Alex Saberi is a National Geographic photographer from London, England. He began photography as a hobby, mainly taking photographs of Richmond Park, the largest of London's Royal Parks. Only recently, he turned this hobby into a profession and has published a photo book of the park, titled Richmond Park.
Alex has appeared in many digital camera magazines and publications, and has won several photography competitions, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s Wildlife Competition, as well as several worldwide online competitions. He placed second in Landscape Photographer of the Year with his photograph, One Man and His Dog, and appeared several times in both the British Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Landscape Photographer of the Year books.
With his Year in Richmond Park collection, Alex has been featured in the national press, including the Daily Mail, Metro, Evening Standard, the Times, the Sun, and the Telegraph. He also appeared in the November edition of National Geographic and is a National Geographic exclusive artist. His photographs are available for commercial use through his agent, Nat Geo Creative.
- Tell us about your work.
I am primarily a nature and wildlife photographer. Although I enjoy mixing it up sometimes by delving into street photography and more artistic styles. I am happiest when taking photos of animals with dramatic or atmospheric backdrops.
- Tell us about your photographic training, learning process, and particularly how your work evolved as a result of it.
I think I was always a creative person and originally worked as a web designer. I took up photography as a hobby and enjoyed the whole process of teaching myself. Although, a big help was using online photographic competition sites such as www.dpchallenge.com. Here I could learn from other photographers, submit my own work and get feedback. Each week there were several different challenges, each giving you a chance to be creative and to learn different styles and techniques. This led me to develop and turn to what I loved most, nature.
- How did you make the transition from hobbyist to professional photographer?
Well, I was lucky really, in that a journalist picked up my work from Flickr. She ran a story on my time in Richmond Park, which was well received by all the newspapers in the UK. From there, I got a book deal and offer to appear in Nat Geo November 2011 edition with my Angel Swan photo. All this happened whilst still doing my day job as a web designer. Shortly afterwards, I got signed up to be an exclusive photographer with Nat Geo and decided to leave the day job to become a photographer.
- Tell us about the gear you use and your loyalty to Canon.
Well, I started with a Canon 300D and then continued down the 5D path. I now use the Canon 5D MKIII and the MKII as backup. I shot quite a great deal of photos using the Canon 100-400mm lens, which for me did a great job. For landscape shots, originally I used the Canon 16-35mm. I have now moved on to the Canon 200-400mm, which is AMAZING. I love to have the flexibility of a zoom for wildlife - I think a great deal of shots can be missed otherwise. I replaced the 16-35mm with a 14mm Canon and a Canon 24-70mm. I prefer that combination. I also have a few other lenses such as the Canon 85mm 1.8 and Sigma 50mm 1.4, plus a Canon 180mm macro.
- What’s always in your camera bag?
I usually carry with me both the MKIII and MKII bodies, a Canon flash, Canon 200-400mm, 14mm, and 24-70mm MKII lenses. Along with ND grad filters, polariser, tripod, spare batteries, and a cable release.
- Tell us about the challenges involved in shooting in exotic, foreign locations.
In Brazil, where I live now, I have had a few problems with the humidity. In fact, my Canon 5D MKIII stopped working several times due to this. I now use silica gel bags in my kit as standard. The main problem is actually choosing whether to go with a non-photographer, a photographer, or alone. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
- What do you find most rewarding in the creative process, and how do you overcome that which you find challenging?
For me, just being at an amazing location and having the sheer luck to have an animal walk into the frame at the right time in the right spot, that is always the highlight. Then, I suppose, the excitement of getting home to see it on the computer and find out if it was as good as I thought. With nature photography, I try to just go with the flow and not force things. It’s impossible anyway! That way, I never feel challenged, just happy if I get a few good shots at the end of the day.
- Tell us about your book, Richmond Park.
My first book, Richmond Park, was a collection of shots throughout the years in a park, near to where I used to live, in London. It is still one of the most stunning and atmospheric places I have ever been to; that, combined with having so many animals there, makes it a very special place. Even though I must have visited the park over a thousand times, each time I visited, it took on a slightly different feel. Another thing I really enjoy, that Brazil doesn’t have, is the seasons. This really makes photography in the same locations a lot more fun.
- How essential is Photoshop and other types of software to the contemporary professional photographer?
For me, I used Photoshop a lot more in the old days, when the digital cameras were struggling more to capture what you saw. Now, I am steering away from any real processing, other than slight contrast and saturation tweaks, cropping, and white balance control.
- I’m aware of at least one instance where your work was used without your permission. What advice can you give regarding copyright protection?
There isn’t anything you can really do, apart from sending a polite email asking if they can credit you. I do try to place a watermark on my shots in an area where cloning it out would be problematic.
- In the digital age, a lifetime of work can be lost in an instant. How do you store, archive, and backup your precious work?
Since I had a hard drive malfunction, a while back, I always copy each hard drive and store the copies in another location. I try to always have the work in two places, even three.
- Tell us a little about any good photography you’ve seen recently or good books you’ve read.
I am a massive fan of Steve McCurry. For me, he captures the essence of a person or scene.
- What advice can you give to aspiring photographers?
Just be true to what you love - combine the love of taking photos with a passion; whether it is travel, a sport, people or animals. In that way, the passion will show in the work.
- Where can we find you and your work?
Online at www.alexsaberi.com, www.flickr.com/photos/alexsaberi, www.facebook.com/alexsaberiphotography. The vast majority of my photos are available for commercial use through my agent Nat Geo Creative. Alternatively, please use the contact form on my website to contact me directly.