To be so close to nature means to merge into one with the earth and surroundings. Looking at Menno Schaefer’s photographs, one can’t help but wonder about the skills and expertise it takes to get so up close and personal with creatures in the wilderness.

Menno’s story goes to show that it’s never too late to find your passion, pick up new skills and learn. His images are powerful and striking and here is Menno’s story and his flourishing skills as a wildlife photographer.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional career.

I am Menno from the Netherlands and I am 50 years old. Currently, I am working as a technician at the biggest newspaper in Netherlands. Beside this job, I’m a semi-pro photographer.

Did you find photography or did photography eventually find you?

My mother bought me my first Canon digital camera, and before that I had some cameras with a roll of film to take pictures on holidays. But since the moment I saw the opportunities of the digital camera, I was hooked. So I think I found photography.

interview with a wildlife photographer menno schaefer

What is usually in your gear bag?

It depends what I am going to shoot, but mostly I use the Canon 1Dx with a Canon 500mm f4.

Other gear I have in my bag includes a Canon 100-400mm type II, Canon 70-200mm type II, Canon 24-105mm, Canon 16-35mm f4.

interview with a wildlife photographer national geographic

How did you get into wildlife photography?

As a child, I always interested in wildlife, especially the birds of prey. So when I started taking pictures of birds of prey, the other species were in focus during time as well – and so it began. And now I’m taking as many pictures of wildlife as I can. I shoot everything from bears to foxes and birds.

How do your photoshoots in the wild usually go? Do you spend a lot of time looking for your subjects?

I drive in my car through the polders of the Netherlands in search for birds. I also take casual walks through nature in search for wildlife. I plan holidays together with my girlfriend, to places where we can find wildlife. We did get to go to Alaska, Canada, a few times to Iceland. I also walk for killimeters through nature to find wildlife. Together with my brother, we share a photo shelter where I spend many hours during these photoshoots. I’ve also booked several shelters in the Netherlands and other places in Europe to photograph more birds and mammals. 

interview with a wildlife photographer national geographic

What’s your favourite thing about your profession?

Being in nature and enjoying the wildlife and to feel a part of it. To be present in the vicinity of the animals.

Do you think it’s important to have a niche in stock photography?

There are many stock agencies, so to work in a niche will be very difficult.

interiew with a wildlife photographer menno schaefer

What has been the biggest breakthrough in your career so far?

So far, there are a few  things I’m proud of. One of my pictures was used as a book cover. Twice, my picture was used for a front page of a newspaper. I have won a few prizes, and twice, a picture was used in the National Geographic magazine.

Your #1 tip or words of wisdom:

Keep nature as it is, clean and be respectful.

interview with a wildlife photographer menno schaefer

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