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Daniel Bergmann

My strong belief in the need to preserve nature for coming generations has made me actively involved in conservation.

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Featured Photographer

Daniel Bergmann

About

I have been working as a professional nature photographer in my native country of Iceland for the past ten years. I have had three books published and my work has appeared in a number of international publications. My strong belief in the need to preserve nature for coming generations has made me actively involved in conservation. Iím among the directors of BirdLife Iceland and the editor of its annual magazine.

Website: www.danielbergmann.com/

Interview

Why nature photography?
Iíve had a camera in my hands more or less since childhood and I have fond memories from my early teenage years of exploring the moorland around my home and photographing common birds, such as Golden Plover and Whimbrel. My photography interest later shifted towards people and journalism but I came back to nature, initially because I felt that exceptional images were lacking of Icelandís birds and wildlife. I saw that as a challenge and made a commitment to document Icelandís natural world in the way I felt it deserved. Thatís an ongoing process.

The more time I spend out in nature, among birds and the wild landscape, the stronger the connection becomes and also the need to be out in the wild on a regular basis. Thatís where I draw my energy and inspiration Ė from nature.

What's best about it?
The freedom to roam and answer only to yourself. You create your own reality, which manifests itself powerfully in the field of nature photography. Your drive has to come from within. You need a healthy doze of creativity, commitment and resourcefulness to be successful in the field of nature photography.

What's worst about it?
The cold in winter, as Iíve got very little insulation (blubber) on my body. Sitting still in hides for hours in freezing conditions is far from my idea of jolly times. Iíve tried using the meditation techniques of Tibetan monks, with which they supposedly melt the snow around them with their mental powers. Iíve still not even managed to melt the frost on my nose. But a moment of successful photography can quickly erase hours of suffering in silence. Also, the craziness of the Arctic summer can be disorienting. Sunsets and sunrises last forever and there is little time for sleep. Try to be without sleep for a few days. I donít recommend it.

Favourite species and places in Europe?
That one is easy. Iceland is by far my favourite place in Europe and I feel privileged to live here. There are a lot of things wrong over here in the world of human politics but our nature is unlike any in Europe. Nowhere else will you experience the same diversity of natural wonders in such a small area.

Icelandís only original land mammal, the Arctic Fox, remains my favourite wildlife subject, as other terrestrial mammals are introduced. In the avian world I have a favourite species as well; the Gyrfalcon. No bird has given me as many unforgettable memories. It is the largest and most northern of the worldís falcons and our national bird. I have been working on a Gyrfalcon project for years, which has given me the opportunity to study this magnificent bird up close. I have been truly captivated by the spirit of the falcon.

What's in the bag?
Screwdrivers and wrenches, black gaffer tape, a water bottle, a few energy bars and a copy of the Collins bird guide. Oh yes, and some lenses and cameras. Currently my main camera is the Canon 1Ds MkIII and the primary lens for birds is the 500mm f/4. I also carry an assortment of other L glass and find the Tilt-Shift lenses valuable tools for landscapes

Your specialities / skills?
I would say I possess the split personality of an obsessed bird photographer and a contemplative landscape photographer. On a good day the two get along but they mostly have to work in modes. When one is on the other is off.

I have practiced capturing birds in-flight until my hands felt numb and would probably hold the national record in my weight class for handholding the 500mm lens, if there were such a competition.

What will you do in your next life?
When I have completed my goals in nature photography I will retire to a hermetic life in a cave and meditate until I become enlightened. The state of nirvana will free me from more human births.

3 tips for beginners
1) Donít give up. Persistence is the key to success. Stay with your chosen field, sow the seeds and wait patiently for them to sprout.
2) Work locally. Explore your own backyard for subjects.
3) Think in stories and long-term projects rather than single images.

Mission

My mission is to photograph the autumn migration of raptors and storks over the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul. Over 70,000 raptors and 200,000 storks fly over Istanbul on their migration route and I will try to capture this annual spectacle by photographing birds soaring in the air as well as on roosting sites, while waiting for favourable conditions to pass over the water. To get to Turkey I am probably making one of the longest travels of the photographers involved in the Wild Wonders project. I am flying from the extreme western part of Europe to the extreme eastern part.

Best Picture

Best Picture
Arctic Fox stretching

What is best is highly subjective but this remains one of my favourite images.

What's cool about it?
The moment and behaviour I captured, which was a result of obtaining absolute trust from this fox vixen over a period of few weeks.

Could it be better?
It could and it couldnít. The light could have been better and I could have composed it more pleasingly. But an image is never better or worse than the moment it captures.

Behind the Scene
The Arctic Fox is hunted and shot on sight in Iceland as farmers view them as competition, especially eider farmers, who harvest the down from eider ducks. Therefore they have learned to stay clear of men and have become shy creatures. But there are certain areas, as in the Hornstrandir nature reserve, where the foxes are protected. In such areas they are more approachable and one of my first major nature photography expeditions was to Hornstrandir where I stayed for a month. It took a few days to locate a fox den and to gain the trust of the family. The vixen in the image became especially trustful and would sometimes come up to me, curl up and fall asleep. This image is made as she stretched after such a nap.

Date: July 2000
Location: Hornstrandir nature reserve, Iceland
Gear: Canon EOS-1n, 300mm f/2.8 lens, Fuji Provia 100F rated at ISO 200

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