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Ian Plant Interview

Ian Plant is a world renowned wildlife and landscape photographer. We chat to him about his work.

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Bruarfoss glacial blue water, Iceland
'Bruarfoss glacial blue water, Iceland' by Ian Plant
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I've been photographing for almost twenty years now, and I've been a full time pro shooter for almost ten years. My focus is almost exclusively on wildlife and natural landscapes, although I like to dabble with other subjects from time to time. To me, the art of photography is the most important thing.

Although I love nature, and that's why nature is my focus, I love the process of artistic abstraction and creating compelling photos, and this passion is increasingly driving me to diversify my portfolio beyond just nature. I also dedicate myself to educating, entertaining, and inspiring others in the art of photography, and when I'm not shooting, I'm constantly writing about photography.

I am a frequent contributor to Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, and Landscape Photography magazines, and a prolific blogger on my Dreamscapes blog (where I am joined by several very accomplished photographers). I've also authored a number of print and electronic books on photography, the most recent being "Visual Flow: Mastering the Art of Composition."

How did you get into photography?
I took a rather roundabout route into professional nature photography. I started off as a lawyer, working for a large Washington, D.C. law firm for eight years before leaving to become a pro nature photographer. I bought my first camera while in law school, and I realized then that I was completely hooked on photography.

I've always really been into the outdoors, doing things like hiking, backpacking, rock-climbing, and kayaking since I was a kid, so nature photography quickly became my focus, then my passion, and then my life. As soon as I paid off my law school debt and saved up a little bit of money, I jumped in to full-time professional photography work and have never looked back. That was almost ten years ago, and it's been a great ride ever since.

Flamingo flamenco
'Flamingo flamanco' by Ian Plant 

Why do you feel composition in photos is so important?
Composition is the single most important thing a photographer can learn—it is what separates a mere snapshot from art. Composition is how the photographer shows the world his or her vision; it's how you invite the viewer to see the world through your eyes.

My goal is to transform a scene through the creative process, showing my viewers something they haven't seen before. It takes a lot of work to find these transformational moments and places, so when I am in the field, I do everything I can to maximize my time behind the lens. Composition is something that is very important to my process, so I'm always working hard to find the perfect angle or position to bring my subjects to their fullest potential. I recently wrote a lengthy ebook called "Visual Flow: Mastering the Art of Composition" laying out in great detail my composition philosophy, which informs my every decision when working in the field.

Most of my time is spent looking for the perfect composition, and then waiting for the perfect light to bring it to its fullest potential. Needless to say, whenever I come home from a long photo trip, I'm exhausted!

You take stunning landscape photos. Do you have a favourite location and why?
I get asked this question a lot, and I never feel like I have a satisfactory answer. I really don't have favorite places to shoot, as every place has its own unique beauty. I simply enjoy shooting no matter where I am, engaging in the creative process and looking for a way to reveal the story of my subject.

In the past year, I've been to some incredible places: Scotland's wild Outer Hebrides coast, Peru's steaming Amazon rain forest, Namibia's stark desert, the soaring mountains of Patagonia in Chile and Argentina, and most recently the windswept landscape of Iceland. But these places don't even begin to scratch the surface of the places I intend to visit! I'm currently in the process of planning trips to locations in Venezuela, Botswana, Mexico, Bhutan, Morocco, and many other exotic locations. I'm really just getting started, and I can't wait to see where the wind takes me in the next few years!

'dreamscape' by Ian Plant 

What equipment do you use?
My equipment roster is always changing, but right now I have the following: Canon 5D Mark III camera, Nikon 14-24mm lens with a Canon EOS adapter, Canon 16-35mm Mark II lens, Canon 500mm lens, Tamron 24-70mm lens, Tamron 70-200mm lens, Canon 24-105mm lens, Canon 100-400mm lens, and a bunch of other odds and ends. I use an assortment of Gitzo and Bogen tripods, and Guru Gear and F-Stop Gear bags. As you can see, I have no particular brand loyalty—cameras and lenses are just tools, and I choose the tools which will best fit my creative needs and my budget.

Your wildlife photography is breathtaking to look at. Do you have any tips for someone wanting to learn how to take better wildlife shots?
The key to successful wildlife photography is to remember that wildlife subjects are compositional elements just like anything else. Learning to see wildlife as abstract visual elements helps you create compelling images—you need to learn to see beyond the animal’s mere outward appearance, and aim to create a photograph that tells something of its story. Beyond that, as with any type of photography, it pays to learn as much as you can, and invest significant time studying and photographing your subject. Don’t just snap a few good shots and call it a day. Spend as much time as possible with wildlife (at a respectful distance so that you don’t scare it away!), and always strive to find a better way to tell your subject’s story and reveal something of its character.

For more information on Ian and his photography, take a look at his website

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