Interview: Roger Brendhagen

Enchanting Wilderness

Imagine having the world as your office. Imagine your models not caring one iota about their appearance. This is the fortunate situation, Roger Brendhagen finds himself in, approximately 300 days of the year. This Nature Photographer extraordinaire and his family are settled in the beautiful countryside province of Hedemark in Norway. The forestry, wildlife, mountains, rivers and valleys of this area certainly played a role in Roger’s choice of photographic themes.

Roger has photographic affiliations with Nikon and the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). He has extensive experience taking nature photos and submitting articles to both magazines and newspapers, amongst these the Norwegian Vi Menn, A-Magasinet, Aftenposten and Dagbladet as well as many others spread across Europe.

He is head of the Norwegian Nature Photo Centre based in the town of Danebu. He often holds courses, workshops in macro and nature photography and has had many exhibitions of his photographic work taken from the Antarctic in the south to Svalbard in the north. He has won several prizes, including an award during Nordic Nature Photo Contest.

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What was the inspiration for you to become a wildlife photographer?

Primarily it is the love of nature. And of course the power to connect with people and spread knowledge through my pictures. The beautiful country side that I live in is full of photographic possibilities with forestry, wildlife, mountains, rivers, and valleys which has helped inspire and nurture the photographer in me.

Is photography a full time profession for you?

Yes, full time profession, I sell pictures and articles for magazines and books etc. and also conduct lectures and workshops. The Workshops are held in different countries such as Norway, Finland, Sri-Lanka, Africa, and Mongolia. I also started my own signature souvenir series, which include cups, plates, shot glasses, decks of playing cards etc. I hold about 2-3 exhibitions every year too.

What are the major challenges you faced in your journey as a wildlife photographer and solutions you managed to come up with?

My major challenge is the lack of time! I have so much of ideas and so many pictures that I want to capture. The spring in Norway and Sweden are quite short and nature reacts fast, so that leaves me a lot of places to visit in a very short time. Also the more I travel and the more I explore, the more I want to capture with my camera. My solution is to make a schedule, a plan on how to, when and where, I can take the desired picture and which one I have to let go and try to get another time, another year.

What’s your favorite location for wildlife photography?

Having travelled around the world a lot, the more I travel the more I get pulled home to the beauty in the Nordic countries and the mountains of Norway. This is where I found and photographed the Arctic fox and it holds a special place in my heart.

Is there any speci c super model for you in the animal kingdom - and why?​​​​​​​

My favorite animal, are snakes of all variety, shapes and size. I am very fascinated by snakes, I think they are fantastic creatures and wish more people could see the beauty in them. I want my pictures to show the good side of snakes and tell their story. I want to create more understanding of them, so that people let go of their fear and of course it’s easier to sell “scary” pictures to newspapers.

Can you talk about the most cherished moment or experience in the wild?

The most cherished moment, I had a picture in my head for more than 10 years that I wanted to capture. There are only about 150 arctic foxes in the Norwegian mountains and the full moon is up in these regions only once a month. My dream was to capture an arctic fox in front of the full moon. After a long wait and countless attempts, couple years ago I succeeded! That was fantastic!

What is the most dangerous situation in the wild you have experienced?​​​​​​​

I’ve been really close to some lions in Kenya and have had an elephant chasing my car for some hundred meters, these were some of the dangerous situations. 

Can you talk about your most favorite photo in your collection?​​​​​​​

The arctic foxes and the polar bears. Snakes may be my favorite subjects, but my images of arctic foxes and polar bears are very close to my heart.

What about the equipment you use? Your most favorite camera? Your most favorite lens?

I am an ambassador of Nikon and my main cameras are the Nikon D5 and D810. The optics I use mostly is the 600mm. But in my camera bag you can find almost everything that Nikon has ever made. On a normal expedition I carry along 60mm and 150mm macros. Additionally I will have 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 200-400mm, 600-800mm and together around 6 camera houses.

Is there a role model for you in this field?

When I was young there was one guy Sverre M. Fjelstad that led the way for a lot of photographers in Norway, including me. Now a days I find inspirations in a lot of photographers, for example Mathias Klum and the one and only Frans Lanting.

What are the specific technic or photographic methods you use?

Technics I use are low angles and perspective. I try to exploit the possibilities of low/ lack of light. One of the major techniques you should master is the art of patience and I employ a good measure of it.

What is your biggest dream in photography?​​​​​​​

My dream is to be able to do what I am doing already for many more years from now. I love my life and what I have achieved as a photographer and so I do not need a different dream to achieve.

How do you deal with all your images after a day’s shooting?​​​​​​​

All my pictures get copied and saved to external hard discs; I never delete any picture before I ́m home. Lightroom CC is my favored tool to edit pictures, after every day out in the field I ensure to have a quick look at my pictures of the day. The final editing is done later on, at home.

How do you link photography and conservation in your life?​​​​​​​

I ́m lucky to have the possibility to choose my assignments, that means I can go to places and  nd species that are endangered. So in my articles, my lectures and my pictures I talk about and show the consequences of climate change and other human factors that have had huge impact on nature and animals. My images can bring different species closer to people, generating curiosity and spreading the awareness about them and show the consequences of climate change and other human factors that have had huge impact on nature and animals. My images can bring different species closer to people, generating curiosity and spreading the awareness about them.

What is your major achievements as a wildlife photographer?​​​​​​​

To be a Nikon ambassador for ten years and still honored to be one. Seeing that my picture are liked and viewed worldwide is a major achievement for me. I also have had the pleasure of being a jury member of photo competitions and get to view and appreciate many photographers’ works and interact with them. I have been awarded during the Nordic nature photo contest and my photos and articles published in magazines, newspapers in the Nordic region and across Europe. It feels wonderful to have reached a lot of people through these publications.

What is your advice for upcoming wildlife photographers?​​​​​​

First thing, learn how to use your camera in all different ways. You need to invest in a good tele lens. Find your own path and  nd some species that you like and learn everything about them. Only that way will you be able to take pictures that are extra ordinary.

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