Professional Insights

Professional Insights

Vincent Munier

Vincent Munier

Wildlife/Nature (France)

Bridging the Gap: Vincent Munier and the allure of the wild

Note: The video shown here has been converted to Flash Video Format for ease of handling. Image quality varies from the original.

Vincent Munier was born in 1976 in the Vosges, in the east of France, where he still remains close to the wilderness. After successes as BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2000, 2001 and 2002, Vincent decided to devote his professional life to photography. His pictures can be seen all over the world in magazines such as Paris Match, Géo, National Geographic, BBC Wildlife Magazine and Audubon Magazine. Vincent has been active in environmental issues since the early 1990s.

An early love of the wild

I have always been drawn to remote locations. In fact, I have been photographing these places and the creatures that live there since I was a child. Nature is like a drug to me, and it is vital that I have access to it as often as possible. You could even say that my photographic career developed as a way to return to nature as often as possible: it enables me to see these places, share my experiences and make a living, all at the same time. Thanks to my father, I developed a respect for nature when I was very young, and it has only grown stronger as I have grown older. My father taught me to love the natural world, but not to interfere with it. Nature can be so fragile, and mankind can disturb — or even destroy — large swaths of it with very little effort, so when I am in the field, I try to leave the smallest footprint I can.

Working on "the roof of the world"

I tend to gravitate to places where the weather is extreme. I feel most at home where the temperature is well below zero and the nearest telephone is miles away. For this trip, that place was the high plateau of Tibet. Known as the "roof of the world," Tibet has some of the most extreme conditions I have ever experienced: strong winds, unpredictable weather and temperatures that remain well below -20℃. I have worked near both the North and South Poles, but I would consider Tibet — often referred to jokingly as "the third pole" — as an even more difficult environment. In addition to its weather-related challenges, Tibet comes with the additional burden of elevation. Working 4,000 to 6,000 meters above sea level, both my team and I had difficulty breathing and experienced the nausea and regular headaches associated with altitude sickness. Tibet is also extremely dry, with clouds of dust that plume with each step through some areas. The landscapes, however, are fascinating, as are the many forms of wildlife that thrive in such arduous conditions.

The reliability and performance of the D4

When in locations like this, I need equipment I can depend on. When it comes to cameras, reliability is my number-one priority. I sometimes wait for days or even weeks for a single shot. My camera must respond exactly when I need it to, or all my time in the snow and the rain will be wasted. I am happy to say that the D4 is up to the task. Despite extremely harsh conditions and no access to repair, the camera performed superbly. I was particularly impressed with the improved autofocus, which has reached an even higher level of speed and accuracy. I am also very excited to know that I can now use 11 AF points at f/8, which will be extremely useful for any photographer who uses super-telephoto lenses and teleconverters. The high ISO capability is also amazing: I could not believe the quality of shots that I took as high as ISO 12800. These improvements were crucial to success when shooting in the frozen desert in Tibet. There is an abundance of wildlife here, but most of it is extremely elusive, and there are very few places for me to conceal my presence. Super-telephoto lenses and teleconverters are a must, and with so few chances to capture images, I need to know that when the moment is right and the composition is right, the D4 is ready. I am proud to report that it is.

The gap

Wild places like Tibet draw out a sense of humility in me that few people in the modern world understand anymore. I feel that the natural world still has much to teach us, but fewer and fewer people make the effort to see what it can offer. In my role as photographer, I hope that I can serve as a witness to the natural world, and that the pictures and movies I return with can encourage more people to become witnesses themselves. There is a gap between nature and society today — a large gap, that gets larger with each passing day. It is my hope that, in their own small way, my images can help close this gap.

On NPS

My assignments are in the most remote and unforgiving environments on the planet, and my subjects usually do everything they can to avoid me. My shooting opportunities are few and precious, so my equipment has to work every time. Whether it's for repair, replacement gear or advice, NPS is always there for me, helping me get the shots I need. Accidents and equipment damage are inherent in my line of work, but thanks to NPS, I know I have someone I can depend on to keep me shooting. You can't put a price on a partnership like that.

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