Kim Free - Wildlife Photographer
My name is Kim Free, and I am from North Canterbury, though my time is divided between Canterbury, Kaikoura and Motukiekie Beach on the West Coast. I am the photographer for Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch. I have been a wildlife photographer for over 12 years.
How did you get into wildlife photography?
I first got into photography when I purchased my first iPhone. I was obsessed with using it as a camera rather than a phone. It was then I decided to take an online photography course. I never completed the course as the technical side of cameras didn't interest me, and I just wanted to get out in the field and take photos.
I was hired as an equestrian event photographer early on, which was a fantastic experience, but this wasn't for me. I am incredibly grateful, though, that it gave me my start. I have always loved animals and birds, so it was only natural to focus on wildlife photography. I did occasionally shoot landscapes and had success with these images, but over time I became more and more focused on just animals. My spare time was spent reading wildlife books and watching every animal documentary I could find. I learned so much from doing this.
What do you intend to achieve with your work?
I want people to feel a connection when they look at my images. I love showing details of animals that most people don't get to see. I use the Canon RF 400mm and 600mm lens, which lets me show every detail, like skin and fur textures or feather details. Things you sometimes can't see looking at a distance. I would like to think my images may inspire people to care about the environment and become proactive in protecting the beautiful wildlife we are so privileged to share this earth with.
What / who are your main influences and inspirations?
Wildlife is my main inspiration. My complete love for all animals is what fuels me. But I also love the work of Jonathan and Angela Scott, both wildlife photographers who live in Kenya. I am such a fan of their work, and they are incredible people that I admire. Not only are they both phenomenal photographers, but their lifetime commitment to conservation is so inspiring. Their enthusiasm for all wildlife is contagious. I would love to visit the Maasai Mara one day and see for myself all the beautiful animals that I love reading about in their photography books. And of course, Dr. Jane Goodall, who I have been lucky enough to meet, needs no explaining as to why she's an inspiration!
Are you currently working on any projects?
I am beginning to put together my 2023 calendar, so this involves deciding what I want to feature and pursuing the shots. Besides that, I am loving getting out into nature and always looking for that perfect photo opportunity that makes wildlife photography so much fun. You never know what you will encounter from one day to the next.
What is your proudest accomplishment / favourite project?
I am incredibly proud of all my accomplishments, resulting from a lot of hard work. I think that licensing an image to NZ Post, which was featured on a postage stamp, was a real highlight, but there have been multiple events that have meant a lot, like exhibiting one of my rhino images at the Indian Photo Festival in Hyderabad. I had to submit an article with the image, which gave me an excellent opportunity to write about rhino poaching, a subject that I feel very strongly about.
I love that my photography has given me a voice that I never had before. As wildlife conservation is significantly important to me, I am proud to have raised over $10,000 from sales of my wildlife calendars which has enabled me to be able to donate 100% of the proceeds to Orana Wildlife Park to help fund the construction of a new native bird breeding centre. This centre will focus on breeding native birds like Kiwi, Whio, and Pateke for release into the wild. Because of my photography, I can contribute to causes that I value.
Do you have any other hobbies/interests?
I love home renovation and interior styling. My husband and I are undertaking a complete exterior and interior renovation at the moment. Though incredibly challenging and tiring as we are doing most of the work ourselves, I love every minute of it. And I do love my power tools! When I have the time, my guilty pleasure is watching reno shows on HGTV.
What is your best advice for someone interested in your field?
Wildlife photography is challenging. It is not like a landscape where you know it will be there, it's not moving, and you can take your time to compose your shot. Wildlife moments can be fast and fleeting, and you need to be prepared, so you don't miss them. Always have your gear ready. You never know when you will need it quickly, and always check your settings. Fast shutter speeds are a must. Learn to be patient. Some days will be action-packed, others not so much. And if you can, invest in a good zoom lens. Wildlife photography is so rewarding, getting to spend your time with creatures big and small. Who wouldn't love it?