We’ve recently added some fantastic images to ARKive from one of our new media donors, Heath Holden, and we jumped at the opportunity to hear a little more from Heath about his work.
Can you tell us about yourself and give us a bit of a run down on your photographic background?
Hi! I’m Heath Holden, I work as a freelance photographer and photojournalist for various clients around Tasmania and also interstate. I started out shooting photos of my friends riding BMX and a few landscapes when we went away on trips to the USA, Canada etc… there is so much beauty out there in this world. I guess it all snowballed from there wanting to take better shots and learn more about the art. My first real photography job was for a daily newspaper here in north west Tasmania, The Advocate. I worked here for about 18 months covering news, sport, features etc. During this time I learnt a lot about photography, those little tricks and techniques I’ll never forget. Work slowed a bit when the financial crisis hit town, I had some choices to make and left Tasmania for a staff job with Wildlife Reserves Singapore (parent company of the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari and now River Safari) as the in-house photographer, documenting all the zoological procedures which were then sent out for editorial use around S.E Asia. I also worked with the advertising and promotions department shooting the work for campaigns and other commercial needs, image archiving, educational content etc…
My work is represented by Lonely Planet Images, (which is now handled by Getty Images).
Your recent contribution to ARKive’s collection contained some fresh Tasmanian devil images, how did you come about the idea of photographing Tasmanian devils like this?
I had the idea while still living in Singapore, I knew I would leave once my contract was finished so I started to think of meaningful photography projects which were unique and technically challenging, and the Tasmanian devil came to mind straight away. It’s very unique and also facing a challenging future due to the facial tumour disease spreading. After searching the internet and various photo libraries for Tasmanian devil images which were shot purely in the wild (this was an important factor to me) under natural conditions (no bait) which had some kind of wow factor, I found very little. This was it, I knew I had to do it!
Sounds like quite a learning process! What’s been the biggest hurdle in this project?
Well… hurdles huh, how much time do we have? I shot an email to an old friend who is a zoologist and works with devils, told him my idea and he said I’d need to use camera traps, basically no other way to do it. I had no idea about these at all or where to look! The bag of worms was about to open… (Internet search then fast forward a bit). Studying videos of snow leopards and tigers being documented with camera traps, I started breaking them down to get some kind of idea of equipment and techniques used by others. I soon bought some infra-red sensors/triggers and the hunt for the more gear began! There have been many little hurdles along the way, waterproofing, locking, sync cables and splitters for multiple flashes, flash misfires and dead batteries… I eventually worked out which flashes to use saving me lugging a load of batteries out every morning to fill the battery packs, 12 AAs! That gets tiring, also there is this fancy cable I need to get which will hopefully solve the problem of missing the first shot while the flash comes to life. Lighting is very important with this project, Tasmanian devils being nocturnal almost never wander around in daylight so it’s always crucial for the flashes to work when I want them to. Generally the issues are getting smaller the further I go and I’m feeling very in control of the setup now, in the beginning I would setup and think “oh I hope it works” but now I know it will work. I used to be a mechanic for about 6 years so I feel fairly handy when it comes to making housings for my cameras and strobes. I have a buddy who’s a great sheet metal worker and welder, he whipped up a couple of alloy boxes for me which I then crafted into a nice housing to fit mid range DSLR cameras and 14mm lens.
Are there any projects in the pipeline, or species you’d like to focus on in the future?
Definitely, I’ll be working on more projects all the time to grow my portfolio and skills to the highest possible level. The aim of my work is to create unique images of wildlife and nature which stand out from what people have already seen, in terms of new angles, techniques and overall image quality. I want readers to be stunned with amazement! My devil work as an example – yes, there are plenty of scientists and organisations here camera trapping, but they’re only using the basic trail cam setups which really are no good for reproduction at an editorial level, that’s where the skills of a photographer come in to play, to UP the quality for the show, not just for monitoring purposes. As for species, I’d like to do some work on the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, this is a sub-species, but larger than the more common wedge-tailed eagle. These birds are huge with a possible wingspan of over 2 metres, and they are wise, getting close is very tough! I like a challenge so this could be the next one.
What role do you think wildlife photography can play in conservation?
Wildlife photography is extremely important in conservation and awareness now, and it is getting more important every day, it really is the only voice the animals have. Photography helps raise public awareness in visual ways that scientific data can’t, it triggers emotion and a direct connection. We need to be smart in the way we use natural resources and find a healthy balance, we can all live on this planet but we need to look after it and not let money, greed and endless corporate growth drive everything to self destruction.