Wildlife Photography Inspiration: Interview with Roy Mangersnes

What does it take to become a great wildlife photographer? Photography-RAW got the chance to ask BBC wildlife photographer of the Year 2010 and 2011, Roy Mangersnes a few questions about his photography.

Roy is also a former Nikon ambassador and current 500px Brand Ambassador. He has been awarded European Wildlife Photographer of the Year (GDT) in 2009 and 2010. Furthermore, his work has been published in books and magazines all over the world. So we are truly honored to be able to feature this interview with Roy Mangersnes and hopefully, we can learn more about what it takes to become a better wildlife photographer.

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) courting on ocean ice north of Spitsbergen. Photo by Roy Mangersnes

How did you become interested in wildlife photography? 

I have a master degree in animal behavior and I wanted to share my passion for nature with other people. I started my photography while studying biology at university. I wanted to share my passion for nature with the people around me. From there I started doing articles and stock photography, and eventually also books.

As the market changed and stock photography became difficult I also started doing workshops and photo tours. This developed into a company called WildPhoto Travel that I run with my colleague Ole Jørgen Liodden. Our office is a fine art gallery in Svalbard, and we are currently hosting about 250 people a year to the Norwegian Arctic on 20 boat expeditions, as well as running exclusive photography tours to mainland Norway, Antarctica, Alaska and Greenland.

We also have partners offering tours to many other destinations. So today photography is a marketing tool and a passion for me, not so much a product I can sell like I used to. I still produce books and articles as well as selling prints, but I know I can’t make a living only from this.

Photo by Roy Mangersnes

Which other photographers have inspired you in your wildlife photography and how did they influence you?

Jim Brandenburg – I love his mellow approach to light and wildlife. He also has a great nerve in his photography which I normally don’t find in US wildlife photographers.

Vincent Munier – His pure style has fascinated me for years. I will not admit that I have been directly influenced by his photography, but looking back at my own favourite images I might have picked up a few things along the way.

Staffan Widstrand – Even if Staffan is a great photographer I believe it is more his stamina, and passion that has influenced me most. The way that he works on major projects, that actually makes a difference, should be an example for everyone.

Ole Jørgen Liodden – Ole is my partner at WildPhoto Travel and I keep being amazed and inspired by his professionalism, his work ethics, and his never ending passion for the trade but also his continuing production of groundbreaking images.

Photo by Roy Mangersnes
Photo by Roy Mangersnes

What set of skills is important to be successful in wildlife photography?

Patience and work ethics are important skills, but also knowledge about the subject you are working with is of importance.

How do you prepare before going for a shoot?

Today I am mainly shooting for on assignments or on expeditions and every shoot is different. If I am going out on expeditions I have to focus on the logistics and the clients, but on an assignment I will spend more time focusing on the subject. I try to investigate and learn as much as I can. I also try to establish contacts to assist with getting in position for my shoot.

Photo by Roy Mangersnes

How much is post-processing part of the images you create? And how do you approach post-processing?

I spend very little time on post-processing. I have import settings in Lightroom that give me the most necessary changes to the RAW files, and then I just adjust shadow and highlights and sharpening to the images I like to publish. If I am producing prints, I spend some more time to perfect the final output.

Photo by Roy Mangersnes

How important is gear for this style of photography? And what camera gear do you use?

I find it very important. For me, fast and accurate focus, good dynamics and low noise have been the main priority. Due to my working environment in the Arctic and Antarctic, I also need my equipment to handle the conditions. The best images are shot in bad weather. I have been shooting with Nikon pro bodies and prime lenses for many years now, and I am still very happy with my gear. I would rather carry heavy gear than to compromise on quality.

“The best images are shot in bad weather” – Roy Mangersnes

What camera gear are you looking forward to purchasing next?

I just purchased a DJI Mavic Pro 2 and can’t wait to put it to use.

What is the one piece of advice that you feel has had the most impact on your wildlife photos?

I took a course in composition from a professor in art. I have never learnt so much anywhere.

What advice would you give to someone who’s just getting started with wildlife photography?

Take a lot of photos, see a lot of photos and be critical towards your own images. Also, I need to add; show respect towards the wildlife you are working with. We are only guests in their world.

Photo by Roy Mangersnes
Photo by Roy Mangersnes

What project are you currently working on? (or have you recently finished)

I am currently preparing for my first Svalbard expedition for the season and I have also started to plan for Antarctica in November. There is a lot of logistics involved. I have also just gotten a baby girl and I think I want to spend some time on that “project” as well.

A Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is rising to the surface to take a breath. The rainbow is formed in the breath of the whale. Expedition ship MS Origo is bringing tourists to the Arctic. From Hinlopen on Svalbard. Photo by Roy Mangersnes

What is your favorite photo location?

I have just become a father and am currently enjoying my days at home, doing smaller projects in the area and finishing some office work. However, I am always planning new adventures and in April I will be back in Svalbard to host a photography expedition. I will also do three more Svalbard tours in July – September before I go back to Antarctica in November. Perhaps something will come up, but for now, I enjoy being a father to a beautiful little girl.

Roy Mangersnes

You can see more of Roy Mangersnes work at his website or the tours and workshops he is doing. More amazing wildlife photos from him can be found on his Instagram or Facebook page.

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Hey I’m Peter. I’m the owner and editor of Photography-RAW. I make sure that you get the best articles about photography. Personally, I prefer to shoot landscape, nature and macro photography. I hope you enjoy the site 🙂
Hey I’m Peter. I’m the owner and editor of Photography-RAW. I make sure that you get the best articles about photography. Personally, I prefer to shoot landscape, nature and macro photography. I hope you enjoy the site 🙂
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2 thoughts on “Wildlife Photography Inspiration: Interview with Roy Mangersnes”

  1. Fantastic and most interesting article.
    Certainly out of my reach visiting the arctic and Norway but may when luck comes up with a win on the lottery there could be strong chance of such a visit.

    • Hi Roy,
      Great that you enjoyed the article. The Arctic is out of reach of most of us, but we can dream, and hope for a lottery ticket. Norway is not that expensive if you live in Europe that is.


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