Shooting wildlife: a family obsession

2011-12-01 00:00

AIM, steady — click! Capturing fantastic wildlife images may be easy for some people, but for most of us the experience is a bit frustrating. Our images are never as picture perfect as those taken by professional photographers who produce the stunning coffee-table books that inspire us.

It is easy to say we don’t have the equipment, but techniques can be learnt and honed through practise, and through the tutelage of a mentor. Heinrich van den Berg is one of the few photographers who has managed to turn his passion for photography into a business.

This engineer turned photographer decided that his love of photography would be the driving force in his life. He has lasted 20 years in the photographic profession and with the support of his parents, who are also photographic enthusiasts, has formed a publishing company based on the images they have all taken.

Van den Berg, who grew up in Pietermaritzburg and attended Voortrekker High School, says he and his parents Ingrid and Phillip, always visited game reserves during the school holidays where he learnt to love wildlife and nature.

“My parents were avid photo hobbyists and they were always trying to get the best photographs possible.

“I was always keen on photography but never really thought one could make a living from it. However, one reaches a stage when the passion for photography dictates that you have to pursue it. I have taken many photographs of wild animals but I never tire of it.

“Each situation is different, the light, the mood, the action. You don’t know what you have got until you see it.”

Van den Berg says that he is always looking for new challenges. One of his new books, Shades of Nature, is a book of wildlife pictures, taken in black and white. This unusual book is fantastic.

While most people assume that nature and wildlife owe their beauty to the vivid colours and glorious natural palette, Van den Berg’s artistic interpretation gives traditional photographs an added dimension.

The Van den Berg family is keen to promote its book phototips. It’s a photographic guide for those who are keen to take wildlife or nature photographs.

“We think the book is different from other photographic books because it is not crammed too full of information that the reader gets overwhelmed,” says Van den Berg.

“Each photographic example is explained in terms of how it was taken and what the correct settings were and how they affect the outcome.

“We also have tips for beginners and tips for professionals because the level of advice is important.”

The book is full of award-winning pictures which have that extra wow factor. The amateur photographer will glean nuggets of information from the book by paging through the phototips book and absorbing all the information.

The phototips book can also be purchased with the instructional DVDs that focus on three specific aspects of photography. These are lighting, equipment and strategy.

Photolighting, photogear and photocapture are also aimed at giving useful information to photo enthusiasts of all aptitudes. Van den Berg says the images used in the books and in the DVDs are not just his, but they were chosen from the family’s best shots.

The Van den Berg family has published 21 books to date and most of them are based on wildlife or nature. But Van den Berg says that his aim is not just to capture images of the Big Five. He explained: “I also like to explore the small animals that we can’t see and expose their own beauty.

“I have enjoyed taking pictures of meerkats and leopards, and for me there is always something new to explore. Even if you are a good photographer you have to challenge yourself to try new techniques.”

• The Van den Bergs’ new book will be launched at Bookworld at the Cascades Shopping Centre in Pietermaritzburg on December 2. Heinrich van den Berg will be giving a photo presentation. To RSVP e-mail info@hphpublishing.

Heinrich, Phillip and Ingrid van den Berg are internationally acclaimed nature photographers. They have been addicted to nature photography for decades. A decade ago the Van den Bergs left their various professions to make photography a full-time obsession. Together they founded HPH Publishing in 2003. Since then they have produced more than 20 awe-inspiring coffee-table books.

In 1998, Heinrich left his profession as a civil engineer to become a full-time wildlife photographer. Since then he has travelled the world photographing wildlife and culture with a uniquely artistic eye. Heinrich has travelled widely on photographic assignment covering subjects like sacred temples in Cambodia and the endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

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