Interview: Get on the Edge of the Globe

July 08

6 min. to read

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What makes a shot so thrilling and mind-blowing? No more secrets. Here are the answers.

John Rollins is one of the best travel photographers of the year. He knows how to capture the most thrilling and stunning moments around the globe, so I asked John a few questions. I was amazed by the answers and impressed by his photos.

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1. What's the best place to take photos and the best place to live in?

Two places that I really love for photography are Uganda and the Arctic. My focus is wildlife/nature photography and the wildlife in Uganda is abundant and diverse. You can see everything from lions to mountain gorillas, to the rare and elusive shoebill stork, all in very close proximity.

The country is so rich with wildlife that there is always something to photograph and it is hard not to get some fantastic images. The arctic is a much more difficult environment for photography because the weather and the terrain can create some unique challenges that do not exist elsewhere.

But, I have found it to be incredibly rewarding. When I shoot in the arctic, there is usually a pretty specific range of subject matter that I am after. For example, on my most recent trip to the arctic, the entire focus was on polar bear mothers with cubs.

We happened to be lucky enough to also have some pretty amazing aurora borealis at night and some of the landscapes were just breathtaking... so that was a bonus. As far as the best place to live, I live in Kansas City, Missouri and I love it here. However, I love a lot of the places that I have traveled to and can easily see myself living in many of those places.

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2. Can you imagine yourself being not a photographer? What would you do?

I actually just started doing photography within the last 10 years and have only been serious about it since about 2013. So, yes I can imagine it. But, it has become such a big part of what I do in my "off time" and I enjoy it so thoroughly that I think it will be a part of my life for as long as I am physically able to do it.

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3. What's the most thrilling or stunning photo for you? What's behind the scene?

I was with a small group of photographers on snowmobiles out on the sea ice in the arctic in April looking for polar bear mothers with cubs. It was getting late in the day, we were still about 3 hours away from the little fishing cabin where we were staying and a storm was starting to develop. It was snowing and the visibility was dropping quickly.

Just as we decided to call it a day and head for the cabin, we spotted a fresh seal carcass at the base of a huge iceberg that had been frozen into place when the sea froze over for the winter. We decided to get a closer look and as we approached, we saw a mother polar bear with her two cubs that had just finished gorging on the seal.

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Their faces were all covered with blood and it was a very powerful image. They seemed to realize pretty quickly that we meant them no harm, and then they put on quite a show as the cubs frolicked as their mother tried to wash the blood off of their faces with snow. We photographed their interaction for about 45 minutes until they decided to move further out onto the ice to continue hunting.

I think the photos that I got that day were probably some of the most "thrilling" I have ever gotten and they are certainly unique images of interesting and seldom documented behavior.

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4. What would you advise to a "younger you" if you had a chance?

I would probably have encouraged a younger me to become interested in photography at a much earlier age... to carry a camera everywhere I went and to think of photography as a form of "storytelling" rather than just being a documentary process.

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To find out more about John Rollins and to see more of his photos, you can visit the website or follow him of FB page.

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