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Meet the Ecologist, Naturalist & Conservation Photographer Cynthia Bandurek from Argentina

When I discovered photography I was studying frogs in the field for my Career, so that fact led me to start with macro photography at night, and at that moment I realized that macro photography allows us to enter a completely new world that our naked eyes don’t see. I fell in love with photography even more deeply.

Retro Kolkata : First of all, thank you for accepting our invitation for an interview as our Guest Photographer. Let’s have a jump into the past. When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer and how did you go about pursuing this dream?

Cynthia : I think the interest in wildlife is innate in me. Since I can remember, I felt attracted to nature and I was concerned about the impact we as humans produce on the environment. Even as a child, I read several books about environmental conservation. I decided to study Ecology first and then have a career as a naturalist. Being a naturalist led me to get involved in several conservation projects, as it also allowed me to work for more than 11 years in the Museum of Natural Sciences of Buenos Aires, becoming involved in environmental education projects and interpretation trail design. My passion was so strong that I never had doubts about what my personal and professional paths would be.

I discovered photography while I was studying for my second career as a field Naturalist in 2007. First, it was a tool to record the animals or plants I was studying in the field. But when I started to shoot, I fell in love with photography and started to learn more and more as a self-taught.

Image © Cynthia Bandurek

Retro Kolkata : Have you had any formal photography training and if not, how did you get to where you are today?

Cynthia : I have learned alone, and I still do. Today is easy to find information about almost everything. The knowledge is out there, just you need to be curious, determined, and constant and yes, everything is possible.

Retro Kolkata : Why did you choose Macro photography in particular?

Cynthia : When I discovered photography I was studying frogs in the field for my Career, so that fact led me to start with macro photography at night, and at that moment I realized that macro photography allows us to enter a completely new world that our naked eyes don’t see. I fell in love with photography even more deeply.

Image © Cynthia Bandurek

Retro Kolkata : The detail you capture in your photographs is insanely sharp, what gears do you use to capture your photos?

Cynthia : As I always teach in my courses or workshops, you do not need the best equipment, you can get excellent results if you learn the technique and practice a lot.

I have now, a Canon 6D with a Canon 100 mm macro lens, and I also use a when I need more magnification a Raynox DCR 250 close-up lens. I use a flash and a diffuser.

I started with a Sony Cyber-Shot Camera, and I was able to get amazing shots with that, and you can find some of those shots in my book that I published in 2017. “The world of small. An approach to the universe of arthropods from an artistic, visual and evolutionary perspective”

Retro Kolkata : Is it enough to have the right gears to be a good Macro Photographer or are there any other areas of knowledge that are critical? As a Macro Photographer, which aspect is the most important to capture images creatively?

Cynthia : As I mentioned earlier, the result does not depend on the gear we have. It is really important we master the technique, we practice, practice and practice. Something that I believe is important to improve our frames and grow our portfolio is learning about the behaviours and ecology of the animals we want to portray.

I think we need to allow ourselves to try different things to get creative frames, and just play, for instance with the taking angle, the composition, and lighting.

Image © Cynthia Bandurek

Retro Kolkata : Is there any particular photo that stands out as a favourite? If so, what’s your story behind it?

Cynthia : There is a picture of Golfo Dulce poison frog with the tadpoles on its back that I like a lot, but also because of the behind-the-scenes, that shows how difficult it is sometimes to get the shots. Of course, when you work in natural conditions and you are trying to show behaviour and the biology of the species.

“I was looking for these frogs in the place where they live, but they are difficult to see in their environment, near streams and generally in caves. I found this little guy at the entrance of a little cave on a slope in the middle of the forest!

The conditions to take the photo were complicated. I had to set myself in an uncomfortable position, balancing on the slope, and I put my arms on the floor of the jungle, on the leaf litter to stay at the level of the frog. I was taking pictures, and suddenly I saw one of my arms full of army ants. There were a lot of them all together doing a big red spot on my arm. I was lucky that they did not bite me. Imagine if all this amount of ants bites you at the same time. (For that reason I carry on my backpack with my photo gear an antihistamine injection just in case, you never know...)

I took off all the ants and I tried again from the other side of a little shrub, where the ants weren't. Again I set myself in an uncomfortable position on the slope, and I was taking the pictures again, suddenly my camera turned off.. I slipped on the slope and slid down on my belly, my legs and arms, and yes I was in shorts…”

Image © Cynthia Bandurek

Retro Kolkata : Are there any special scenic geographical locations that you prefer to shoot at?

Cynthia : I always feel amazed by the tropics because of their biodiversity. Rainforests are an open laboratory where you can discover the magic of nature and the magic of biological processes. As a passionate biologist, seeing the evolution and ecology of the tropics is an inspirational place for me to live and work.

But the good part about macro photography is that you can find small models everywhere.

Retro Kolkata : Do you have any preferable seasons or times of the year for shooting Macro subjects?

Cynthia : When I was living in Argentina, where I am from, the best season for macro is spring, because all the insects are all around flowers and out doing their thing, but now that I am living in the forest of Costa Rica, you can find small creatures, because of the even temperatures.

Image © Cynthia Bandurek

Retro Kolkata : You have been published by several iconic publishers in Photography. Has there been any accomplishment that you are especially proud of?

Cynthia : Any recognition is special, not just for the hard work behind our work, but mostly because my work tries to show aspects of the natural world that are little known, but I believe they are still amazing. So every opportunity to show the beautiful creatures that share the planet with us is important for me.

Retro Kolkata : What exactly is wildlife and natural habitat conservation & why is it important? How can you as a photographer help protect wildlife and conservation?

Cynthia : Conservation is the care and protection of natural resources so that they can persist for future generations. It includes maintaining the diversity of species, genes, and ecosystems, as well as functions of the environment, such as nutrient cycling. As a humanity, we are generating a big impact on the ecosystems and on the species that some of them already disappeared forever and a lot of them are at risk. That is important because every creature has the right to live, but it is also important because our lives depend on the well functioning of every ecosystem and every creature that lives in it.

The core of my photographic work is conservation. I believe that the power of images can be used to change attitudes and behaviours toward the natural world, visuals can bring people closer to nature. I think that the impact can be deeper if we add the scientific knowledge and make people know the importance that every living being has in the intricate network that allows the fragile balance of life and how magnificent their lives can result. – a complete universe of life that remains hidden from most eyes.

Image © Cynthia Bandurek

Retro Kolkata : What are the main challenges that you face as a Macro photographer?

Cynthia : The complexity of macro photography, especially of living beings like arthropods is because all the variables are on limits. Depth of field is practically inexistent, the lack of light especially in big magnification is really evident, the possibility of trepidation is big, the working distance is short, and of course, in most cases, the animal doesn’t stop moving. I think the best way is to have control of all the parameters of the camera, the only ones we can control… nature has its own rules.

Retro Kolkata : Apart from Photography, you are also a beautiful painter and illustrator. What do you consider to be the ingredients for a strong composition in painting?

Cynthia : I like to paint wildlife, and I think one of the most important things, is to pay attention to the eyes, to transmit that the animals are alive, but then speaking about composition there are several resources that we can use to transmit a message, and are the same that we can use with photography. The visual language.

Retro Kolkata : What advice would you give to young photographers who are just starting out and considering pursuing a career in photography?

Cynthia : The best advice I can give is first, study, in a deep way to understand and made all the technical parts of the technique part of you. Then practice, and practice and practice, Be curious and try new things, play with everything, the camera is just a tool to explore our creativeness.

And then study other things that can help you to establish yourself as a photographer and as an entrepreneur, for instance, marketing, storytelling, writing…

Be patient and never give up.

Image © Cynthia Bandurek

Retro Kolkata : We (Retro Kolkata) are trying to build one single stage for all the artists, because we believe that artists are the most beautiful creation of God and geographical boundaries can never break their unity and harmony. Please say something about our initiative and any special message for your followers.

Cynthia : First of all, I have to thank you for having me as a photographer guest on your amazing platform. As a photographer and an artist, I find the initiative really interesting where different kinds of artistic expression can converge in the same place. I believe that inspiration can come even from a completely different aspect of art and life. Thanks for such an amazing project, that also can serve us to grow our networking connecting with other creatives and artists.


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