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Interview with Nature Photographer Alex Pansier

door | jul 6, 2024 | Blog, They let Nature Talk

Picture title: Hello World © Alex Pansier 

Behind the Lens: Alex Pansier

…What inspires you to photograph? Are there specific themes, locations, or people that particularly intrigue you?
“Structures, patterns, and a minimal use of color inspire my photography. I love minimalist high- and low-key photography, especially in cold regions. A nearly black-and-white photo with a tiny color accent for example…

Name: Alex Pansier
Age: 49 – not quite 50 yet 😉
Occupation: Full-time nature photographer (formerly internet entrepreneur)
Current residence: Oss – the Netherlands
Social media: WebsiteInstagram
Other information about yourself: Married, 2 kids, 3 cats, and passionate about music

Alex Pansier

Behind the Lens: Alex Pansier

What inspires you to photograph? Are there specific themes, locations, or people that particularly intrigue you?
“Structures, patterns, and a minimal use of color inspire my photography. I love minimalist high- and low-key photography, especially in cold regions. A nearly black-and-white photo with a tiny color accent for example. Like my award-winning NPOTY Low Countries photo, “Big Wing”, a black woodpecker with a red cap. It looks black and white, but it’s actually a color photo. That makes me happy.

Painters like Rembrandt and Caravaggio, who play with light, also inspire me. I apply similar techniques in my photography, finding the right spot with a good background, zooming in on an animal, and capturing a detail that makes the photo intriguing. Like my sea elephant photo; you see a few details and wonder, “What am I looking at?” That’s what I find most interesting.”

 

Zee olifant low-key oog en oor en snorharen © Alex Pansier - Ears and Eyes in a Forest

 “Ears and Eyes in a Forest” © Alex Pansier

How did you come to know about NPOTY and/or Nature Talks?
“Nature Talks? They’re impossible to miss! When you start with nature photography or look for a photo trip, Nature Talks is bound to come up. NPOTY is the standout photo contest I love to participate in. I can’t remember my exact first encounter, though.”

Why did you think your submitted photo could be the contender for NPOTY? Can you tell us the story behind your submitted photo? What makes this photo special to you?
“Of course, it’s always a bit nerve-wracking to see if the jury selects my photo. You need a bit of luck for it to resonate with them. Sometimes, a photo I have high hopes for doesn’t win, while another one I had lower expectations for, does.

The black woodpecker’s unique shape and color appeal to me. I had a plan: a black woodpecker in a tree, hoping the light would come from the side to highlight the woodpecker’s head beautifully.

I vividly remember it was exactly 16:41. The sun was perfectly positioned, casting just the right amount of light to illuminate the woodpecker’s beak if it peeked out. It was the ideal setup for my shot. Every day from 16:00, I was there, ready and waiting. I needed the sun to shine, the woodpecker to appear, and the timing to be just right. But of course, things never go as planned…

Spring brought its own challenges: leaves casting extra shadows, branches blocking light, and the sun’s changing position. Every day was different. I watched the woodpecker and, later, its chicks, hoping for that perfectly lit shot. And then, one day, it happened. I captured the shot I had been dreaming of.”

How did you prepare for this photoshoot? Do you have a specific workflow or checklist that you followed?
“Sure, luck plays a part, but I increase my odds by going out frequently and preparing well. In the Netherlands, you definitely need luck with the weather. If the sun hadn’t shone, I would’ve been happy with just a silhouette. I named the photo “Big Wing” because I noticed a shadow on the tree resembling a woodpecker’s wing, adding an extra dimension to the story. Pure luck, discovering it at home, afterwards.”

© Alex Pansier - NPOTY Winner 2023 Big Wing zwarte specht

“Big Wing” © Alex Pansier

Could you share some of your other favorite photos with us that you are proud of? Or a specific moment when a photo evoked a powerful emotion in you while taking it?
“I’m a rational and technical person. But when I spent five days photographing flamingos in the south of France, I started to feel a sort of connection with them. By following their behavior, I could better predict what would happen next. At times, their actions seemed almost human, which made me wonder: am I getting too attached?! Of course, I’m thrilled when a photo turns out technically perfect, but I can also truly enjoy such moments and the beauty of nature.”

How would you describe your photographic style? Are there certain techniques or approaches that are characteristic of your work?
“When I head out, I usually have a plan – a theme or a specific critter in mind that I want to capture on camera. It’s all about working towards those photographic goals in a project-oriented way. But nature often surprises me along the way. Sometimes, I end up snapping shots completely different from what I intended, sparking new creative projects. I prefer heading out with a clear objective rather than wandering aimlessly. However, I’ve learned to adapt to the unexpected.

For the past 18 years, I’ve run an internet company. I built it up through trial and error, learning from my mistakes. But being a manager? Not quite my cup of tea.

So I applied the same approach to photography. I dive into YouTube tutorials, absorb the knowledge, and then experiment to see what works or needs adjusting. That’s my process. My next trip will be to Helgoland.

Environmental conditions definitely shape my approach. Flamingos, for example, are perfect for high-key photography with their serene waters and clean backgrounds. Even in Iceland’s snowy landscapes, I find myself drawn to high-key techniques. And when the sun’s out, it’s all about seizing those low-key opportunities. I love to experiment with my shots as well, from long exposures to playful double exposures. I believe in minimal editing, letting nature’s beauty speak for itself.

© Alex Pansier - high key pelikaan

“Flamingo” © Alex Pansier

So, what defines my style amidst all this low-key, high-key, and minimalist chatter?
It’s about taming chaos into structured beauty. Whether it’s a curious ant peeking through a leaf’s hole or capturing the fleeting essence of a moment. I strive to capture the essence of each subject in a captivating frame.”

“I’m a huge fan of Apple and Steve Jobs. Especially their approach to making products: user-friendly, minimalist, and simple – less is more. That’s how I’ve always managed my business, keeping it efficient and straightforward. For instance, I ran an e-commerce platform with just two packages; easy, not too many choices. This same calm and minimalistic approach guides my photography too. At home, I try to maintain that tranquility with a bit of Scandinavian design, though peace is often elusive with a busy household of a wife, two kids and three cats, haha!”

© Alex Pansier - high key aapje in sneeuw - Snowy Solitude

“Snowy Solitude” © Alex Pansier

What challenges do you (often) encounter while photographing and how do you deal with them?
“I’m very driven, but in photography, I sometimes wonder: who am I doing this for? Am I trying to prove something? It shouldn’t be frustrating when I don’t have a project or miss the perfect shot. Balancing enjoyment and achieving something is always a challenge.

Finding a new subject is often my biggest challenge. Once hooked, I can spend weeks or months on it. The challenge lies in taking that first step. After a great photo trip, I start searching anew. Once I find something, I immerse myself in it.”

How important is post-processing for your work? Can you tell us about your image editing and retouching process?
“I stick to basic edits like adjusting contrast and brightness in Lightroom. I don’t heavily edit my photos. I aim to get everything right in the field to keep my shots true to the original.”

Are there specific projects or collaborations that you are particularly proud of? What made these experiences so memorable?
“I’m proud of my latest projects because they reflect my current emotions and skills. And being an ambassador for Sony and Kamera Express. Sony’s international reach appeals to me. I love giving talks and online lectures for them. These collaborations are valuable to me.”

© Alex Pansier - low key libelle in waterdruppels - Droplet's Dance

“Droplet’s Dance” © Alex Pansier

Do you engage in photography full-time, or do you have other activities from which you derive your daily income?
“I dedicate myself full-time to photography, though it’s not very lucrative. There are many talented photographers out there. My style isn’t particularly commercial, so I rely on giving lectures, writing, and hosting workshops to offset travel costs. Fortunately, I sold an internet business in 2021, so I don’t need to work for a living.”

© Alex Pansier - high key bloem - Ink Art

“Ink Art” © Alex Pansier

How do you stay inspired and continue to develop yourself as a photographer? Are there sources or activities that you regularly use to remain creative?
“It’s both a good and challenging question for me. I can keep experimenting, but at some point, I’ve explored all the existing techniques: ICM, double exposure, high and low-key photography, and so on. How can I still be distinctive? That’s the tough part. I’ve noticed that by consistently photographing, something new eventually emerges, but predicting what that will be is difficult.
Let me share three quick stories.

I often visit a small nature reserve to photograph dragonflies. After many visits, I wanted something new, so I wandered a little in that same area. One day, I found an area full of wasp spiders. This discovery sparked a whole new project for me, capturing them in various ways.

That same morning, I spotted a dead frog in a puddle, floating upside down with a four-leaf clover nearby. The tiny green clover in the black-and-white scene fascinated me. It wasn’t a project, but I did use that photo in my recent presentations.

Near the reserve was a big pile of manure and straw. One morning, I noticed white spots on it. Curious, I stopped and found they were ink cap mushrooms. This became my next focus. I must have visited that pile 30 times, capturing those mushrooms on camera. That’s how new ideas come about.

© Alex Pansier - low key - Puffin Profile

“Puffin Profile” © Alex Pansier

I’m currently diving into a new adventure: making a book. As you probably know, I love having a clear goal. Social media posts and photo contests are fun, but I often leave many of my photos unused on my computer. So, creating a book felt like the next big step.

I’m taking this book quite seriously, almost like an art project. Mainly photos with a brief story about how it all began and where I stand now. It will showcase my journey from when I first picked up a camera. Starting with cute photos and moving towards more high- and low-key shots. By the end, it gets pretty abstract and artistic. The title? “From nature to art” It still needs some textual adjustments, but I’m really excited about it.

I’ve got a few projects on the go, and I keep everything organized with lists. These lists help me stay on track and keep my goals clear. Plus, they let me approach each project with an open mind.”

© Alex Pansier - low key hert bij boom in veld - Deer's Dusk

“Deer’s Dusk” © Alex Pansier

What equipment do you enjoy using and why? Do you have a preference for certain lenses, cameras, or accessories?
“When I travel, I ensure thorough preparation. I check off everything on a specific list to avoid missing crucial items, like forgetting the one lens I need.

I shoot with Sony A1 cameras, and for lenses, I typically bring the 400mm f/2.8, the 70-200mm f/2.8, and the 24-70mm f/4 on every trip. I also pack converters for added versatility. In the Netherlands, I use my macro equipment. I’m not fond of tripods, but I still bring one on trips. However, it often remains unused in my bag. I prefer the flexibility to move slightly, although I do make exceptions for long exposure shots.”

If you could give one tip to another photographer, what would that tip be?
“I often come back to the cliché: take care of nature. However, my true advice is to get out there and keep your eyes open. There’s so much to discover. You might start with the intention of photographing dragonflies and end up with a series on wasp spiders, like I did. The unexpected can lead to amazing new projects.”

© Alex Pansier - high key visjes in snavel - Squeeze In

© Alex Pansier – “Squeeze In”

© Alex Pansier - low key gans in water met gestrekte vleugels - Glassy Goose

“Glassy Goose” © Alex Pansier

Audrey van der Hoorn

Hi there! I'm Audrey van der Hoorn, a 47-year-old from The Hague. Photography lets me explore the world from my own unique perspective, capturing vibrant and authentic images, whether it’s portraits, landscapes, or wildlife. I love preserving these precious memories in all their forms. As a volunteer photographer for Make-A-Wish Netherlands, I get the privilege of documenting some of life’s most beautiful moments, like the Wish Journey of a seriously ill child. It's an incredible opportunity to celebrate life and cherish its fragility. Lately, I’ve been helping out the Nature Talks Foundation with various communication tasks. It’s a joy to support their mission of promoting nature awareness, appreciation, and conservation. I'm thrilled to conduct interviews with the talented winners of the international nature photography competition (NPOTY) and captivating photo blogs. Join me on this adventure as we explore the beauty of our natural world through the lenses of these incredible artists!

nature photographer of the year

NPOTY 2025 is opening on December 20th

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Conservation project

At Nature Photographer of the Year competition we like to do things different. So therefore we share a percentage of the entry fees and contest profits to nature conservation projects throughout the world. So next to the chance of winning great prizes you also support nature conservation!

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