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Page 5 Scott Linstead

Written By onci on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 | 8:39 PM

The Studio’s Role in Wildlife Photography by Scott Linstead

Soon after I turned full-time as a wildlife photographer, the harsh reality of the modern image market settled in. I knew I had some clients that wanted high impact, colourful and exciting images. But those images are few and far between, particularly when my photographic toolbox contained some decidedly traditional tools. And getting those high impact images with traditional techniques usually requires expensive travel to far away places. So, initially, the studio approach was mostly an economic decision. But now, this sort of imagery has evolved as a major facet of my photography, with elements of the traditional approaches spilling over into the studio and vice-versa.

From a 9 to 5er’s perspective, I know the experience of wildlife photography counts for something. Having worked regular jobs, the idea that wildlife photography means actually being in the wild is not lost on me. And I still get a great sense of satisfaction from capturing something unique under the purist of circumstances. But, I have always been a firm believer in the idea that the final product is what matters in photography. This holds even greater truth when it comes to image sales: many high-paying clients don’t care where the image came from.

Still, among photographers, there is a great divide between modern and old school methods. And there are as many reasons to defend either extreme as there are photographers. The fact remains that once a given technique is abandoned entirely, for whatever reason, the collective output of the photographer is diminished in quality and he/she is implicitly stating that some other priority takes precedence over the final result. Don’t get me wrong, if money is no object and there is a feasible way to capture an image in the wild, then I would certainly opt for the old school.

I pose this question: What about the subjects that are not practically photographable in nature? Let me introduce you to the brown basilisk, also known as the “Jesus Christ Lizard”. This creature is so named for its ability to run along the surface of water. It is native to Panama , Belize , north-western Colombia and Costa Rica . Could you imagine trying to document this behaviour in the wild? What about documenting it well, without abandoning the artistic nuances such as pleasant lighting and background? Perhaps it is possible, if money is no object.

It is clear by now that this article is not intended to be an expose on how to accomplish such a photo, but rather food for thought on what is possible outside the realm of traditional wildlife photography. Suffice to say that many lizards are involved and high priority is placed on not stressing an individual much beyond what is experienced during normal cleaning of the terrarium, etc.. This particular image was created in a warehouse, complete with 10ft artificial pond, 5 flashes, a Nikon D300, a 60mm macro lens, a mist generator and a Phototrap infrared tripwire. All the vegetation visible is accurate in terms of the creature’s country of origin.

Scott Linstead
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