Interview with wildlife photographer: Michel Zoghzoghi
Will you stand for 10 hours in the jungle waiting for the lion to smile? Or better yet would you take a 4 hours hike instead of a 10 minutes shortcut just to avoid waking up a huge grizzly bear in order to take a picture of him?
Few will understand this outstanding love for wild animals, the dedication to these magnificent predators that lies in their beauty, innocence and power.
Michel is a Lebanese wild life photographer who has always been an animal lover and activist.
Started the photography project as a hobby in London 12 years ago where he was shooting a Polo tournament with a camera he bought from the airport and since then he got hooked. Juggling a dual life between his own business in the medical field and his passion towards photography, which springs from his love of beauty, movement and strength.
The kind of fulfillment, dedication and passion you see in his eyes shows a true heart of a person pursuing his dream trying to make the best out of it and setting an example on how real men shoot animals! Using his lens or lenses, he never cease to amaze by the fascinating shots he gets all while trying to save the animals and the environment.
We got the chance to sit with him and discuss his passion and most importantly get inspired by a man who is pursuing his dream and not letting anything stop him, he is a true example of freedom and motivation.
We’ve read and know how your experience with photography started, so we’re not going to go through it again but I would like to know your own perspective on describing your passion for photography, especially that, in business, you’re in a completely different field.
Yes! It’s my passion; that’s what I love about my dual life: one finances the other.
Basically, I do as I please in photography. I don’t have to put up with things I don’t like such as wedding photography or event coverage… You have to know that there is no money in wildlife photography contrary to commercial or fashion photography.
I have always been an animal lover and activist but at the same time I am an extremely impatient person. It would be impossible for me to stay in nature for a long time without any purpose to it. Photography gave me that purpose. Today I can go on staying up to 10 hours straight waiting for a tiger to raise his left paw and smile, the perfect moment for a shot. This combination between photography and wildlife allowed me to pursue with my hobby.
Now, I go for 2 to 3 photography trips a year.
“Beauty, innocence, power!”
I am eager to know more about your trips can you give us an insight?
My last trip to Wyoming was very successful. I got to take 6 to 7 exceptional photos. I also went to Kenya and ended up with 2 to 3 photos, which, in my opinion, is a great outcome. On the other hand, when I went to Africa for 2 weeks, I didn’t get any photos except for the penguins. In fact, the goal was to shoot great white sharks. After spending 11 days with 0 pictures I decided to shoot the penguins just to get at least one picture out of the trip. So it also depends on luck: not all trips are similar. Each one is a whole new experience with a different outcome.
Tell us a bit about your trips preparations, and do you usually go alone or you have a team with you?
I have a trip in September, and it is the most significant one in terms of planning.
I want to shoot jaguars, which is no easy task. The best place to do it is in Brazil specifically in Porto Jofre. Now the best time of the year is during the dry season where vegetation is very low and the climate is very hot, so you’ll get to easily spot jaguars near water springs where they satisfy their thirst. Otherwise, you cannot see them because of the bushes’ density. So I booked a year ago for the trip.
Normally, I go only with the company of a guide. I’d enjoy the company of my friends, of course, but no one will go on waiting for 12 hours for a jaguar to appear. So no friends during photography trips, unless you’re aiming for a fight.
A guide is really important during such trips. He helps me find the animals and interprets their behavior, which allows me to know when to get ready to take a shot.
“I love shooting wildlife animals”
Does it get risky at times? Or you’re always keeping your safe distance if there is any?
Sometimes during a photo shooting session, animals can get very close. All you have to do follow your guide’s instructions and you’ll be out of danger.
Most of the time, accidents happen because of human mistakes (taking selfies with the lion). You have to respect these predators and keep your distance, acknowledge that you’re not in your territory but in theirs. So when a predator approaches you, know that he’s not coming to eat you. You’re not his food. He’s just checking you since you’re part of the landscape. So remain calm and he’ll pass right through you. Keep in mind not to make a move towards them, even when you spot cute cubs; mother lioness is always seconds away.
What is your photographical equipment?
As a body I go with the Canon EOS 1D X.
As for the lenses I use 3 lenses:
- Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM for animal portraits and more specifically birds,
- Canon EF 500mm f/4L II IS USM, the one I use the most for action scenes, and also portraits.
- Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II IS USM, the most versatile for animal landscapes and for portraits when the animals are very loose.
Lenses with fixed focal length are the best in terms of printable quality. However, they’re very heavy and the absence of a zoom makes me miss a lot of shots.
In short, I travel with 45 kilos of photographical equipment and 10Kg of personal belongings
Our blog focuses partly on motivation, freedom and how we took the step to make our dream come true, what would you advise our readers who have a dream or anything they would like to accomplish?
DO IT! Very simply, if you can afford to do it of course, and by afford I don’t mean solely in terms of finance but also in terms of physical health. Who cares about what people say? Either ways, at the end of the day, they’ll be talking about you and him and all of us.
If you have something you love, do it. Don’t go saying: “Oh I wish to do this and that!” Instead, just do it. Dwelling won’t get you anywhere. If you really want something, work on achieving it rather than talking about it.
We know that you’re involved with charities. Can you tell us more about that?
I focus mainly on animal and environmental charities since I strongly believe it can bring a restorative and balancing impact to our planet Earth. I am involved with Beta and Animals Lebanon. As for human charities, I am involved with Saint Jude in Lebanon and abroad. However, I tend to focus less on human charities, not because it is less important, but because it is less expressive in terms of global impact. Saving the environment will allow the next generations to live on this planet, which means that also humans will benefit from it.
I am trying to raise awareness but it’s a bit too late. A lot of people need to get involved. The way nature is being destroyed is unbelievable. Kids of the next generation are at risk of not witnessing today’s wild animals. They’ll only read or hear about them. They’ll only get to see their pictures in books or more probably on their laptops. Can you imagine? We’re loosing an elephant every 15 minutes because of poaching. We still have 3000 tigers in the wild. The numbers are staggering! Tragically enough, financial gains are much more important than conservation initiatives. Not to mention that the global human population is increasing dramatically to the point that killing wild animals is going to become a convenient manner. More conflicts are arising between humans and animals that are lacking habitats.
“Because it’s their planet too”
FOR MORE AWESOME PICTURES AND NEWS HERE’S HOW TO GET IN TOUCH WITH MICHEL