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Iñaki Relanzón

What I know now as a professional is that I wouldn’t do anything else. I love this job.

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Featured Photographer

Iñaki Relanzón

About

I was an estranged child, even at seven years old. At this age, after I had read a book by Gerald Durrell, I went to the forest at night with a blanket, a headlight and a few grains of corn. I waited for an eternity (maybe only 20 minutes) the arrival of the wood mice. But the only thing that I got was a big telling off from my grandmother.

Photography and wildlife were always together in my life. I published my first book at the age of 22, a handbook on cave photography. To make this first book, I had explored deep caves all over Europe, and I built my own flashlights. After that, I have published 5 further books.

Three ‘Winning Photographer’ in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and the ‘Best Picture of the Year’ in Spain, are some of my awards. At present my work is based far away on the remote island of Madagascar, which became my obsession a few years ago.

My images are distributed by Nature Picture Library, and I’m a very active fellow of the ILCP (International League for Conservation Photographers).

Website: www.photosfera.com

Interview

Why nature photography?
I don’t know why. It is a vocation. Nobody in my family has any relation to photography or nature. But I enjoy the travelling alone all over the world, making visual documents, from Greenland to Kenya. What I know now as a professional is that I wouldn’t do anything else. I love this job.

What's best about it?
When I have in front of me a special image that I dreamed of a long time ago, and finally I catch it with my camera – there are no words to express it.
I have a hunter instinct, but of course, a ‘light’ hunter. After that, when I have these same pictures printed in a magazine, and I know that they are going to be viewed by thousands, maybe millions of people, I am the happiest person on earth (well, maybe as happy as the other Wild Wonders of Europe photographers ;-)

What's worst about it?
Instability. Economic and family, mainly. But I have chosen it. After 10 years as a professional, I have learnt to live in that way. Once, when I was younger, I decided to go to Iceland for three months with my own car. For the whole duration of the stay I slept in my small car. When I was driving back home, driving through France, I ran out of fuel and I couldn’t continue driving, but had to ask my mother for a few euros more to put a few gallons in… But from this trip came my second book: “Iceland, reflections at dawn”. My family is the other difficult side, but we try to manage it.

A few weeks ago, I returned home from Madagascar, where I’m working now. But I didn’t come back alone. A flea with hundreds of eggs came with me, inside my foot. I need surgery to remove it, and to bring the fever down.
For sure, I’m not worried about food, diseases or weather.

Favourite species and places in Europe?
My favourite place in Europe is Iceland. Maybe because it was my first big photographic journey. Nothing compares to its landscapes. Waterfalls, lava deserts, bird cliffs, big glaciers and icebergs… In fact, since my first trip there, I have come back there 6 times. Twice as a guide for wildlife photography workshops.

My favourite species is the Puffin. I love these birds - the clowns of the sea - and I made a report about children who rescue puffin chicks that get lost due to light pollution during the summer nights in Iceland.

What's in the bag?
It depends on the type of work. Of course, I don’t have the same in my bag if I’m going to photograph birds compared to landscapes.
But, when I am travelling, and when to do with my long-term project, (Madagascar) I carry with me everything; from my longest lenses, a 600 f4, to my underwater case, even infrared systems and several cameras. That means about 40 kilos of photo equipment, but that way I am ready for any situation that I encounter during my trips.

Your specialities / skills?
I consider myself as an ‘all-terrain’ photographer. I can do landscapes, animals, underwater photography, aerial photography and others. In fact, in the beginning, I spent many years taking pictures in caves, and the first report that I sold to a magazine was underground and cave work. I built my own flashes with magnesium bulbs, which disappeared from the market more than 30 years ago. I don’t like limits.

What will you do in your next life?
In my next life, of course (and I have no doubt that all the other photographers have written the same answer) I will photograph many places and animals, because I don’t have enough time in my present life. I hope I will be active at least until the age of 85, but who knows. Actually I’m spending about 5 years in a project, which means that still, I can make about 10 projects more in this life ;-)

3 tips for beginners
Shoot, shoot and shoot. It is not enough to go out with the camera once a month. And of course, analyse the results each time you shoot. Right now it is much more easy with the digital cameras. Before this, I spent a month for a single image in the rainforest, and I didn’t know the result until I was back home.

For advanced amateurs who want to improve and maybe be published in a magazine, my best tip is to focus on one topic. It can be a remote country or a critical endangered animal, but also your home garden or a place near your town.

My last tip: Share with other people. This way, everybody will learn fast.

Mission

I have a mission in Spain, but in a place that I have never visited as a photographer before.

What is exciting about the place is that it is the most southern point of Europe (with the Azores Islands), and the landscapes and the species are completely different - even tropical, like the beautiful Laurisilva forest. On the island of Tenerife, there is the Red Tajinaste, a beautiful and huge flower that grows near the Teide volcano. Volcanoes, red sand dunes, the critically endangered giant lizard of the El Hierro Islands, and whales and dolphins are also some of my other goals.

And, I love all kinds of Islands. Perhaps working in an archipielago, I feel psychologically safer than on a big continent. My main works have been on the Falkland Islands, Greenland, Iceland and Madagascar - all of them islands. So, I’m really happy with my missions.

Best Picture

Best Picture
Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) on the west coast of Iceland.

What's cool about it?
I have spent a lot of time taking pictures of Arctic Terns in Iceland, during my 6 trips there. They are everywhere, and they try to protect their nests. There are especially two things in this picture that I like a lot. The background, completely overexposed (it was a cloudy day) and the body, also white, contrasts with the red of the beak and the legs. The angelical position and the colours make this Tern look like an angel.

Could it be better?
Maybe I would prefer to take this flying Tern making a diagonal with the wings, as the composition should be more expressive. But then, maybe the image would lose its sense of an angel or an angelical image.

Behind the Scene
The picture was made in a nest colony, which are everywhere in Iceland. The most important thing is not to spend too much time disturbing the nests. This picture is shot from a path, because they are protecting the eggs or the chicks. They fly aggressively towards my head and my camera, and sometimes they touch me with their beaks!!!

Date: Summer 2008
Location: Iceland.
Gear: Nikon D3 with a 17-35 mm f2.8 Flash SB800.

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