For Xavier Ortega, photography started as a way to escape from daily life. Wildlife – especially in Africa – became his biggest passion. His work is fabulous, his images a real treat if you love animals and appreciate the Art of Photography.
Let's have a glimpse behind the curtains and learn more about this great photographer.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs, Xavier.
I have been interested in drawing and painting from early youth. I studied at the Massana School in Barcelona graphic design and also finished a degree in Economic Sciences. I spent my working career in the banking sector and since two years I dedicate all my time to photography. I was born in Barcelona in 1955 and I still live there. My hobbies outside of photography are travelling, rock music and sports, especially tennis. I am attracted to all different types of art.
How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
My passion for photography was a transition from drawing and combined with photo editing programs it has let me to develop myself artistically.
I bought my first analogue camera to record my first trip abroad; it was a safari in Kenya and Tanzania and I instantly fell in love with Africa. I just had to capture this beauty with my camera: the migrations, the wild animals, the savannah; it all left me speechless.
I returned the next year with lots of Velvia slides and a second-hand Nikon 400 lens, which I had to adjust manually. A big difference with today’s digital photography. I came home with a passion for wildlife, which I have until today.
Which are your most important experiences that has influenced your art?
A friend introduced me to photography. I am an autodidact. Looking at the work of other photographers has helped me a lot.
Can you describe your overall photographic vision?
I see photography as a means of capturing the beauty of the world, it awakens my curiosity and it is able to show magical and unique moments.
Why are you so drawn by Wildlife Photography?
My first trip to Kenya and Tanzania was an eye opener, during which trip I became mesmerized by the beauty of Africa. I have visited Namibia, Botswana and Zambia and I returned several times to Masai Mara and Kenya.
Photographing wild life is very emotional, every image is unrepeatable and you never know what will be the result.
What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
Technical aspects as well as the story are both very important. The photo has to be what I imagined it to be and if necessary I will use post processing.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Respect for nature and the environment are primordial.
During the first years I photographed large wild animals, and then birds. I think I am ready to look for new challenges.
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
I believe that it is very important to carefully study where you want to go, as good preparation is the key to get interesting photos. I choose the places that are likely to provide me with photographic opportunities that I am interested in.
What gear do you use…
Camera: Nikon D4 and D810
Lenses: AF-S 14-24/2.8, AF 24-70/2.8, AF-S VR II 70-200/2.8, AF-S 200-400/4.0
What software do you use?
Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Nik filters, Noiseware
Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
I think it’s very important to process the RAW image. In Camera Raw I adjust the exposure and the shadows and after that I go to Photoshop where I work on the levels and the dimensions. In some instances I use Nik filters.
Each photo needs a different treatment depending on the final result I am after.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in Wildlife Photography and how do you get started?Knowing the work of other photographers and 1x is a perfect tool for that. For a beginner it’s important to learn the technical side and take courses.
In the case of wildlife photography you need a lot of patience and insistence and a large dose of passion.
Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
After my first trip to Africa I discovered Frans Lanting and his book “Okavango, Africa’s last Eden”. It is about the year he spent in Botswana and is a fascinating book.
I also admire Jonathan Scott, Art Wolf and Steve Bloom.
Of the more recent photographers I like the work of Nick Brandt for his vision on Africa, of Vincent Munier for his adventures and of Bencé Mate for his experimental vision on photography. These artists have without doubt influenced me greatly but I have always taken care to keep my own identity.
Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a lot and why?
Without doubt the book Okavango, Africa’s last Eden of Frans Lanting, which he realized for National Geographic and which earned him the valuable title of Photographer of the Year. A photo is highlighted on the cover page.
Cover Book "Okavanjo, Africa's last Eden" by Frans Lanting
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?
I want to return to Africa; my next project will be a trip to Zimanga in South Africa next year.
I would also like to visit Bencé Mate in Hungary and various regions in Spain where the natural fauna has been conserved.
Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
My favourite photograph is “Sleeping infant”
It was taken in the Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania and I have a special bond with it. It was “highly commended” in the Wildlife Photographer of the year competition and was featured on the cover page of the non-English magazine. I have all their books and follow the competition yearly.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
1x is really different from other photography sites. This is due to the careful selection with the result that all photos are original, inspired and of high quality.
To finish I would like to congratulate the entire team of 1x and thank Yvette Depaepe for the opportunity she gave me to do this interview.