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  • Writer's pictureRubber Monkey

Interview with Wildlife Photographer Fiona Wardle

Kia ora! I am Fi, a wildlife photographer based in Kaikoura, New Zealand. I currently

split my time freelancing for different clients. I work with a variety of conservation

organisations, tourism operators, brands, and onboard expedition ships as a

photography guide and naturalist.

Fiona Wardle

Where does your passion for conservation come from?

I’ve had a burning curiosity and care for the natural world within me for as long as I

can remember. These feelings only strengthened by key figures in my childhood;

Attenborough, Goodall and Fossey.


When did you decide to pair your love of conservation and

photography/videography? Can you tell us a bit about your creative journey?

Wanting nothing more in life than to follow in my idol’s footsteps, I created a road

map that led me to university to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Marine and Natural

History Photography. Upon completing my degree, I moved to New Zealand to strengthen my education in wildlife biology and gain experience in the field. I dedicated the next few years to volunteering on research and conservation projects, always with the camera in hand.

I found my way into guiding which allowed me to carry on raising awareness and

sharing my love for the natural world with others, albeit through a different form of

communication.


Making the progression to a freelance photographer has given me the opportunity to

dedicate more time to passion projects. As well as sharing conservation stories, I

also hope to inspire a new generation of women /non-binary nature photographers

and ambassadors for our natural world.


Photo by Fiona Wardle

What's your most memorable sighting while out taking photos?

Every encounter with wildlife is special. Sometimes however it is the hardest photos

to take that are the most powerful. A couple of years ago I found myself in a heart-breaking situation watching a humpback whale off the coast of Kaikoura that was missing its whole tail fluke. Although we cannot be certain on what caused the injuries, it is highly likely that

they were inflicted by some kind of human activity.


The set of images travelled around the world and opened the conversation on the

impacts we can have on environments that aren’t our “own” and build movement on

the necessity to conserve other life on Earth.


What are your tips for not disturbing nature while in the field?

When correctly done wildlife photography can be an incredibly effective tool for

raising awareness about endangered species and environments in need of

conservation. I think no matter the circumstances the wildlife and its environment

must always come first and photography second.


99 % of my photos are taken using a telephoto Lens which allows you to keep your

distance from the animal. It’s important to always observe your subject quietly and

to refrain from any quick movements or loud noises. Adjusting your camera settings

to silent shooting is a great tip! Be mindful of your subject and with patience and respect you can create some of the most compelling imagery.

Photo by Fiona Wardle

Is there anyone in your field that inspires you?

Instagram has allowed me to connect with others in the field from all over the world,

shedding light on their own local conservation stories, keeping me inspired through

this community every single day!


Can you tell us a bit about your trip to the sub-antarctic islands?

Last year I was given the incredible opportunity to join New Zealand based company,

Heritage Expeditions on a trip of a lifetime to New Zealand’s Sub Antarctic islands

through their True Young Explorer Scholarship Programme for those aged 18 -30,

Look it up!!!!


Photographs stop time, giving the viewer a moment to think, to react, to feel and my

goal from having the privilege to visit these islands was to use my imagery from the

trip to spark a new interest in others and foster their appreciation for the Southern

Ocean, helping with the most fundamental building block of conservation and

protection.

Photo by Fiona Wardle

As the world's last great unspoiled wilderness, it is critical that New Zealander’s

understand the need to protect these precious islands and habitats they provide.

With ever increasing threats from climate breakdown, the unique species on these

islands need all the help they can get, and I am proud to be an active and engaged

ambassador for the Southern Ocean within my community and beyond.


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