The Big Issue : Edition 489
WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER STEVE Winter has become a big-cat specialist. Lions, tigers, leopards, cougars (and more) have all appeared in his viewfinders. But he shows few signs of job fatigue. “Coming face to face with one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet never gets to be old nor boring,” he says. “As my understanding and trust grows with each encounter, I actually gain more knowledge about the cats every time we meet.” Winter grew up in the American Midwest state of Indiana and got his first camera from his father for his seventh birthday. His career – which has included assignments for Time, Newsweek and, since 1991, National Geographic – has spanned the transition from film to digital photography. Sophisticated remote controls, which often use motion sensors to trigger a shutter, have also become crucial accessories. “I use remote-control cameras quite a bit to obtain photos and video of animals that are so shy and smart I cannot get their images by traditional means,” Winter says. But they do not obviate the need for patience and local knowledge. “I actually have to wait longer for some of these images, and work harder, as I need to track the animals and be positive that they will cross the area where I am placing the cameras. In the end it pays off, as I obtain images I could not get any other way. I get images that I would [only replicate] if I were lying on the ground and the animal walked in front of me. This would never happen – as they would either smell me, and not come that way, or they would kill me.” Yet it often seems that animals are staring straight at him. “Because of their incredible eyesight and night vision, they can see a camera which is camouflaged in the forest,” Winters explains. “It still fascinates me that they are looking in the camera...but I have started to put the cameras a distance from the trails in which they walk.” Many of his subjects and their habitats are threatened. So a motivating factor in his work and public presentations is a concern for the animals and their natural worlds. “The environment the big cats live in is vitally important for us as humans. If you save the top predator in any ecosystem you save all the animals and environment that lives within.” by Alan Attwood » Steve Winter will make appearances for National Geographic Live, discussing his work, in Melbourne on 31 July; Perth, 10 August; Sydney, 16 August. See nglive.org/pacific.