Chris Schmid spent the month of June in the wild forests of Finland, capturing the "King of the Nordic Forests": The Brown Bear. This short video is a result of the time Chris spent tracking and shooting in the forest:
Aurora Photos: Can you tell us a little bit about how this project came to life?
Chris: I have had this idea to create a short movie project for a long time. I really wanted to push the limit of the cameras in low light conditions because it’s such an improvement during the last couple of years that it allows us to produce and capture images that weren’t possible before. So I needed to search something to shoot that would be exciting in video but as well in photography. So the wild brown bears came to be my first choice, as they’re located in Finland, and in June we have the possibility to shoot in very low light conditions, but with a small light thanks to the midnight sun.
Aurora Photos: How is this motion project different from your other work?
Chris: Well, it’s quite challenging to photograph and record video at the same time. You’re always at risk to miss a moment so you need to choose what you really want to do, either photography or video. During this shooting for "The King of the Nordic Forests," I made the priority on video, hoping I would be able to create an interesting short movie. Nikon Switzerland was kind enough to let me borrow the brand new 800mm so I had my Nikon 500mm fixed on the D800 and the Nikon 800mm fixed on my D4s. With this configuration, I was sometimes able to start recording with the D4s while at the same time taking some shots with the D800. I think when you want to create a still + motion project, you really need to give priority to one before starting the project. You also have to create a quick storyboard with your ideas and what you want to share with your viewers.
Aurora Photos: What draws you to nature photography? Especially shooting wild animals?
Chris: 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 sports or outdoor shooting. They merge really well together.
When I’m on site, I would prefer to stay far away from the animal and use a telephoto lens to have a natural comportment. 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.
Aurora Photos: What challenges did you face during this project?
Chris: As I said before, you need to be really patient. For the wild brown bears, we were starting the stakeout at 5pm and going until 6am in the morning. During all this time you need to stay calm, try to minimize your movement, your sound, etc. With wildlife photography you never know what will happen. During the first night I didn’t see anything, and it was a long night waiting for nothing. But that’s the rule of wildlife photograph: One night you can see incredible things happening and the night after, you can see nothing. For me it’s always exciting because every day, every hour, every minute is different from the one before! So you need to always be ready to fire!
Aurora Photos: What is your favorite animal to capture on screen beside bears? Why?
Chris: I have a huge preference for discreet and mysterious animals; the one that appears in one second and then disappears as fast as a bullet shot from a gun. But for me, the environment where they live is as important as the animal itself. But if I had to choose one, it would be the leopard. They’re quite mysterious and they have fabulous eyes, killing your viewfinder when you’re looking at them.
Aurora Photos: What is next for you?
Chris: I have some sailing shooting scheduled during this summer, and a trip to Iceland may come in September. After that I need to choose a new destination for the thousand personal projects that I have in my head. My dream would be to be contacted by a magazine for a wildlife assignment!
To see more work by Chris Schmid, visit the Aurora Photos website here.