Interview with Christopher Dodds, a NatureScapes Birds Forum Moderator

by Christopher Dodds | September 1, 2011

© Christopher DoddsHow did you get started in nature photography?

I’ve had a love for the outdoors, nature, travel and adventure for as long as I can remember. I joined Boy Scouts after moving to Canada from England as a boy and the many canoe trips, backpacking adventures and camping trips we went on were the perfect stage for my first attempts at nature photography and birding; my passion was found! It didn’t take long for me to realize that it would take years to make enough income from nature photography to make a living, so I worked as a photojournalist at the local paper which led to my photographing weddings and eventually owning a studio and shooting portraits and commercial work while apprenticing in the color, and B&W, darkroom. It was a long and winding path but it lead right back to my true passions; nature and photography. I later discovered that I am passionate about teaching my craft to others through my workshops and my blog.

Where do you get inspiration for your work?

I’ve sat back and daydreamed of far away places, adventures in the jungle and assignments in the field with a copy of National Geographic for as long as I can remember. I love to get lost in the depths of a great photography book (the paper and ink kind) with a good cup of coffee. Mother nature inspires me as much as other photographers do and there are far too many of them to name here. Naturescapes is a favorite Internet forum of mine, where inspiration is often just as far as the next image.

What’s your favorite walk around lens?

The real answer would depend on what I was photographing and where. I just returned from teaching my Brown Bears Galore workshop in Katmai, so I’ll have to go with the new Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS lens. This is the lens that replaced my beloved 70-200mm f/2.8 as an all-purpose walk around lens. Its minimum focus distance is 47.1 inches (closer if you focus manually), so it’s a great choice for pointing straight down to record intimate details in nature, from footprints to starfish. Its focal length is great for landscapes, and it is perfect for capturing your subject in it’s natural surrounding.

Are there any other subjects aside from birds that you like to photograph?

Sure, I photograph all things wild; from landscapes to mammals, and love to capture candid, close-up portraits of kids and pets having fun. Photography is as much a part of my DNA as is nature, so I love to photograph most things. I sometimes still get press passes to parades, festivals, etc. and love to get into the heart of the crowd with a fast medium telephoto lens and shoot it wide open; there’s so much color and cheer and there’s a photograph around every corner.

You’ve led nature photography workshops for a number of years now. What is your favorite part of leading workshops and what do you find the most difficult?

I love the moment I realize that someone has learned something, the times when a participant got a better picture than I did or when I see someone overwhelmed by the spectacle I’ve shown them or a picture they have captured; that’s what keeps me coming back for more. Meeting so many people who share a common passion is just a bonus; many are repeat clients and dear friends.

One of the most difficult part of leading workshops, for me, is controlling our wild subjects and convincing the weather to co-operate. Seriously, the most difficult part of leading workshops has to be persisting long enough for that small percentage of people who won’t be taught to let their collar down long enough to hear there may be a better way (without them knowing it).

Your photography has taken you all over the world. What is one of your favorite places that you’ve visited?

Surprisingly, my most favorite places remain here, in Quebec. I love photographing at seabird colonies because there is just so much going on, so many birds and so much life with so much activity. Bonaventure Island is just one of my places that my soul feels happiest; it’s where I have a very deep connection to Mother Nature. I’ve lead countless people, and taught many workshops there, and I stopped counting when I reached 365 days up at the colony. I can’t wait to get back there for my September workshop, and my fiancée, Julie, and I hope to be married there next year.

About the Author

Christopher Dodds is a full-time freelance nature photographer, teacher and lecturer specializing in birds. His images have been published in world-class publications including National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer Canada, and Bird Conservation. Chris first discovered his love of the great outdoors during camping, canoeing, and backpacking trips after moving to Canada from England when he was eight. By the time he was fourteen, Chris thrilled at freezing fleeting glimpses of birds and the resulting ability to study every detail of their intricate beauty. Chris' passion for photography has taken several paths through the years; photojournalism, studio portraiture, commercial and wedding photography to name just a few. He apprenticed in chemical darkrooms, but today embraces the computerized, digital workflow. Chris is passionate about capturing images of nature in an artistic, yet technically perfect, manner. Today Chris travels to some of the best locations in the world photographing and teaching nature photography workshops. His website: www.chrisdoddsphoto.com, his blog: www.naturephotographyblog.com.

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