Every day we see stunning photos from our peers in the 500px community, but not often do we turn the lens back upon the photographer. The Portrait series focuses on remarkable 500px users who may have something to teach us about their field of photography. This week's feature is Marina Cano, interviewed by Matt Knight.
Hi Marina, could you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a landscape and wildlife Spanish photographer, based in Cantabria, in the North of Spain. With regards to my beginnings, I started when I was a teenager because of my father, he loved photography and he transmitted that love to me. Wildlife came easily as a part of my interest with beauty and nature. I’m very lucky because I live 20 minutes away from Cabarceno, a park where animals live in semi-free conditions, and the biggest one in the world. In 2009 I published a large format book, it’s an intimate portrait of the Cabarceno stunning wildlife.
My photographs have been published around the world and I have won international awards. I have a special commitment with the planet and their threatened wildlife and hope my work can touch peoples' hearts. Photographers usually say that they "capture" images, but for me the opposite is true, animals have captured me.
What’s the best thing about being a photographer?
Everything is great about being a photographer. I love traveling and I can forget about the world when I take pictures. People's feedback and support is rewarding too. I like the whole process, from the moment you prepare to travel or take pictures, until you see your images published in a book or magazine.
Are there any parts, or things, you would change?
When photography turned into digital, things got easier. Personally I would like to have more money to travel and to get better equipment. It would be great to invent new long lenses, such as 600mm or 300mm f2.8 that are smaller and lighter.
Do you have any memorable stories from any of your experiences with photography?
Recently in my last trip to Kenya, I was so excited that I made a mistake. I was going to open the car window, but I opened the door. And there she was, a beautiful lioness and her cubs, only two meters of air between she and I. After two seconds of pure adrenaline I closed the door, while she stared at me.
What makes your work different to anyone else’s?
This is not an easy question. When magazines, editors and other people speak about my work, they always say it goes beyond the portraits, treating the animals like human models (in the best sense) and that the photos capture their souls. I don't know, I just feel in heaven when I take a good picture. I think the photographers' personalities are involved too in their pictures. Everyone is like 'he is in everything he makes.' Your personality gets involved in your photography.
What makes a good photo?
The image must have something breathtaking. It can be the topic, or the unique moment, or the light, the composition, but it must have something exceptional. I know it when I see the picture and feel something like a strong beat in my stomach, then I'm sure I've taken a really good one. Most of the time less is more. Great pictures can have very simple elements but they are powerful.
If you’re going out on a day trip what camera and what lenses do you take, compared to a more planned out photo shoot?
I don't carry any equipment if I go out on a day trip; I only enjoy the trip. When I go to take pictures there is no time for another thing. I am very focused in what I do when I take pictures.
Do you plan projects? Or take photos with a particular shot in mind?
Sometimes I plan exactly what I want, and I can wait for hours, days or months. It depends on the light I want or the season I'm looking for. Other times it looks like the pictures are waiting for you to arrive. I love the unexpected surprises.
I've heard that from a set of 100 photographs, a photographer may only be happy with 1 of them. How many shots do you take, and do you shoot for insurance?
I’m really happy with around eight or ten pictures a year and, as you can imagine, I take thousands of them a year.
The more you learn the more exigent you become. Ten years ago, for example I could be happy with a picture that maybe nowadays I erase once I see it in my camera screen. To be very critical with your work is always good. The only way you have is to improve.
What’s better, photographing by yourself being able to do what you want? Or shooting with friends?
My experience tells me, without any doubt, photographing alone. I've brought some friends with me and sometimes we have exactly the same picture, and then it’s not unique. I don't like that. Good friends are for parties! Another thing is when I teach or run a workshop, then it's great to share what I see, what I feel, and how I make pictures. I love teaching.
How important is it to have the best (and potentially the most expensive) gear? How much do you own yourself, and what couldn’t you leave the house without?
Right now, I’m thinking of buying the new Canon 600mm or a 300mm lenses (I appreciate any advice?). I know my pictures will reach another level. In wildlife you really need to get as close as you can, although not always, but in many occasions. So yes, it’s important, but if there is nothing else behind that... The camera equipment is just a technical tool, you create the picture.
Street/Landscape? People/Animals? DSLR/ SLR?
Landscape. Animals. DSLR. I realized I prefer to be alone with my subject, I love the silent and just the nature sounds. No people around.
Which photographers, or artists, inspire you the most?
My favourite photographers that inspire me to reach further heights in my work are the South African Steve Bloom for his breathtaking images, the Spanish Miguel Lasa because of his amazing birds and his touching white bears, Gregory Colbert because of the magic around his work, and Nick Brandt because I feel very close to his esthetic.
How important is post-editing? To what extent do you use computer software to improve your photos?
I have to say that I love working with Photoshop. It's a great tool if you know how to use it. Sometimes I work a lot on my pictures, and others really nothing. Wildlife photography can be a document of nature, or it can be art. There are moments when both came together; others that the artist can work with.
How can new photographers improve their photography?
To improve you have first to learn. So, see thousands of many different photographers' pictures. This way you'll know what works for you and what does not. Then, look at them carefully and you'll discover how to get something similar. Try, and try, and try again... and again. The next step, once you dominate the technique, is look for your own style, the thing that makes your stomach jump.
More and more people are gaining popularity through photo sharing sites such as 500px; are galleries still important?
Currently there are new ways to promote an artist's work and the Internet is one of them. The more tools we can use the best we can reach many more people. And certainly galleries are still great. Internet with portals as 500px are one of the best ways to share your work with the world. Instantly.
For more of Marina's photography check out her 500px page & website. Marina also leads exclusive photographic safaris with Mario Moreno. South Cape Images specializes in African photographic safaris that are conceived for small groups of photographers of all levels. In Cantabria, Marina offers A Day With Marina Cano: a one day workshop in Cabarceno, the largest wildlife park in Europe with over 100 species of animals. Contact Marina for further details.