Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Marsel van Oosten has been confirmed as the overall winner of the 2015 international Travel Photographer of the Year awards (TPOTY). The Dutch photographer beat entrants from over 110 countries to scoop the top prize and the title of Travel Photographer of the Year 2015 for two portfolios of work.

The first portfolio of the cypress trees in the Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana, USA, is subtle and textural contrasting with the strong, punchy, graphic style of the portfolio of great white pelicans, shot on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean near Walvis Bay, Namibia.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication," says Marsel. Talented as a landscape photographer as well as with capturing the uniquely playful behavior of wild animals, he strives to concentrate his compositions on graphic elements and mood. His imagery has been featured in a number of publications like National Geographic and his body of work is collected in galleries and museums across the globe.

Q: When and why did you first start nature and landscape photography?

I used to be a photographic omnivore until my wife and I went to Tanzania for our honeymoon. I had never been on safari before, and after that I was hooked. I love animals and the outdoors, so I don’t understand why it took me so long to focus on nature.

Q: What is it about wildlife and nature that you are passionate about?

I have worked as an art director in advertising for 15 years. In advertising everything is fake and manipulated. Nature is real and it evokes emotions that no ad or commercial can ever do. Being out in nature is when I’m feeling most alive and connected.

Q: What is your gear and favored system for working with wildlife?

I prefer to work with three bodies, each with a specific lens attached. This saves me valuable time and it prevents getting dusty sensors. I also strongly believe in the creative power of zoom lenses. Being able to zoom in-and-out gives you a lot of flexibility and artistic freedom. Fixed focal length lenses may be slightly sharper, but it’s marginal nowadays. Creativity trumps sharpness, always.

Q: What techniques do you use to capture such intimate animal behavior? Do you have any favorite lenses or pieces of equipment for working with animals?

I don’t use specific techniques, I just try to do things a little bit differently. I have a very specific visual style. The shorter the lens, the more habitat you can include in your images, which is what I like to do most. My perfect wildlife shot is a great landscape photograph with an animal in it as a bonus.

Q: Do you have any tips or advice for photographers who would like to capture animals in the wild?

Go out there. You don’t need to travel to exotic locations to be able to photograph wildlife. Take your time, be patient, and try over and over and over again. Chances are that your subject has already been shot to death, so think hard about how you can come up with something different.

(All photographs by Marsel van Oosten.)

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