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Through the Lens - Interview with Scott Davis, Wildlife Photographer

By Adelina, March 12, 2019

Scott Davis, a famed wildlife photographer who spends most of his time guiding small photo shoot tours to remote areas of the world, such as Antarctica, Africa, and Asia. Since he is always on the go, it was no wonder that it took me about a half- year to pin him down for an interview. Scott was gracious to send me answers to the following interview questions along with some of his amazing photos. Hope you enjoy reading the insights of a photographer who has had years of experience traveling far and wide to capture the most memorable moments of wildlife on this planet:

Photo Courtesy: Scott Davis

Q: How long have you been taking photos of wildlife and how did it start?

A: I've been taking photos of various wildlife subjects since I was a small boy of about 8 years old, probably starting with the squirrels and birds in my backyard. I found an old camera in my parents closet and combined with my obsession of reading and paging through old Nat Geo and LIFE Magazines, and watching nature programs like Jacque Cousteau, Wild Kingdom and National Geographic specials, the hook was set. In High School, I built a darkroom in my parents basement and really began experimenting with the craft of photography. By the time I finished university majoring in Wildlife Biology and Anthropology (Nat Geo inspired), I immediately started working with wild animals with a camera constantly at my side documenting the studies I worked.

Photo Courtesy: Scott Davis

Q: Could you tell us roughly how many times you have been to Antarctica, Africa, and Asia?

A: I haven't stopped to think about it but I would conservatively estimate at least 10 times to each those geographic regions, many times staying months at a time.

Photo Courtesy: Scott Davis

Q: What sort of wildlife did you most often encounter in those continents?

A: Oh it ranges quite a bit. In Africa, it is incredibly diverse. There's somethings for everyone - big cats and a  multitude of other predators, large mammals like elephants, hippos, giraffe, rhino and a host of other classics, giant crocodiles, millions of grazers, thousands of species of birds, not to mention a host of primates including the Great Apes. It is truly a wildlife paradise. In the Polar regions, the species numbers are much more limited but just as engaging and some of the congregations of animals are mind boggling. One never forgets sitting and watching 300,000 King penguins gathering at a single location for mating and the rearing of chicks.

Photo Courtesy: Scott Davis

Q: What are the most difficult aspects of taking wildlife photos?

A: These days, with all the airline restrictions, often the most challenging thing is getting to the location with all your camera equipment and all the logistics planning involved. Carry on weight limitations are a constant game of cat and mouse trying to make sure no expensive piece of equipment will be forced into checked baggage. Having all your permits and visas organized, especially when you are trying to go someplace unique is always a time sink as well.

From a field perspective, trying to get a unique wildlife image is always the goal and a very challenging one. There are so many incredible images being captured and posted these days so one really has to put the time in (or be really lucky - right time, right place, right gear) to come away with a unique and beautiful wildlife image.

Photo Courtesy: Scott Davis

Q: What are you looking for when you take wildlife photos -- artistry, expressions, something else?

A: I'm always trying to capture a uniquely beautiful image that hopefully captures the so-called essence of the animal or person I'm photographing. I suppose my "style" is constantly crossing between documentary and esthetically/artistically pleasing or at least that's what I'm attempting to capture. I love documentary images that are graphic in nature.

Photo Courtesy: Scott Davis

Photo Courtesy: Scott Davis

Q: For people interested in participating in their own wildlife photo shoots, where do you recommend people visit?

A: One can never go wrong with wildlife photo opportunities found in Africa. You could easily spend a year there and come away with incredible images every single day in the field.

Photo Courtesy: Scott Davis

Q: As an experienced travel guide, what cautionary message would you give to people who plan for Antarctica tours?

A: For Antarctica, I would say to folks to be prepared for constant changes to the "planned" itinerary. The extreme weather is a huge factor in Antarctica and its constantly changing. Landings and outings are always based on the current weather pattern. What looked like a good idea and a plan a few hours ago may not hold out. If one is not good with change and unpredictable schedules, perhaps Antarctica is not the place for you. If, however, you can deal with the unpredictable nature of Antarctica, I 1000% recommend a visit to the Ice Continent. There is no other place like it on the planet. It is definitely one of my favorite places on earth. On a related note, I'm really looking forward to leading some new small group (12 people) expeditions there in the coming year and beyond with Cheesemans Ecology Safaris.

Photo Courtesy: Scott Davis

Q: Please share with us some of your more memorable photo shoot stories during your trips?

A: Memorable moments in Antarctica and surrounding region - Hmmm, so many to choose from. On one trip, I led an  expedition to the sub antarctic island of South Georgia on a small ship with only 12 clients. It was a fantastic experience but the most memorable moment from that expedition happened when some insane Katabatic winds started up. Thankfully we were prepared  and anchored in a safe and secure spot which allowed us to wander about somewhat on land in order to get the full experience of Mother Nature's might. In the span of 30 minutes, wind speed went from a lovely 5-10 mph to over 80 miles per hour with even higher gusts. Simply standing upright was nearly impossible and a lighter weight woman literally had to be held down by fellow ship mates in order for her not to be blown away. She was laughing the whole time. It was fun, exciting, and scary at the same time and a testament to the region's often fickle and sometimes feisty nature.

Photo Courtesy: Scott Davis

Q: Where can people go to view your collection of photos?

A: Most of my assignment images are with various photo agencies for exclusive rights use management but I've got a varied selection of images for display on my website  www.scottdavisimages.com which I desperately need to update. 

I was also invited to exhibit some of my images in France to thousands of viewers at a major photography festival the past year which was a super fun experience. When I find the time again, I would love to do some more  exhibition work.

I've also recently started up an Instagram feed after much good natured badgering from friends and colleagues to do so. You can follow me there 

@Scottydpics Its a feed of new images from current and recent world travels and assignments. It too has been a lot of fun and a great platform of inspiration to see what other people are shooting.

View Scott's Website