The Crestock Interview: Photographer and Lion Handler

Posted Monday, 18 June 2007 by Tormod Rossavik in Interviews, Inspiration, Photography
Austro-Norwegian Andreas Doppelmayr elaborates on the necessity of tripods in the bush and his choice of pets.
Lioness with hat
Lioness with hat
Freestyle skier
Freestyle skier
African boy
African boy
You were based in Africa a while, where in Africa were you and what was the purpose of your stay?
- I was based at Antelope Park, Zimbabwe. It's a lion breeding/research program, situated inside a beautiful game reserve. I first came there in January 2006 as a volunteer and loved it! I was basically working with the lions all day, and it's an experience that cannot be grasped unless you go there yourself. When I was offered a job there as a photographer/videographer of course I couldn't say no. Not only was I taking photos and filming most of the time, but I also got a lot of training in how to handle the lions, I also rode on the back of elephants and was taught different "bushman-skills" which was a lot of fun! I even found out that lions are scared of tripods, so be sure to bring one the next time you go on safari! Unfortunately I had to return to Oslo in August 2006, but I will surely go back there as soon as I can! I could write pages about how fantastic this place is, but why don't you see it for yourself? You can either go as a tourist for a couple of days, or spend a month or more as a volunteer. See for more information about Antelope Park.

I reckon that acquiring a pet now that you've returned from Africa causes troubles in that you'll hardly be able to find a pet as potent as a lion. What would you go for?
- Definitely a cat! I like dogs too, but there's just something special about cats. Just look at the Egyptians, they were obsessed with them, and I can (sort of) understand why. There's something mysterious and powerful about these animals, and they do remind me of miniature tigers or lions sometimes. Of course I would love to have a lion, elephant or a big python as a "pet", but that's going to be a bit of a problem to fit in my apartment here in Oslo.

When it comes to taking pictures, do you have any special techniques?
- Being a bit of a perfectionist, I try to avoid disturbing background elements or cutting things in half, obey "the rule of thirds", etc. I'm happy if I get a good shot, and even happier if its technical aspects are perfect. Then again, breaking these rules can create som great photos too, so most of the time I just do what looks best to me for that particular motive. Since I don't make a living out of stock photography, I take pictures of things I like and just try to have as much fun as possible while doing it. There are so many people who are a lot better than me at photographing objects and people in a studio, so I'd rather haul my equipment around in the African bush or up some high mountains. Because I take most of my pictures outdoors, I pay a lot of attention to the light and time of day. I generally don't like the harsh light that using too much flash creates, so most of the time I try to adapt to the shooting conditions and use a tripod.

Photographing wild beasts like lions, were you ever afraid that they may attack you?
- I did actually get a few scars, both on me and my camera equipment, but I don't think I ever was really afraid that they would attack me. Since I worked with the same lions over a long period of time, I got
to know their personalities and I think they also got to know me. Even though some of the lions were getting very big, the oldest of the ones we had close contact to were about 20 months, and therefore by
definition still cubs. Very big cubs that is (probably over 100 kilograms), but still more interested in playing with each other than eating us. If I met adult lions out in the bush I would probably be a lot more scared, but lions are intelligent animals, and usually don't attack humans unless they feel threatened.

You are also into winter sports, where is your favourite spot for skiing?
- My favorite spot for skiing is the Arlberg region in Austria, especially a resort called Lech. Since I grew up in Austria I spent lots of time there in the winter, and now I travel back every year.
The nature is stunning and the same goes for the skiing. You can spend a whole day without skiing down the same slope, or make some powder turns in the excellent offpiste. It's no wonder some of the best freestyle skiers and snowboarders in the world go on photo shoots there every year.

What got you into photography, and what equipment do you use?
- My grandfather is an artist and my uncle Gudmund is a photographer here on Crestock as well, so I guess that might have had something to do with it. I had a small plastic camera for years, but I always found it a bit of a hassle to wait for the photos to return from the print-shop. When I got my first digital camera I was instantly hooked, and a few years later I bought my first DSLR. At the moment I use a
Canon 20D with battery grip, a Canon EF 100-400mm L, Sigma 18-50 mm f/2.8 DC EX, Canon Speedlite 430EX and a good Manfrotto tripod. For RAW-editing I use Aperture. I always carry my gear in a backpack, which has proved to be just as useful in the African lowlands as up in the Norwegian mountains. Remember, there's no point in bringing tons of camera equipment if you forget food and water!

Any tips for newbies in the microstock business?
- Being rather new myself, I don't know if I have that many "pro-tips", but I think it's important to look at which types of photos are selling. Artistic photos are nice and all, but most of the time don't make good stock. Also, there is no point in uploading a photo that is already uploaded a hundred times before, especially if it's not better than those already there. Don't get upset if your photos get rejected. Everybody gets rejections, so rather look at it as a motivation to work even harder. It's not the inspectors fault if your photo is not up to their standards! One of the most important things is of course to know your equipment and basic photo techniques. If you just shoot in automatic mode all the time you won't really improve very much. Editing the photos can be a bit boring at times, but it's still important to know how to use Photoshop. Shoot in RAW-mode for best results. Editing RAW-files used to be a bit of a hassle, but with Aperture, Lightroom etc. it's become very fast and simple.

- My most important tip is probably to just have as much fun as possible when taking photos. If you just shoot photos for the sake of selling them all the time it really just feels like any other job, instead of that exciting hobby it used to be.

Which would you rather, hug a lion or walk across a pit of hot charcoal?
- This really depends on the lion. I used to hug lions practically every day while I was working in Zimbabwe, but those were a lot friendlier than an adult wild lion would be. In the latter case I would have to choose the charcoal, since burnt feet are better than no feet at all! 

Check out Andreas' portfolio here

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» Call of the Wild
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This is Amazing
By poojitha on Sunday, 1 July 2007 6:38 AM
i agree with your rule of thumb theory,if you keep to the basics,its always a good picture
By rebecca thao on Saturday, 28 July 2007 5:34 PM
omg do you have da
pix photographer????....=(

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