Verdon, professional wildlife and nature photographer is stunning. Surrounded by nature's vast beauty, he strives to capture unique behaviours and personalities of animals and birds. All his photographs are taken in the wild, never in captivity or under human control. His goal is to find his own treasures and show his unique point of view.
Let's take a journey with him and discover more about the artist behind his work.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
I have been doing photography as a profession for about 8 years, since moving to Colorado in 2009. I bought my first camera, all digital, in 2006. At that time I was a sponsored rock climber and I needed a way to document our climbing expeditions and experiences for our sponsors. Since moving to Colorado and being surrounded by nature’s vast beauty, I found my passion for wildlife and nature photography. Hence began my career as a wildlife/ nature photographer; and, for the first time in my life, I have a “job” that I truly love. When I’m not out photographing, I’m usually enjoying my time mountain biking or back-country skiing.
Which are your most important experiences that has influenced your art?
I grew up in Slovakia (was Czechoslovakia at that time) during the period of socialism. Many Americans do not understand socialism and assume it must be bad and oppressive, but I found it to be beneficial in many ways for my personal growth and the development of my life. Growing up in a small mountain village, there were only a few families that had telephones in their houses; we lived in a small house and my two siblings and myself shared a single bedroom. Without electronics, cell phones, and the materialistic lifestyle of today, we lived a simple life and our family stayed close. I spent a lot of time outdoors, exploring the world with friends and many times by myself. I spent hours wandering in the woods, feeling that I was part of nature and intimate with the animals. I learned an appreciation of nature from my parents. My father was always, and still is, an avid hunter. I spent many long hours tracking animals with him, and although I did not appreciate the hunting as much as my father and older brother, I loved being out in nature and my dreams took me away…until my father’s voice awakened me, telling me sternly to walk more quietly. As a family, we enjoyed feeding wildlife and protecting them in the winter and watching them year round. I learned valuable lessons about animal behaviours and habits, as well as basic respect for the power of nature and wildlife.
What first attracted you to photography?
From a young age, I always felt I was different from other people; I saw the world through different eyes. I was a dreamer, and I still am at age 48, and my dreams have shaped my life. I dreamed to be a rock climber. I followed my dreams with all my heart and I started climbing when I was about 18 years old and kept climbing into my 40’s. I trained hard and my rock climbing took me to many amazing places above the skyline. I also dreamed to one day be an artist, and I always loved drawing and painting. I started doing photography as a way to document my climbing expeditions for our sponsors, and I realized quickly the vast potential for creativity. Photography became a way for me to transform my artistic vision of the world into images that I could share with others. Photography, for me, is a wonderful blend of all my passions into one endless art form.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
I love to turn my experiences and my love for nature into images that I can then share with others, so they too can experience what it feels like to stand on a mountain summit at 14,000 feet in a thunderstorm, or watch a hawk launch off a branch, or see the orange sky of a spectacular sunrise over an alpine lake. I always want to show a subject in a different perspective, especially something very common or often photographed. I always strive to find my own treasures and show my unique point of view.
Why are you so drawn by Nature Photography?
I have always felt an intimate relationship with nature from a young age. Wildlife photography was very natural for me and really grabbed my heart. Once I started doing more and more wildlife photography, I also started noticing more birds and desired to capture them as well; bird photography posed a much more challenging and rewarding experience for me. And, it was a way for me to stand apart from other wildlife photographers in Colorado. All animals are beautiful, but I think birds are under-appreciated, because it is difficult to see the details of a tiny bird sitting up in the branches or in flight. I love to capture their unique behaviours and personalities and then have the opportunity to share that with others, so they too can see the infinite beauty that surrounds us.
What is more important to you, the mood/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
For me what is most important is the mood/ story behind the shot. What is also equally important to me is to show a subject from a different perspective and to always create my own image and not duplicate another photographer’s work.
What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
Cameras: Canon 1DX, Canon 7D
Lenses: All Canon: 600mm f/4, 100-400mm, 70-200mm, 85mm, 17-40mm; plus a Sigma 35mm
Tripods: Giottos and Gitzo tripods and a Benro Monopod (for wildlife) with RRS head
Backpacks: LowePro Whistler and F-stop Sukha
Extras: GoPro 4 for vlogging, NISI filters AND Skis for the approach to locations, with a more enjoyable way down.
What software do you use to process your images?
I use Photoshop with plug-ins, Lightroom, and Aperture.
Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
Nothing special. Some days I go out for wildlife, some days for landscape at sunrise or sunset. Some days I go for long hikes with my camera and come back with nothing. Some days I get up really early, and I curse a few times for having to wake up that early, but once I am out I always enjoy it, even if the sunrise didn’t work out. Most times with nature photography, I try to keep the image and colours as real as possible, but sometimes I do love to play with colours and be more creative. I’ve started doing videos for YouTube, and I find this an enjoyable way to share my photography experiences with other people. I hope you will find me on YouTube under “Verdon Rocks Photography”.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in Nature Photography and how do you get started?
My advice would be to spend more money on the experiences of photography rather than the highest equipment to start with. Start with basic equipment and spend time learning how to use it and practising various techniques. Most important is to keep going out, keep shooting, keep gaining experience and knowledge. Even in bad weather, go out and explore and learn. You can use websites such as 1x or other photography social websites to learn from other photographers and to get inspiration. But, don’t get into the habit of just socializing on photo websites to get more “Likes” on your images; go and genuinely observe and learn from other photographers, and think how would you could recreate that image or how would you do it differently.
Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
One photographer that really inspired me, particularly with landscape photography, is Marc Adamus. He has stunning quality images and he is very selective about which ones he publishes and he doesn’t overload his portfolio. I also admire that he goes to very remote locations and finds his own treasures. I always strive for that as well.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
My next endeavour to advance my photography is to start doing drone photography and cinematography. With the spectacular mountains surrounding us in Colorado, I am excited to be able to share the views that no one has seen before. So a Drone is on my list this year!
Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
My favourite photograph that I have taken is this one that I call “Heads or Tails.” This is a photograph of a Bufflehead diving underwater for food. I like first of all the very low point of view of the photograph. I was lying on the bank of a pond behind our house, with my lens just barely over the surface of the water, waiting to capture the perfect moment with his tail up and the water splashing around. I also love the colours of the reflection of the sky and the dry grasses in the background. This photograph holds special meaning to me because it was the first photograph that was awarded in international competition and it was the first photographic print that I sold. Also, somebody came across my photo from a local competition and I was asked to donate it to a charity auction, which I did and it raised a decent amount of money for that charity. It made me realize that my work was worthy of publication and it gave me the confidence to continue pushing forward with my career choice.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
I appreciate this opportunity to be a featured artist on 1x. I think 1x is a great resource to become visible in front of hundreds of curators, publishers, and other photographers. I have had contacts through 1x that got my work published in the UK, Russia, China, Germany, etc. Also, for me, having my work selected for publication on 1x is a measure of quality; I know if my photograph is published on 1x, I can enter it into any competition with confidence that my photo will be strongly considered by the jury.