Giant whales. Giant polar bears. Huge monkeys.
Photographers Marko Dimitrijevic and Amos Nachoum are fascinated by huge animals. They met during a trip in Tonga while searching for humpback whales and discovered that they both had a passion for big animals.
In their new book, “BIG: A Photographic Album of the World’s Largest Animals” from teNeues Publishers, they collected images from three decades of wildlife photography and explained the story behind each shot.
In some, Nachoum conveyed the excitement of being underwater with polar bears. Reportedly, he says, only five people have dived with polar bears and taken the photos to prove it. He says he is the only photographer left who has done it.
Dimitrijevic chatted with Treehugger about why large animals are so captivating and the challenges of photographing such overwhelming subjects.
Treehugger: What is your fascination with large animals? Why do you find them more intriguing than others?
Marko Dimitrijevic: Although I love all wildlife, large animals evoke extremely strong emotions in me. Most large animals are mammals, with so many behaviors and traits that are very much like us humans. In the water, I love not only interacting with marine mammals, but also sharks and watching their amazing expressions.
What are some of the challenges in shooting such large subjects? Are there any benefits to focusing on large creatures?
The biggest challenge is that some of these large creatures can be dangerous when approached without proper precautions and planning. I always use local guides and experts and follow their recommendations rooted in their local knowledge and experience. The advantage of photographing large animals is that they are more visible than smaller animals. Although even large specimens are very adept at camouflage. An adult tiger can hide in grass less than 12 inches (30 cm) high!
What were some of your favorite moments behind the camera?
Photographing rare animals such as caracals is always very exciting. Also recording a behaviour, for example a bear shaking his body of water drops after coming out of a river. My favorite moments are watching an animal stare at me, that brief moment when our eyes meet is really special. Being in the water and interacting with a whale watching me is just magical. Likewise, a deep look into the eyes of a lion or tiger on land is also one of my most unforgettable encounters.
How did you find each other and realize that you both had a similar interest in photography?
We met in Tonga on a trip in search of humpback whales and realized we shared a passion for large animals. From there we quickly became good friends. As we traveled more together, we discovered how much fun it is to learn from each other. We also strive to excel in image creation and the conservation efforts that come from our adventures.
Some animals are not huge, but you say they ‘feel big’. Can you give an example of an animal and that sensation?
It’s something I’ve experienced a lot in the water. Maybe because there is no vehicle or any protection in the water that you have on land. Or maybe because we move so slowly in the water. But I’ve often felt that a shark smaller than me, say 5 feet, 125 pounds, feels very big in the water when there’s nothing but a camera between its head and my mask. I am standing in front of an animal that is faster and stronger, even if it is not bigger than me, it feels very BIG.
Are there any animals you still hope to photograph?
I’m interested in doing more rhinoceros images because I fear we won’t be seeing these amazing animals for much longer. Primates are also high on my list, I would like to observe chimpanzees and bonobos.
What else do you like to capture with your lens?
I like to photograph forests and landscapes where animals are only a small part of the image. Animals in those images are like punctuation marks rather than full sentences they are in my wildlife photos. I love the forests of British Columbia and the Yukon in Canada, especially when they are covered in snow.
And can you give some background information: where are you from, how did you become interested in photography, etc.?
I was born and raised in the French speaking part of Switzerland. I became interested in photography as a teenager and spent hours taking pictures of the creatures that inhabited my backyard, as well as the landscapes and people around me. I taught myself photography in the field. I have traveled extensively for my photography and also pursued an entrepreneurial career. Over the years I have been drawn to wildlife photography, focusing my lens and time on endangered wildlife, marine species and ecosystems.