PROFILE

Bruno D'Amicis

An ibex and the branches of a tree silhouetted against the evening sky.

"Over the years, I have discovered that photography is the most powerful language for conservation," says Canon Ambassador Bruno D'Amicis. "It conveys a message and raises awareness." This photo of an endangered walia ibex grazing in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains was taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens at 70mm, 1/1600 sec, f/8 and ISO800. © Bruno D'Amicis

Wilderness is more than an ecological condition for Canon Ambassador Bruno D'Amicis – it's a state of mind. With a strong conservation agenda, the Italian photojournalist has spent the past 20 years documenting endangered creatures in some of the world's last remaining wild areas, from the wolves and bears of Italy's rugged Apennine Mountains to the elusive Saharan fennec fox.

"My photography is a quest to satisfy the curiosity I developed as a child for the natural world," says Bruno. "My photographic sensibility has been shaped by the sensations I've felt in the wildest corners of Italy. Out there, the hand of man vanishes and you're in a pocket of timeless reality."

Born in 1979, Bruno had an urban upbringing in Rome but enjoyed holidays in the Abruzzo region, where his father's family originates from. Roaming free in the southern Italian countryside, he spent time fishing, camping, mushroom foraging and, from the age of 12, taking pictures with his dad's old SLR.

Self-taught besides a few basic courses, Bruno would pore over the pages of his father's National Geographic magazine collection and many photo books. By the late 1990s, he was getting serious about photography and bought his first Canon camera – a T90 – soon followed by an EOS-3, and eventually he made the leap into digital with a Canon EOS 10D. His main camera now is a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.


Location: Abruzzo, Italy
Specialist areas: Nature, wildlife, conservation
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM

A lean Apennine wolf stands on a beach looking out to sea.

"This is the first picture ever taken in Europe documenting a wild wolf on a sea coast," Bruno says of this photo. The wolf in question is an Apennine wolf – a near threatened species that has suffered due to hunting and poisoning by humans. Taken on a Canon EOS 7D Mark II with a Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 1/200 sec, f/5.6 and ISO1600. © Bruno D'Amicis

In 2004, on completing his MSc in biology, Bruno decided to give wildlife photography a proper shot, and moved to Berlin, since he believed Germany offered a better market for photography. "I had no money, so I was going around the city on my bike, photographing urban wildlife – foxes and wild boars," he says. He teamed up with a like-minded German photographer, Florian Möllers – a collaboration that taught him how to work as a professional photographer, including pitching to clients, developing ideas and focusing on narratives, and thinking in terms of stories rather than single images.

This set him on a path that led to membership of the German Society for Nature Photography, and his first assignment: a book documenting wild Berlin, commissioned by the council's department for green spaces. With his fee, he bought a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM) and headed to the Tatra Mountains, along the border of northern Slovakia. There he photographed wild bears, a long-term project that would become his next book, The Last Stronghold: Fifteen Years in the Company of Bears. Since then, he has published several more books, including Ornata: The Most Beautiful Chamois of the World, Time for Wolves and The Secret of the Giants, all focused on the Apennine region where he now resides.

A nighttime shot of a fennec fox in a starlit desert.

Bruno has described this photograph of an adult fennec fox as "one of my most sought-after and beloved images". It was taken on a winter night in the Sahara desert, with a camera trap setup that used a short flash beam and a five second exposure to capture both the subject and the incredible starry sky. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens at 40mm, 5 secs, f/5.6, and ISO3200. © Bruno D'Amicis

As well as editorial work for clients such as National Geographic, GEO and BBC Wildlife, Bruno always makes space and time for self-initiated projects, such as his acclaimed series on the threatened fennec fox, which won top awards in both the World Press Photo and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competitions in 2014. Increasingly, he also creates multimedia for NGOs and governmental bodies.

"Photography is still my main language, but this has become a means to help conservationists or scientists to get their message out further," he explains. "I like to do projects that have a positive or thought-provoking end result. I always have a mission in mind."

You've photographed endangered creatures around the world – from bears to wolves, even snails… which was the most challenging?
"Each subject presents its own unique set of difficulties. Besides, the more experienced you get, the higher your expectations because you want to raise your standards. That said, the fennec foxes were really difficult to photograph. On the border between Algeria and Tunisia, I faced a hostile environment with intense heat and sandstorms. My kit was exposed to grit and fine sand, which can get into the focusing barrels. On top of that, I was dealing with a small and super-skittish animal with an incredible sense of hearing."

Does your scientific background influence the kind of images you take?
"I like to frame my subjects in their context. As a trained biologist, I want to show where the animal lives and how important its habitat is for the species' survival. So my first approach is to go for wide environmental shots with a strong composition, sharp across the whole frame."

Beyond this, how would you describe your visual style?
"Light is really important for me to give depth to my images and strong contours to my subjects. I like simplicity. A perfect picture in my opinion has no more than two or three colours so I like the desert or the snow as both give clean, minimalist backgrounds. But I also like the complete opposite – really strong close-ups: an animal's eyes; the detail of the dorsal pattern of the scales of a snake or fish; the design of a mammal's coat; or the wing of a bird."

How do you ensure your presence doesn't impact on the places you work?
"Knowledge of your subjects is fundamental to avoid disrupting their behaviour or harming them in any way. Research is key. If I'm in the field for a month, I'll spend two months planning and researching beforehand. It's incredible how much information you can now get before going to a place – satellite data, scientific papers, even pictures of the area shot by amateurs can help."

One thing I know

Bruno D'Amicis

"I love taking strong pictures but I would never put the life of a subject at risk because of my photographic ambitions. You develop a certain sixth sense about when the situation isn't OK and I'm always happy to step back if necessary. Working slowly and allowing yourself time is the best way to ensure your work is meaningful. If you don't force events, they will unfold the way they should, and you will be rewarded more than you can imagine. The most unique pictures I have taken were gifts that were given to me from the fact I was spending time with the subject, not pushing the situation."

Instagram: @brunodamicisphoto

Facebook: @brunodamicisphoto

Website: www.brunodamicis.com


Bruno D'Amicis's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Camera

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Designed to perform in every situation, the EOS 5D Mark IV is beautifully engineered and a thoroughly accomplished all-rounder. "I love the Canon 5D series because of the size, the relatively silent shutter, especially on the newer models, and the incredible file quality," says Bruno. "I use the Canon 5D Mark IV as my main camera body and the older 5D series models for camera trapping."

Lenses

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

A professional-quality standard zoom that offers outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range. "My favourite lenses are the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM. These two lenses are so versatile, they always come with me, wherever I go," says Bruno.

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM

A high-magnification, super-telephoto lens featuring integrated Image Stabilizer technology. The perfect solution for wildlife, nature and sports photographers working in the field. "The Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM is my most beloved lens in terms of quality and the balance between magnification and being lightweight, which I find especially useful when photographing mammals," says Bruno.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

With its fast maximum aperture and rapid focusing system, the compact, high performance EF 50mm f/1.4 USM standard lens can be relied on for superb performance. "Small and compact, this unobtrusive lens is perfect for portraits, night photography and some unusual landscapes," says Bruno. "We are taught as wildlife photographers to lie low, to get wide or to get really tight. This all works, but sometimes I like to experiment with a human perspective by shooting down at the subject from my 1.78m height."

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Capture stunning landscapes and architectural images using this compact and lightweight, high-performance, f/4 fixed aperture, ultra-wide-angle zoom lens with Image Stabilizer. "An astonishingly sharp and perfectly correct lens, it works amazingly well even against the light or handheld," says Bruno. "For me it's essential for reportage or shooting landscapes."

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

An ultra-wide-angle zoom that offers excellent image quality and a constant maximum aperture. Its compact, lightweight body makes it an ideal travelling companion. "I own an old model of this lens, sharp and reliable, now it's often my choice for camera trapping."

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

This versatile lens gives great results in portrait work and handheld movie-making, thanks to its ability to achieve a shallow depth of field with beautiful bokeh, along with built-in Hybrid Image Stabilization and lightweight design. "Very lightweight and sharp, I use it to document the micro world or to take portraits of people, or even to photograph wildlife at close range in low-light conditions," says Bruno.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM

Ideal for those on the move, this telephoto zoom lens is highly compact yet delivers the kind of image quality that will take your breath away. "This is my travel-light zoom, very sharp and versatile – I take it with me whenever my bag is too full," says Bruno.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM

High-performance L-series super-telephoto lens, with 4-stop Image Stabilizer with three modes, ideal for all types of action photography. "Super-sharp and fast AF: this is my lens of choice when working in the forest or in very low light," says Bruno. "With new camera sensors, it's the lens to experiment with in moonlight or very dark conditions."

Accessories

Canon Extender EF 1.4x III

Ideal for press, sports and nature photography, this compact extender increases the focal length of Canon L-series telephoto or telephoto zoom lens' by a factor of 1.4x, with higher AF accuracy and improved communication between camera and lens. "This extender is so sharp, I simply don't see a difference when it's attached to my prime tele lenses," says Bruno.

Canon Extender EF 2x III

A professional grade extender that increases focal length of L-series lenses by 2x. Bruno says: "When working with skittish subjects, I am not afraid to use this with my telephoto lenses when I need more magnification."

Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

The successor to the 550EX that Bruno uses is engineered for fast frame rate shooting, and performs in the most demanding situations. "I own a lot of Speedlite flashes," says Bruno. "I don't use artificial light very often, but when necessary they have never let me down."

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