Viewing this Rüppell’s Vulture looming large as it defends its carrion find from a jackal (one dwarfed by comparison), can provoke a physiological response. And if that’s not a hallmark of exemplary wildlife photography, we don’t know what is.
Your skeptic’s brain may have also kicked in: Is this photoshopped? Is this bird the stuff of myths? The answer to both questions is No. Rüppell’s Vultures were prominently featured using bird’s-eye cameras in director John Downing’s recent documentary Winged Planet. Listed as an endangered species by the IUCN in part due to habitat loss, this spectacular scavenger has a wingspan of up to 8.5 feet and can soar at the altitudes of a private jet.
The photographer behind this shot is Yeray Seminario, our April Photographer in Focus. Seminario, a wildlife veterinarian who interned with International Bird Rescue in 2007 and lives in Tarifa, Spain, recently spent some time with us to share some of his favorite photos from the global field.
Seminario: Every country has its distinctive flavor, a particular light that gets reflected in the pictures you take. To me, I find them all enjoyable, but in terms of pure wildlife, Kenya is probably the one that provides more opportunities to capture images of birds and mammals interacting in an open, natural environment.
There are some other characteristics of a country that can inspire you in different ways and make you feel at ease when taking pictures. India and Nepal are probably the second best to me after Kenya, as I feel more “in tune” there. Also, I live in a great place for birding and photography! In Tarifa (the southernmost tip of Spain and Europe) there are always good numbers of raptors around that make it a really exciting place to live if you are into birds and photography.
Images that inspire
It is the work of others that inspires me most! I try to think about the technical aspects of the shot, and how the photographer captures the essence of the moment. That said, I am quite happy with the series of pictures that I have of the Orange-breasted Falcon, a species I worked with for almost four years. Some of the locations where I observed them are quite remote and difficult to access, with rain, heat and insects.
Looking at those pictures brings me back to those real wild places where I enjoyed an intimate relation with nature. I hope some of my pictures will help spark an interest in other people to visit some of these places, learn more about these birds and be aware of the conservation issues they face.
Camera of choice
I use a Canon 7D most of the time, which I found to be an improvement from my previous 50D. I have a modest array of lenses, including the 300mm f/4 with a 1.4X converter, which I use to take pictures of birds and other wildlife. Of course, I would love to have a 400mm or 500mm to have more reach, but I’m quite happy with my equipment, as I can take it with me in a backpack just about anywhere, whether to a high peak in the Himalayas or a sand dune in the Sahara Desert, which I imagine would be more difficult with a heavier lens.
This young leopard almost jumped into the middle of the road while driving in Kenya. It stayed for a minute and came back into the bush. To see one of these magnificent animals is always a privilege, and to be just a few meters away from such a beauty feels exhilarating.
Lake Naivasha, Kenya is home to several species of birds, including this Greater Flamingo. This spectacular freshwater lake is being threatened by an extensive flower industry. These huge gardens provide colorful flowers to Northern Europe while draining the lake in the process.
I find it very challenging to shoot in the rainforest, where quite often there’s very little light. I’m now trying to improve my skills using a flash in poor light conditions, which I find not easy to control to get the desired results. Of course, when birds are in flight, especially if they are fast and small, like swifts, makes it quite difficult to frame the bird and get a sharp shot.
As you are in the field taking pictures and observing birds most of the time, you find the most diverse injuries in a wide variety of species. Sometimes you can reach them and take them to the nearest rescue center, sometimes not. One of the most incredible things I can remember right now was a Black Stork that had no beak at all! She was flying with a small flock of Black Storks on their way to Africa, but I can’t imagine she could have survived long.
For the beginner
My advice to a novice photographer would be to just get out there and take as many pictures as possible. Find a subject you like and experiment with different apertures, settings, times of day and different ways to frame the same shot. I think this is the best way to learn. Reading books about photography, of any kind, helps a lot too. Actually, I should follow this advice more often!
If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this regular feature, please e-mail Andrew Harmon at Andrew.Harmon@Bird-Rescue.org.
Hat tip to Julie Skoglund for nominating Yeray for this installment.
We welcome people from all countries to come and learn at one of our rehabilitation programs. For information on our International Internship Program, click here.