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Professional Wildlife And Travel Photographer Sue Flood On The NX1

ePHOTOzine was lucky enough to speak to top professional photographer Sue Flood about the NX1 and her recent trip to Burma.

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All images © Sue Flood

Sue Flood

 

Can you tell us a bit about why you were drawn to photography from initially being involved in film making?

I spent 11 years as a wildlife filmmaker with the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol, and had the incredible experience of working on several landmark series including The Blue Planet and Planet Earth with Sir David Attenborough. It was a wonderful time and I had some life-changing experiences, particularly in the Arctic and Antarctic, though the memory of swimming with humpback whales in Tonga during the filming of Planet Earth will stay with me until I die!

I’d always been interested in photography, but it was during my 5 years working on The Blue Planet that I really became hooked on stills images. I was fortunate to have had my first article published in BBC Wildlife magazine back in the late 1990s, depicting a rarely photographed behaviour of killer whales hunting grey whales, and then also managed to make it onto the cover of both BBC Wildlife and National Geographic Kids magazine with my favourite great white shark photo. After success in a few photo competitions I decided that I was enjoying photography more than being a BBC producer and decided to leave the Natural History Unit to concentrate on my photography. A brave move, but one which I’ve never regretted.

I spent several months working on a Russian icebreaker in the Antarctic which was one of my most wonderful experiences ever - photographing in an emperor penguin colony. I’ve had around 40 trips now to the Arctic and Antarctic and my favourite images from the polar regions formed the basis of my first book, ‘Cold Places’.

I’m fortunate to be represented by Getty Images and also Nature Picture Library, and work as a full time wildlife and travel photographer, guiding trips for specialist travel companies. I definitely have the best job in the world - that’s not meant to sound smug, just grateful!

 

Sue Flood

 

How do you go about looking after your equipment in such harsh environments like the arctic?

Wherever I’m working, I treat my kit carefully, packing it in my Manfrotto Pro V 610 camera bag, which is light, comfortable but well-padded. And it fits in an overhead compartment on the long-haul flights so I never have to worry about being separated from my gear. I’m careful to clean my kit every day, and ensure I don’t change lenses in adverse conditions if I can help it! And, of course, to avoid condensation, when you’re going from the cold outdoors back into a (relatively!) warm tent or cabin, I am careful to let my camera slowly warm up (I’ll have it in a thin dry bag or ziplock back) to avoid moisture problems.

 

Burma is a bit of a change for you from the arctic regions - why did it appeal to you as a location to use the NX1?

I was invited to Myanmar (Burma) as a photographic lecturer on board Belmond Road to Mandalay up the Ayerarwady River, and to document the voyage in the form of a photographic book. It was a place I’d always wanted to visit after my father’s tales from his time in the Merchant Navy about 60 years ago and he’d tell stories about his time in Rangoon and I was curious to see the place. It was as wonderful as I’d imagined fabulous people, incredible temples and pagodas, and colourful markets.

 

Sue Flood

 

Was there anything in particular that you aimed to photograph whilst there?

My job was to document our voyage and the wonderful places and people we visited over the course of our journey from Bagan to Mandalay. I loved it so much that I will be returning in October. Next time will be a longer voyage to the north of the country, far up the Ayeyarwady where not many cruises go, so I will be visiting rarely visited areas. I can’t wait!

 

What do you try to achieve through your images?

My main motivation is to get people interested in the natural world and in protecting it, whether I’m communicating with still or moving images. Trying to evoke an emotion with my shots - wonder, laughter, surprise, love. As David Attenborough has said "People are not going to care about animal conservation unless they think that animals are worthwhile.” and I hope that my capturing an image of the wonders of the natural world can contribute in some small way to getting people interested in its conservation.

 

Sue Flood

 

Is there a tried and tested way that you scout, set up and take your shots?

Every shoot is different but I love to research where I’m going and what I’m photographing ahead of time. That said some of my favourite shots have been very spontaneous and grabbed on the spur of the moment! Right now I’m working on a wonderful commission photographing a private estate in southern England for a book and exhibition. It’s a beautiful garden and I’m up early to ensure I’m in the right place at the right time. Whether it’s wildlife, travel or garden photography it’s all about the light - and not necessarily a sunny day! Some of my favourite shots have been taken in dramatic moody light or blizzards. Sometimes I have an idea in my head about what I’d ideally like to capture in a shot (which was the case with my emperor penguin family shot) but sometimes it’s a case of seizing the moment! When I was younger and less experienced I’d shoot more and be more easily satisfied. Now I’m older and supposedly wiser, I’m much fussier about what makes the cut and I’m ruthless with my editing. But what I would say for sure is that now I KNOW when I’ve got a decent shot when I press the shutter button.

 

Sue Flood 

 

Can you tell us a bit about why the NX1 stands out for you as a wildlife/documentary photographer?

I love the fact that the Samsung NX1 is so light and compact, compared to some other cameras that I’ve used, yet still feels sturdy and substantial. I also find the dials very easy to use on the NX1 in warm weather and I know that they are going to be fine with my gloves on too when I am in colder conditions.

 

What is the most useful feature on the camera for you?

For me, the 15fps was very impressive! Whilst shooting people and landscapes in Myanmar didn’t exactly need that, I’ll certainly be looking forward to using that feature on my forthcoming wildlife shoots. And that combined with the 28 megapixel sensor is a winning combination. I also liked the handy ifunction button, which allowed easy camera control and meant that I could very quickly alter settings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) with ease.

 

Sue Flood

 

Do you have a particular image (or series of images) that you are most proud of and why?

I’m particularly proud of a series of Antarctic images that won me first place in the International Photographer of the Year - Travel and Tourism category, and one of the 8 finalist places in the overall competition from almost 20,000 entries. But also an image of an emperor penguin family, two adults and their chick. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to sit next to comedian Steve Martin at a wonderful dinner party and he asked if he could use as his Twitter profile pic - which made my year!

 

Sue Flood

 

Do you have a favourite animal and if so what is it and why?

I love photographing polar bears, and have been fortunate to have some amazing encounters with them over the last 20 years, especially when working with the Inuit in the Canadian high Arctic and being part of North Pole expeditions. I’m going to be leading a wonderful polar bear photo safari to the Canadian Arctic floe edge with in June 2016 and hope I’ll get some lovely polar bear encounters out on the ice. In the Antarctic it has to be the emperor penguins and I’ll also be guiding on some incredible emperor penguin trips in autumn 2016.

 

Sue Flood

 

Sue's 3 tips for anyone wanting to take wildlife photos in adverse conditions:

  • Be prepared! Have the right gear for the job - whether it’s camera kit or clothing. If you’re as comfortable as possible with what you’re wearing and the camera kit you’re using, whether you’re in extreme cold or extreme heat, you can concentrate on your photography, rather than worrying about the weather or where to find the right settings! I’m always amazed when people turn up on a trip with a new camera and find they have not read the manual!
  • Stick at it! I’ve lost count of the number of times people say “You’re so lucky to do this job!” As I always answer, “The harder I work, the luckier I get”.
  • Remember that the welfare of your subject is paramount. I don’t want to disturb my subject - as the saying goes "Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.”

Find out more about Sue Flood and her photography at www.sueflood.com.

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Photographs taken using the Samsung NX1

GreenAgapanthusMy Dog GeorgeAllanRedend Point, Studland Bay, DorsetPink Morning on Bury HillSwamp near Sutton, West Sussex

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