An Interview with Wildlife and Conservation Photographer Doug Gimesy

When it comes to becoming a well-known wildlife photographer, you could call Doug Gimesy a late bloomer. After a lengthy hiatus, the past four years have proven that photography is his true calling as he travelled the world,  inspiring and engaging people about important issues affecting the conservation of wildlife. Heading out with One Ocean Expeditions on an Antarctic adventure in December 2018, this former zoologist and award-winning photographer was happy to share some insight on what he does, what he loves and how photography can have an impact.

One Ocean Expeditions: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a professional conservation and wildlife photographer, and Associate Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers(iLCP). My clients include National Geographic, BBC Wildlife magazine, Australian Geographic, the New York Times, as well not-for-profits like the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Australian Conservation Foundation. I initially trained as a zoologist, however later completed a Masters of Environment and then a Masters of Bioethics – inspired after a discussion with one of the great modern ethicists, Peter Singer. Together these two qualifications really helped shape my thinking as to what type of issues I should be focusing on and why – conservation and animal welfare. In addition to conservation and wildlife photography, I’m now a governor of the World Wide Fund for Nature (Australia) and also run a science/environmentally focused communication consultancy called The Framing Effect, whose aim is to help people influence more effectively, both with words and with images.

OOE: How did you get into photography?

I’m self-taught and always wanted to be a professional wildlife photographer. After I graduated as a zoologist over 30 years ago, I tried to get into the profession, but it just didn’t work out for me at the time.  Then about six years ago, when I decided to travel to Antarctica and South Georgia with One Ocean Expeditions, I thought it was great opportunity to pick up the camera, work on my skills and try again. After the trip, I posted some images on National Geographic’s photo community page ‘Your Shot’, and an image of a penguin in front the whaling station at Grytviken (South Georgia) was selected as their photo of the day, then another in their ‘daily dozen’, and then one for their book ‘Getting your shot‘. After this, things just started to take off.

OOE: Tell us about the type of photography that you do.

I’m primarily a conservation and wildlife photojournalist, which means I try to capture powerful images and create impactful photo stories that can be used to help conservation causes.

OOE: How do you think photography can have an impact on the environment and the world

I think it comes back to the simple fact that a single image, or collection of related images, are one of the most powerful ways we have of engaging people, telling stories, focusing perspective and influencing people. They can trigger emotions, and even trigger clusters of emotions at once, and (unlike words) can transcend linguistic and geographical barriers. Because of this, they can be really powerful at driving behaviour, and for me, that’s what conservation and wildlife photography is all about – trying to get people to start doing something, stop doing something, do more of something or do less of something. It’s about trying to inspire people to stop, think, and treat the world a little more kindly.

OOE: Why is Antarctica so special to you?

I think Antarctica holds a special place for me for three reasons. Firstly, my 1stjob as a graduate research assistant was actually studying the taxonomy of Antarctic algae. Secondly, Antarctica is incredibly interesting and in many ways surprising – its one of the coldest places on Earth but has an active volcano; it’s one of the driest places on Earth but has so much snow and ice; it’s one of the windiest places in the world but has a constant high-pressure system over it; and it’s the only continent that has no indigenous population and isn’t country. But thirdly, and most importantly,  because it’s an incredible but fragile wilderness area that needs our protection.

OOE: What do you hope to achieve on your trip?

I wanted to make sure that everyone on board could take the best images they could, and also that there was a good visual diary of everyone having a great time.


OOE: What are your top tips for budding photographers visiting these remote regions?

  1. Know your gear intimately so you don’t need to take your eye away from the viewfinder during those special moments
  2. Choose just one objective for each landing/excursion, and go for just one or two really great shots
  3. Be patient and get in tune with what’s happening. Spend time looking around before actually taking your camera out of the bag
  4. Don’t forget to think about the background when focusing on something of interest. The background plays a really important part of the visual telling, as well as simply being important for aesthetic reasons.
  5. Keep checking your exposure to make sure you are not under or over exposing.
  6. Make sure you get some photos of other people. Taking pictures of others and sharing is a great way to engage with fellow travellers, and is so much better than a selfie.

OOE: What’s next for Doug Gimesy… is there anything else you would like to share?

I have a few conservation stories I’m working on that are currently confidential, but I can share that I’m also about to start putting together a children’s picture book with my partner Heather on the wonderful Grey-headed Flying-foxes of Melbourne. That should be really fun.

You can follow Doug Gimesy on Instagram @doug_gimesy or on Facebook @DougGimesyPhotography