In pursuit of all things wild
Wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen to
visit Images of Nature Gallery
By ADAM TANOUS
Express Arts Editor
Consider just the last six months in the
life of wildlife photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen. He was in Japan photographing
snow monkeys, in Alaska tracking down bald eagles and on the Serengeti Plain
capturing images of elephants. Throw in a trip to Antarctica for penguins and a
venture to his native state of Nebraska to witness the crane migration and you
get a sense of what it would be like to be one of the world’s most acclaimed
Also on that schedule is a stop 5 p.m.
tonight at Mangelsen’s Images of Nature gallery in Ketchum for a book signing.
The Ketchum gallery is one of 15 that Mangelsen owns, operates and provides with
his arresting images.
Mangelsen, who lives in Jackson, Wyo., is
a friendly and reserved man who takes his success in stride. For him, wildlife
photography is less a business than a pursuit that "fills a need to be
outdoors," he said in an interview last week.
Remarkably, Mangelsen did not take a
picture until he was 21 years old. But a lot of the skills he deems important
for being a good wildlife photographer he attributes to his early experiences
hunting with his father on the Platte River in Nebraska. There he "learned about
wildlife, to be a keen observer, to have a sense of what the weather might do."
He also spent a considerable amount of his academic career, both undergraduate
and graduate work, studying wildlife biology and habitat.
"I try to be aware and knowledgeable about
the animals (I am photographing). Some animals tolerate you and some don’t. I
try to minimize my impact on them and their impact on me," he said.
Mangelsen’s entire year is scheduled
around animals and their natural cycles. To get images of animals in their
prime—physically and behaviorally—he will, for instance, photograph mammals in
the fall and birds in the spring.
As glamorous as jet-setting around the
world shooting photos sounds, Mangelsen’s job is not an easy one. It involves
lugging around between 600 and 700 pounds of equipment and waiting patiently in
the wild for long periods of time in varying weather conditions.
In composing an image, Mangelsen said he
"tries to anticipate an animal in the landscape … and see landscapes that would
be accentuated by an animal in it. You can maximize your chances with knowledge
(of an animal’s habits). Other times, some things just fall into your lap."
The latter situation is when speed is
important—knowing just what lens to reach for, what shutter speed to use, which
camera body to grab. After some time, choosing the right equipment for a given
shot becomes almost instinctive, Mangelsen said.
Whether he has skill, luck, luck because
he’s skillful or all of the above, Mangelsen manages to make his camera
virtually disappear such that he can provide a look onto the animal world where
the distinction between observer and the observed seems to fade.
Mangelsen’s talent is that for a moment it
can seem as if we are there on the ice cap or on the hot Serengeti Plain staring
down something wild, indifferent and perhaps a bit beyond our full