Pro Team Spotlight: Christophe Courteau

-What type of photography do you prefer and why?

I grew-up in the French country-side, and honestly, I don’t remember myself not being interested in wildlife, especially in birds and insects, the most common things around my parents’ house.

At first, I took photos of everything, but quickly I understood that my real passion was about wildlife photography. For a simple reason, I need to be in the wild as much as possible. Wildlife photography is not only a passion, for me, it’s a lifestyle! And it’s not by chance that I decided to study biology at the University: Plant Physiology, Ecology, Animal Behavior, Landscape Management, etc. It’s definitely in the wilderness where you can feel the strongest emotions, where you can find both serenity and excitement!

You know, one of the most exciting things in this job of wildlife photographer is when you can manage to hide yourself enough in the field to disappear from the eyes of your subject. There are many ways to do so, but it’s only when the animals don’t pay attention to you anymore that you can get the most intimate shots, freeze the proper behavior and feel the biggest emotions!

-What tip(s) would you give someone just starting out in photography?

I think that starting out in photography nowadays is much easier than ever, because, in our digital era you can improve your settings quicker, improve your composition and share your photos faster than ever.

These days you can find so many tips and information in specialized magazines, on the web, plus, the photographers’ community is a worldwide community now.

You need to be careful and selective. There is so much information available, so many forums, so many people who explain to you that they are good at what they do but you, not... You need to be very selective when you browse on these photographic forums, and don’t be shy, share your work and listen to constructive feed-back.

But still, to improve yourself, I think that the best way is a workshop if you can afford it. You will be trained by a professional. Plus, you can make new friends with whom you share the same passion for photography.  Definitely, a workshop is one of the finest ways to learn and share your experiences.

-Where is your favorite place to travel and to photograph?

What a difficult question. There are so many «favorite» places ! Well, I think it’s in Africa, in Botswana. This is the place where I have been the most, several times a year for the last 13 years, especially in the Okavango Delta and the Central Kalahari Desert, home of the Bushmen.

I really feel good in the African bush, and the more I go the more I learn, the more I meet new people and make new friends, the more I love this part of the world!

But there is also another place which is very special for me: the Arctic.

After so many years traveling through Africa, I fell in love recently with the Arctic, especially with the Svalbard archipelago, home of the endangered Polar Bear. This is one of the most beautiful, remote, wild and breathtaking places on earth. With 99.99 % of its territory completely unspoiled, this land is very unique.

-Who is a photographer you have looked to for inspiration?

When I was still a student, I was a fan of several wildlife photographers like Frans Lanting, or the British Stephen Dalton, mostly famous for his remarkable work on High Speed photography. I knew by heart many of his books. Stephen Dalton was a real pioneer in High Speed Photography.  Even if nowadays it’s much easier to freeze movements of insects, for example, it’s still quite a difficult technique.

I was also following the work of a French photographer named Jean-Paul Ferrero.

Jean-Paul started his carrier in the 80’s and I was a big fan, especially because he had covered almost all the planet Earth and everywhere he went his photographs were just stunning, with always new approach, new photographic technique, and a lot of action shots, which was quite rare at this time. Jean-Paul Ferrero was based in Australia, he was running a Photographic Agency named «Auscape».

But In 1994 he opened a new photo agency in France «PhOne», this is where I started my carrier. For me, that was really something - to meet him the very first time! When I started working at the agency he took great care of me and I learned much more with him in 4 days by editing my photos on his lightbox rather than in several years by doing it alone behind my cameras. He is the one who taught me the job.  Very sadly, Jean-Paul passed away in 2000. But I really think that it was him who gave me this passion for action shots.

-What made you decide to get into photography?

When I was a kid, my dad knew my great passion for photography, and at the age of 10 he bought me my first camera, a Canon AE-1 with a 50 mm FD. I’m a Canon addict since that day, and I have never stopped taking photos for the last 35 years!

After the University, I worked for an Environment Research Unit for a while, but one day I decided to leave that job, simply because I couldn’t see myself spending my entire life in a lab, no no no !

Then, in 1995 I started as a freelance photographer, specialized in Wildlife, nature, environment, sciences, etc. At the same time I was leading photographic safaris and Workshops, mostly in Africa, but also in Latin America, Asia, and Northern Europe. This is the life that I always wanted to have, traveling worldwide with my cameras, and being paid for it!

-Upcoming workshops or book releases?

My next workshop I will go to Rwanda for a full week in the heart of the Mountain Gorillas. I can’ wait to go back. Every year I go there, and for me, it’s one of the most fantastic experiences ever. I perfectly know that I’m a gorilla addict!

There is No book upcoming this year. Next year maybe... !