Get Up Close and Personal with Animals in “Big”

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Judging from the typical pet-packed social media feed, most of us aspire to capture the personality, majesty, and foibles of cats and dogs. But some intrepid and highly skilled photographers up their animal photo game by getting close to subjects that are a little trickier to shoot.

In their new book “BIG: A Photographic Album of the World’s Largest Animals,” wildlife photographers and friends Marko Dimitrijevic and Amos Nachoum dwarf our cat video efforts with gorgeous and amazing photos of the animal world. The heavy, bilingual coffee table book, published by German company teNeues Publishing Group, gives you an up-close look at animals most of us will only ever see in zoos. The photographers grouped their shots by emotion, with sections on awe and gratitude, respect and fear, astonishment and surprise, love and enchantment, and achievement and excitement.

What does it take to capture intimate wildlife photos? In addition to skill and equipment, you need patience, determination, and courage. Nachoum is one of the only people in the world to dive with polar bears. In one incredible photo, he jumps in to photograph a mother polar bear and her two cubs underwater, staring right at him. And lives to tell…and show. But somehow Nachoum’s photo of a leopard seal catching a Gentoo penguin makes the seal look even scarier than a bear. You’ve got to wonder what the animals think when a human with a big camera suddenly inserts himself into their daily lives. Nachoum caught the leopard seal just at dinnertime, after it had drowned a small penguin and was about to devour it. Instead, it paused to stare the photographer down. “The seal positioned itself just in front of me, holding the penguin just under its chin looking directly at me,” Nachoum told me in an email. “I froze in disbelief and surprise. I was looking into the large seal’s eyes while it was holding the lifeless penguin under its chin, protecting it from me.”

All these close encounters go beyond thrills for the photographers, as they believe the more the general public knows about animals, the more they will care. Their conservation efforts include Nachoum creating an international collision avoidance program that uses AI gear to protect blue whales from ships.

One of Dimitrijevic’s most emotional adventures was photographing blue whales. While these whales don’t want to eat you, they do measure up to 100 feet long and weigh 200 tons. Dimitrijevic and Nachoum used kayaks to get up close. “We saw it swim under us; its body seemed to go on forever. Finally it dove into the abyss. We looked at each other, took off our masks, and giggled like little boys. What a thrill: how many people have seen a blue whale in the water? We are two of the lucky few.”

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Teresa Bergen
Teresa Bergen
Teresa Bergen is a Portland, Oregon-based author who specializes in the outdoors, vegan and sustainable travel. Her articles appear in many publications and she’s author of Easy Portland Outdoors and co-author of Historic Cemeteries of Portland, Oregon.

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