Interview with acclaimed photographer Sue Flood
Acclaimed photographer and Act for Wildlife patron, Sue Flood, is running a two day advanced photography course at Chester Zoo alongside two other professionals. Together they will share their skills and expertise in many different areas - from Photoshop, Lightroom and workflow, to more in-depth photo techniques and hints and tips on good business.
Sue tells us more about how she got into wildlife photography, some of the challenges she faces and what's her favourite photo she's captured.
How did you get into wildlife photography?
I was always interested in wildlife and the natural world, and studied Zoology at Durham University after leaving The Queen’s School, Chester. I went on to work for the world-renowned BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol, working with Sir David Attenborough on series such as The Blue Planet and Planet Earth for 11 years. I was taking photos in the field as part of my job, and when I started getting articles published and had my images on the cover of BBC Wildlife magazine and National Geographic Kid’s magazine it gave me the encouragement I needed to concentrate on my photography. I have been fortunate to make a career as a wildlife photographer since then.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is when I feel that I’ve been able to get people to connect with and appreciate the natural world with my images. Though it’s hard to beat the feeling of standing on the sea ice photographing a polar bear as he stares back at you or lying in an emperor penguin colony surrounded by chicks!
What’s your favourite picture you’ve captured and why? Could you explain the backstory behind it?
My favourite image is of two emperor penguins with their chick. I was on a trip to Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. I had an image in my head where I wanted to have two penguins standing side by side with their chick. One was standing with the chick when the other adult came back from the sea and regurgitated a meal for the chick. They shuffled together for a few seconds and I was lucky to capture this lovely moment!
Photo credit: Sue Flood
The workshop will be run alongside two other acclaimed photographers, Cindy Miller Hopkins and Stephen Johnson. Could you explain how you all met?
Stephen and Cindy are fellow pro photographers, who are both great friends. Cindy hails from Colorado and Stephen lives in Norfolk. I met Stephen Johnson many years ago when he presented at the first ever Wildphotos conference in Bristol, where he gave a great talk about digital photography. He is an expert on Photoshop, Lightroom, workflow and a wonderful teacher who is able to convey complex ideas in an accessible way.
Cindy and I have travelled together a number of times on expedition ships in remote parts of the world. She’s a great teacher and photographer, and shoots Nikon, so she and I make a good partnership when teaching on location as we can cover Canon and Nikon between us. She is second to none when it comes to metadata and marketing, in my experience!
We all enjoy teaching photography and photo techniques and hope we have created a fun and informative course which people will enjoy.
Photo credit: Sue Flood
How unique is this opportunity for participants to gain insight from three acclaimed photographers?
We decided to create this course after I received numerous requests for a more advanced course from people who had attended my one-day “Capture the Moment” photography course at the zoo over the last few years. Rather than try to teach everything myself, I thought it would be good to get the people I know who are experts in their particular field to join me so that together we could cover lots of different subjects for the course participants, from camera techniques in the field, practical tips about kit, camera, clothing in the field, composing your images, image processing, metadata, marketing your images, storing images, Photoshop/ Lightroom techniques etc. We’re going to be cramming a lot in during those two days! Also course participants will receive a ticket to come to the zoo for a third day to practice what they’ve learnt on the previous two days, as well as notes to take away on what we are covering.
And Chester Zoo is a wonderful place to photograph!
What kind of equipment do you need to capture great wildlife shots?
Well, if you have a good eye for an image you can take a good shot with an iPhone and I’ve had people on my safari trips do just that! However, of course, if you are a good photographer a good camera and lens will definitely help. I personally always have two bodies on a trip with a wide angle and my 100-400mm zoom, and often my 300mm 2.8 with a teleconverter. I use Canon kit and have a 5D3 and a 5DSR.
Are there any challenges when trying to capture wildlife pics?
Many! Trying to find the best time to press the trigger - where’s the light? What’s the animal doing? How do you make it an interesting shot? There are lots of different challenges which we’ll be covering on the course.
What can people expect from your workshop at Chester Zoo – who is it for?
This course is aimed at people who already consider themselves to be pretty competent photographers, rather than complete beginners. More advanced beginners and intermediate photographers through to more experienced shooters. You certainly need to know your camera basics and be familiar with apertures and shutter speeds and ISO etc. but, of course, it’s designed for people to learn new things over the two days so don’t be afraid to ask if you’re concerned about your level of experience. Perhaps you are experienced in one particular field of photography, e.g. motor racing but want to improve your wildlife photography techniques as well as learn more about image processing etc. once you’ve taken your image.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
Know your kit. Practice. Try to develop your own style. Study your subject and work hard. And the harder you work, the luckier you get!