Chris Schmid on wildlife, drone photography, and passion

29 August 2014

Award-winning photographer Chris Schmid is constantly researching how to capture unique still and motion images using the latest technologies. His diverse and exciting photographs focus on wildlife, travel and outdoor sports. As an avid lover of rare and exotic animals and wildlife, we spoke with the Network photographer to learn more about his passions, technique and more.

You photograph ‘action’ - and have shot some extraordinary images of animals such as leopards, brown bears and elephants.  Do you often place yourself in the path of danger  to capture the perfect image?  What has been your most dangerous moment involving wildlife?
When I’m shooting wildlife images, I’m always trying to respect the animals and keep a safety distance between them and I. I’m always searching to have the most natural images without compromising the animal’s comportment. When I’m on site, I would prefer to stay far away from the animal and use a telephoto lens to have a natural feel to the images. If it wants to get closer, that’s great, but I would never force the contact. My priority is also to place the animal in its environment; it’s very important for me to show the link between the animal and its habitat. 

Do you tend to focus on animals that are headed toward extinction?  You are photographing leopards once again later this year; why do leopards take such a prominent place within your photography?
I have a fascination about mysterious animals such as the muskoxen, the wild brown bears and the leopards. The ones that are difficult to find require patience and challenge, living in remote locations. When I make my research about an animal to capture, I’m also looking at their surroundings. If we want to protect a species it starts with protecting the environment around them. I’m not particulary focusing on animals that are headed toward extinction. It’s just letting people know what’s there and showing the fragility of our environnment but also the beauty of it.

That’s why I think I’m fascinated by the leopards. They have this special phantomatic comportement; they look so strong and in the same time so fragile.

You’ve said in the past that you aim to convey a ‘childlike enthusiasm’ in your images – is this due to being self-taught and the age you started taking photographs?
I think yes. I’m always marveled by the beauty of our surroundings, and for me it’s a real chance to be able to tell stories. I definitely think that a single picture can tell a story. Capturing images for me is like a child showing its first drawing to its mom. It’s a real passion and I really enjoy being outdoors. I couldn’t think to stay inside a studio; there are such amazing things in our world to discover!

What is it specifically about wildlife, travel, outdoor sports and the environment that draws you in?
I just love being outdoors - discovering new areas. It makes me feel alive. My job is around 50% sports and outdoor photography and 50% nature and wildlife. I have always been fascinated by wildlife photography. It requires more time on site; you need to take the time to know the animal, its environment and more than anything, you need to respect them. When you’re doing wildlife photography, you need to be patient, really patient. This is the opposite of sport and outdoor where you are always in action. So shooting sports and outdoor helps me catch the action of the wildlife, and shooting animals and nature helps me to control the stress and pressure during a sport or outdoor shooting. They merge really well together.

Like so many – you say you have learned from your mistakes and experiences.  Which mistake and experience have you learned the most from?
The magic moments last only a few minutes. These moments are quite rare, making for great photography, which is all part of being in the right place at the right time. It’s these moments that make photography so unique, so rewarding. And you must make all your chance on your side by bringing with you always a camera. I’ve missed so many shots at the beginning moving around without any cameras next to me. Now I always have my camera with me.

Your use of drones must open up all kinds of possibilities – what made you decide to start using them within your photography? 
The drone allows you to access location where helicopters can even fly over a canyon, dam, etc. But first of all it gives you a very unique point of view, allowing me to diversify the still and motion images. I really love the bird's eye view because you must play with the shadows, the movement, and the colors of the environment in order to give some relief to the landscape. It’s very exciting!

Your videos are beautiful! Tell us a bit about your editing technique. 
I love storytelling so I’m making all my edit by myself with Adobe Premiere. It allows me to have a full control on my final movie. It requires some time to do it but I really enjoy it. Mixing your images with different music, searching a scenario, etc. It’s quite challenging to do both still and motion when you’re on location because you’re always afraid to miss THE MOMENT. But it gives you so much more!

Give us one word to describe your drive as a photographer.

What has been your most defining moment as a photographer?
Well, quite hard to answer, but I think the most defining moment as a photographer is when you start to receive recognition. It makes you push your limit furtherto capture these images that can tell a story.

Learn more about Chris Schmid here.