Q: How did you go about capturing images of numerous endangered species for “Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark”?
A: One of the things I do with the staff at all these zoos I go to (is to) work months in advance to get a list of the animals we think wouldn’t mind the process and would tolerate it, which animals were hand-raised, which are the friendliest. And once we figure that out, we try to work with these animals in the spaces where they live most of the time. Some of the smaller animals, birds or lizards, we’ll put them in a small shooting tent. The process is very quick.
It’s like (with) a human toddler: Figure out what they like to do, and don’t try to force them to stand still. Let them do what they want to do, right? If there is a favorite place they want to sleep, photograph them sleeping. If they like to chew on something, let them chew. Photograph them doing what they want to do. It’s a lot less frustrating that way, for you and your pet. And your toddler.
Q: What was the scariest part of your mission?
A: I’ve been around animals my whole life, so I don’t necessarily think of them as scary … most of them. I don’t like cockroaches much, but I’ve photographed 40 different types of species of cockroaches now. I feel like I’m their voice, and I really want to tell their story. I’d say for 75 percent of the animals we photograph, this is the only time anybody is ever going to pay attention to them, so it’s an honor.
Q: How did your nature-photography career begin?
A: I got interested because my parents were really interested in nature. My dad took me hunting and fishing growing up, and my mother loved backyard birds and flowers and wildlife. And they both cared about nature.
I got into photography in my senior year in high school, trying to impress a cheerleader I was in love with at Ralston High School in Nebraska, so I took some pictures of her. And she found it creepy. But the hobby stuck, and it turned into a profession.