May 16

Arkive would like to introduce The Wait, a short film from production company Contra, which follows the journey of a wildlife photographer on a hunt to document the elusive European bison in its natural habitat of the Romanian mountains. The story details how it can take weeks to capture a shot, and the patience required to wait for this moment.

We have been speaking with Michel d’Oultremont, wildlife photographer and subject of the film, to learn about his motivations for wildlife photography.

Who are you and what is your profession?

Hello, my name is Michel d’Oultremont, I’m 25 years old and I have been a wildlife photographer since the age of 10 – I have had the great fortune of starting very young with an unconditional love for wildlife!

Michel d’Oultremont

Michel d’Oultremont

 

We found The Wait to be very emotive. Can you tell us more about your relationship with the natural world and why you wanted to photograph the European bison?

My relationship with nature is very special – I spend hours and hours in the wild trying to find and observe wildlife. It’s a way of life for me! Since the WWF (Worldwide Wildlife Fund) has started to reintroduce wild bison into the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, it has been a dream of mine to explore this region and to see these spectacular beasts. I’ve always been quite drawn to big animals like bears and muskox, so the bison is the next logical progression of that passion!

European bison © John Ford

Your creativity with the landscape shows through your work, do you have a specific image or style in mind before you begin shooting?

It all depends – I like to capture the animal in its natural habitat, so often I have to relocate to find the best light and environment. Once I’m set up, I wait for an animal to pay me a visit: a nature photo is a meeting – you just have to wait for it to happen. Although sometimes I do think more about the image and I try to realise it in any way I can.

What do you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?

It may sound stupid, but I try to capture beauty in my photographs, to show the beauty of wildlife. So I try to take photographs that highlight this beauty and make for aesthetically pleasing pictures. When I manage this it is a real pleasure, but it doesn’t happen very often – maybe four or five times in a year.

Short-eared owl fight over a mouse during winter in France, no bait used © Michel d’Oultremont

Is focusing on a reintroduced species of particular importance to you? Do you feel any extra pressure when capturing images of a rare creature?

This type of project is very important because it allows wildlife to come back to its stomping ground. The work of the WWF is very important – they make the reintroduction of wildlife into the mountains possible! I don’t seek out rare animals especially, I photograph everything that happens to pass in front of my lens so it’s more that I am opportunistic.

This picture was taken in Belgium right next to my house, this nice owl decided to nest in a tree that I know very well, a real treat to be able to observe them naturally  © Michel d’Oultremont

Which animals and landscapes would you most like to photograph if you had no constraints?

That’s a really difficult question, there are many species I dream of photographing, like the Persian panther or the Siberian tiger. I would also love to go to the Canadian Arctic to see Polar Bears! There is still a lot to see, and that’s what’s great!

The Wait conveys a sense of solitude and at times loneliness, what is the longest and hardest time you have spent waiting for a subject?

I have had to wait several weeks before finding the subject and light I’ve been hoping for! But this isn’t restrictive because there are always things happening. The most difficult conditions I’ve experienced are without a doubt winter in Norway, where I was caught in a huge snow storm, but I love that these difficult conditions bring a sense of poetry to the images.

“I stayed at a location in Sweden for a week waiting for the singing black grouse. One morning the whole area was frosted, the sun was reflected on a cloud and in the drops of water, which gives these incredibly magical colours!” © Michel d’Oultremont

What is one thing you may recommend in wildlife photography?

The best advice, I think, is to know and research the species well, and do everything you can not to disturb the wildlife.

Top three items you never travel without?

The three things I always travel with – apart from my photographic equipment, of course – are my binoculars that I always take with me, my knife for quickly making a natural shade, and my notebook to try and write down everything I experience in the field.

Romanian Mountains © Michel d’Oultremont

Romanian mountains © John Ford

We’d like to thank Michel for speaking with us. If you’d like to see more of Michel’s work you can visit his website, or find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also visit The Wait website to watch the film and read more about the team behind it.

Dec 11

Today marks UN International Mountain Day which aims to promote the sustainable development and awareness of mountains and highlands around the world and highlighting their importance for biodiversity as well as human settlements.

Covering roughly a quarter of the world’s surface, mountains are hugely diverse in the habitat they offer, from forest, desert, grassland or permanent ice and can be some of the most volatile places on earth with volcanic eruptions, avalanches, landslides and earthquakes being frequent occurences for the species living there to contend with.

Many of ARKive’s eco-regions feature mountainous habitats, not to mention the large collection of species we have that make their living on the mountain tops of the world. To celebrate UN International Mountain Day we thought we would highlight some of our favourite mountainous eco-regions.

Western Ghats – A biodiversity hotspot

UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Western Ghats are an Indian mountain range running 1,600 kilometres across the peninsular parallel to the western coast. Though not conforming to the ‘traditional’ snow-capped mountain image of the Alps or the Rockies, the Western Ghats wins out on sheer biodiversity, hosting a phenomenal amount of plants and animals, many of which can’t be found anywhere else on earth.

Western Ghats

The undulating grasslands of the Western Ghats

At higher altitudes much of the Western Ghats are expansive grass plateaus, on which species like the Nilgiri tahr graze on. The Nilgiri tahr is also very much at home on the numerous narrow cliff ledges in the area.

Nilgiri tahr

The Nilgiri tahr in it's mountain habitat

 

Gutianshan National Nature Reserve – Nanling Mountains

Eastern China’s Gutianshan National Nature Reserve protects part of the ancient evergreen broadleaved forest of the Nanling Mountains. Large amounts of annual rainfall provide ideal conditions for plants to grow as well as feeding many mountain streams and tributaries that flow down the mountain.

Gutianshan National Nature Reserve

The montane forest of Gutianshan National Nature Reserve

The aptly named big-headed turtle lives in these cold and fast flowing mountain streams. As a nocturnal and aquatic reptile, it spends the day underwater and out of site either burrowed into the gravel bed or hidden in rock crevices at the stream edge and the nights foraging either in or near the stream.

Big-headed turtle photo

The big-headed turtle depends on the water streams that run off the mountain

 

Mediterranean Basin – Greek mountains of myth and legend

The Mediterranean Basin eco-region contains a vast amount of different habitats from coasts all the way up to mountains and everything in between. The most famous of these mountains is of course Mount Olympus: the mythical home of Greek gods. This mountain range hosts 1,700 different species of plant, 25 percent of Greece’s total. Not to mention the many roe deer, grey wolves and wild cats that can also be found there.

Mount Olympus

The limestone cliffs of Mount Olympus are packed with plant life

While not limited to habitats at high elevation, the venomous Meadow viper can be found in the European mountain pastures feeding on a wide variety of birds, mammals and invertebrates.

Meadow viper

The meadow viper on the grassy foothills of Gran Sasso d'Italia

George Bradford, ARKive Researcher

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