Interview with Marijn Heuts

Marijn Heuts

Date of birth: 19th of November 1977

How did you become passionate about nature photography?

Like most photographers, I have had the urge to be outdoors from a younger age. I did try to capture nature with a camera (Canon AV-1) back then, but with the high cost of film, the lack of information (internet?) and no-one to ask questions, I quickly gave up. That is until I bought my first proper digital SLR in 2005. From that moment on, I enjoyed ascending the steep learning curve, a hobby turned into a time-consuming lifestyle and passion and I have never looked back.

What do you take with you on a photo shoot?

That depends on the subject I am after. I hardly ever bring everything I own, I just don’t enjoy lugging around all the weight. Usually I have an idea what I am going to photograph and I’ll bring whatever I need to do the job. But I do slip in one or two other lenses, just in case I come across something special along the way. Also, I find bringing every lens I own makes me restless, I tend to have difficulties to focus long enough on a subject with all the possibilities in my backpack. So I guess for me, less is more.

What subject do you prefer to photograph and why?

I consider myself an allround nature photographer and like landscapes, abstracts, macro, birds and mammals. Possibilities of the season and moment dictate my subject, but also so does my mind. Abstract photography and intimate landscapes are only possible when my mind is clear and calm enough to be open to that kind of subject. Sometimes that just does not work and then I resort to more obvious subjects like landscapes and animals.

What is your favorite nature preserve?

The ones closest to home. Not only am I very bad at getting up early (thus I try to limit my travel time), working close to home really makes you get to know and understand the options and possibilities and enables you to go back more often, no matter how short your window of time is. That said, I have developed a second love for the African continent. Being with all these enigmatic large animals, having the African dust on your feet, watching the stars at night while listening to a mixed choir of animal sounds is just something that makes me feel alive more than anything else.

What is your favorite shooting position?

Eye-level for animals and about my eye-height for landscapes. Because my local area is flat as a pancake, it helps to shoot from a higher position and use lines and shapes in the foreground vegetation as leading lines for creating depth. Shooting landscapes from a low position further compresses an already flat landscape. Sometimes it pays to try something else and shoot animals from below or above. But you’ll need a very cooperative subject to pull that off.

Which nature photographer do you admire?

I try to not blindly follow other photographers and just like everything they create. I like photographs, not photographers. That said, there are some photographers that just keep producing topnotch work. For pure aesthetics, Vincent Munier, Bence Mate  and Greg du Toit come to mind, for a more documentary style I admire the work of Bruno d’ Amicis and Brent Stirton. And I really enjoy the intimate landscapes of Hans Strand, Guy Tal and Zsolt Kiss.

What quality must a nature photographer absolutely have?

An open mind and patience. The open mind is needed to approach a subject without a preconceived idea, and also to embrace limitations instead of fighting them. From that, usually comes creativity. Patience, because we either wait for the good light or our subjects to appear. Also, it is needed in order to strive for the best photograph possible of a certain subject. All too often we are satisfied to quickly with the first proper result. Evaluate, go back, improve. Rewind, repeat.

Which light situation do you prefer?

For my landscapes, I enjoy misty mornings with puffy pink clouds like everyone else. For animals, the first and last sunlight of the day. Backlight or sidelight if possible. For macro and abstracts, any weather will do. But: working with what you have will eventually result in photographs that stand out from the rest. My best and most awarded photographs were taken in what seemed less than ideal weather circumstances and of subjects that I wasn’t even looking for.

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

I shoot about 90% of the time in Manual mode. Only in mixed light conditions such as a partly cloudy day will I use aperture priority.

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

1-99, rounded upwards. Because my shutterspeed is a fraction of a second and the processing takes a few minutes 😉

Ok, try again. It must be about 90-10. It can take many hours, days or weeks to get the image I am after. I hardly ever spend more than 10 minutes on processing for a single image. If I need more, the photograph probably wasn’t that good to begin with. But I really enjoy my post processing, trying to turn a good photograph into a great endresult. Also, post processing is another part of the process that enables you to put your own creativity and vision into a photograph. I think many photographers underestimate this and just put every photo through some sort of a standard workflow. There is so much to be won by applying some basic principles for guiding the viewers eye and emotion. It’s 2016 and processing has become an integral and important part of our workflow. Deal with it.

Which processing program do you use?

Adobe Lightroom for basic adjustments and Photoshop CC for local finetuning. I know Lightroom can do more and more with every update, but I am used to doing certain things in Photoshop. Old dog…

Do you have any advice for future nature photographers?

Stay true to yourself. It is all too easy to be taken away by the heat of the moment, the work of others on Facebook and the next hot subject. Go out when you want to, stay home when you just don’t feel like photographing. Go after the subjects you like, enjoy discovering a new area and be open to the opportunities it has to offer. Enjoy adverse weather, try new things, dismiss preconceived ideas and find beauty in nondescript, small things in nature. Don’t be driven by the ever worsening rush for likes and approval by others. After all, it’s a hobby, isn’t it? Before being marked a mister-know-it-all, I should mention the above mainly comes from experience! Been there, done that.


You can find out more about Marijn Heuts on his website: