subject. Being at its height, up close, in its universe. I believe that it is the only true way to capture an authentic parcel of animal life.
Going beyond travelled paths
A second aspect which distinguishes my practice of photography is resumed as going beyond travelled paths. Many will say... Why carry heavy equipment and supplies on one's back on countless kilometers of back country when so many areas are easy to access and where animals are used to the proximity of humans ? I understand the attraction of such sites, but as all else in life, facility has its price. In managed sites the diversity of subjects to be photographed is limited. Many animal species will never be found in such places. Numerous are animals which can live only in remote and hostile regions. But each of these species represents as many occasions to "go beyond travelled paths", to surpass oneself and to produce breathtaking images. Is this not an ultimate objective for any photographer worthy of this name ?
All remains to be done
I often say that my best picture will be... the next one ! It is my way of saying that all remains to be done. Nature is complex in so many ways and much remains undocumented. And there is this feeling of urgency ! The urgency to show the beauty of the natural habitats and of the animals before they disapear. The urgency to sensitize humans to the importance of protecting the nature that surrounds them. The urgency to convince the deciders to act to conserve what is rare and irreplaceable. In these circumstances, we will never be too numerous in loving to photograph nature, as long as it is done with respect to the environment and to the integrity of the animals.