Interview with Ingrid Vekemans

Ingrid Vekemans

Photographer: Eric Bonckaert

Date of birth: 26th of July 1969

How did you become passionate about nature photography?

I’ve always been a nature lover. As a child, I spent my spare time in the woods and fields surrounding our house. It’s where I felt most at ease and where I always found things to do and observe. Nature never failed to intrigue me and I wanted to know more and more about it. I read about it, looked up extra things after my biology classes, to my mother’s delight brought home different types of snails from my explorations in the field etc. Photography came into my life when my grandmother gave me and my sister an old box camera. I think I was 8 at the time. Since then I’ve always been taking pictures. When I bought my first digital camera, I really became engrossed and addicted.

What do you take with you on a photoshoot?

That all depends on the subjects and the location. In general, you could say, a big backpack filled with everything that can contribute to what I want to do on that particular day. That can be one or two cameras, a few lenses, teleconverters, a beanbag, a tripod, a few plastic sheets to lie on or place my bag on, and for macro photography some trinkets like a flash, a torch, a reflection screen, some sticks and straps etc.

What subject do you prefer to photograph and why?

More and more my photography narrowed down from general nature photography to wildlife, macro and woods photography. It is difficult for me to say which I like best. Since I have a true passion for Africa and its wildlife, I would have to say that African wildlife is my favourite subject. I just love to watch and register animal behaviour and there is no place in the world where you see more (or a bigger variety of) wildlife in one day than in (most) African nature reserves. I find the interaction between the different species absolutely fascinating and love to be eye to eye with a subject.

What is your favorite nature preserve?

Again, this is very difficult, as there are so many beautiful reserves in Africa, and they all differ in terms of scenery, photo opportunities and animal population. My gut feeling would say Tsavo, though. It has got a sublime variety and quantity of animals… and I love the bush and the scenery there, and the red earth… but that’s all very personal.

What is your favorite shooting position?

Shooting from a low angle – both in wildlife and in macro photography, this offers the nicest results, as far as perspective and often depth-of-field are concerned.

Which nature photographer do you admire?

I don’t have to think long and hard on this question. It’s Frans Lanting. Long before I started my professional career in photography, I bought all his books. The fact that he also did a lot of African wildlife photography, of course adds an extra connection. In present days there are lots of nature photographers that inspire me, but the first one that made me wish I could do what he does…will always be Frans Lanting.

What quality must a nature photographer absolutely have?

You have to absolutely love nature. If you want to be a good nature photographer, you will have to spend a lot of time in nature (exploring, preparing and photographing) and not always at the easiest or most sociable of times. If your love for nature doesn’t make up for that, you’ll soon give it up. And for wildlife photography in particular, you need a lot of patience. You have to be prepared to enjoy the experience even if no good photo opportunity comes along and when you’re with an animal, you need patience to get the most out of the situation….And respect for your subject – that often pays off into even better photo opportunities.

Which light situation do you prefer?

Golden early morning light or sunset light – most nature photographers will say this and that’s for a reason…it just adds so much to an already interesting photo if you’ve also got beautiful colors and lighting to go with it…

Which setting do you prefer: Manual-Aperture Priority-Shutter Priority?

That depends on the subject. In wildlife photography, where you have to think and act quickly, aperture priority is the main program that I use. It just helps you to work a little bit faster. When I can take my time to take a photograph, I usually use the manual program, e.g. when I want to work with long exposures and motion effects. But also here, it’s not necessary to work on manual. You can easily have the same results when working with aperture or shutter priority, provided you understand well how to influence the camera into doing what you want it to do.

In percentage terms how much time do you take to create an image and to process the image?

This is a difficult question to answer. Does the time spent also include the time it takes to transfer photos, go through them, and select? I find it hard to stick percentages on this. All I can say is that I like natural photos and I dislike post-processing 🙂 – so I spend as little time on post processing as possible. For me, the fun and satisfaction is in planning and taking the picture at the time, not in what I make of the picture afterwards.

Which processing program do you use?

Lightroom. To me the easiest and most customer friendly post-processing program. Some things Photoshop does better than Lightroom, so occasionally I use Photoshop too.

Do you have any advice for future nature /wildlife photographers?

The main thing is that you enjoy nature and enjoy photographing it. If you want more than just to enjoy what you’re doing – if you want to distinguish yourself – you have to invest a lot of time in looking at photos, to see what’s been done and think of how you can do it differently. So you need time and creativity. Have the courage to do your own thing and to experiment. Sometimes it will work, sometimes not, but playing it safe will not make you excel. And finally…love…respect…and be patient 🙂


You can find out more about Ingrid Vekemans on her website: