Interview with Joel Sartore | GBPW Episode 169

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A federally threatened koala, Phascolarctos cinereus, with her babies at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital
Quick summary

Joel Sartore is a successful wildlife photographer who regularly contributes to National Geographic. His work focuses on different species around the world. As a professional with decades of experience, Joel knows what it takes to connect with his models and take outstanding photographs. In this interview, he talks about his experiences and shares tips on how to improve as a photographer.

Joel Sartore.
Portrait of Joel Sartore by Ellen Sartore.

My parents always told me I could do whatever I wanted in my life, and I believed them. I had a couple of journalism professors that said the same thing. I believed them, too.

Joel Sartore

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portrait of wildlife by Joel Sartore

In this episode, I speak with award-winning photographer, speaker, author, and conservationist Joel Sartore. Joel regularly contributes to National Geographic Magazine. In fact, he worked with them to create the Photo Ark, a project that aims to highlight 20,000 species and get people to care about endangered animals around the world.

We talk about:

  • Joel Sartore’s favourite equipment
  • Tips for taking stunning wildlife photos
  • How photographers can join the movement and save species

& much more!

Joel’s eye-opening advice and stories are guaranteed to make you think differently about photography. If you’re looking for inspiration, this is the perfect place to start!

Here is a preview of our conversation with Joel Sartore.

studio wildlife shot by Joel Sartore

Q: Tell us about an experience in your photography journey that pushed your limits and proved to you that you’re truly passionate about this craft.

Joel Sartore: The shoot I did for National Geographic magazine in the late 90s on Madidi National Park in Bolivia was a real eye-opener to me. I’d never really been out of the country much. I’d certainly not spent any time in the jungle. That assignment required me to do both for about six weeks.

It was very interesting. The people that live there view the jungle as a very, very pleasant place. I lost a lot of weight. Towards the end of the trip, I got to where I was comfortable. It taught me that there’s a lot more than one right way to live a life.

photo of fox in studio by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore

Q: What advice would you give to photographers who want to take better photos of animals?

Joel Sartore: Put more time into it. Figure out which animals you care about. Go to other people who have worked with those animals. Try to figure out what’s the best and kindest way to photograph these animals.

I would try to seek out experts that are really familiar with the animals that you want to be close to and find out what the proper way to do it is. Think about animal welfare first.

photo of National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore taking wildlife photos indoors

Q: Is there anything photographers can do locally to help save species?

Joel Sartore: We try to get people to understand that that they need to plant native plants in their yards or even in window boxes if they live in apartments.

The insects are really the base of the food chain in terms of the animal world. We have to understand that if we don’t have enough insects, a lot of other species that we know and love won’t survive. Plus, they pollinate our fruits and vegetables. They bring us good things to eat.

Stop pouring chemicals on your lawn to kill insects. Quit pouring poison all over the ground because it ends up in the water supply. Think about the fact that you could turn your yard into something that’s actually very productive for insects. Teach children the value of this.

It’s something that’s easy, cheap, fun, and adds colour and life to your yard.

The Photo Ark

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Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.

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  1. Hey Taya, I enjoyed Joel and his quest to photograph thousands of species for National Geographic. Listening to how long it can take to get a shot, for example, the tiger to have his photo is patient. I am now following Joel on Instagram to keep up with his work. It was also very nice of Joel to speak out about your research and the questions asked which he really liked. I think it would be cool for you to do a podcast on what it takes to put a podcast. together.

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