INJUSTICES WITNESSED AS A CHILD AFFORDED DOUG GIMESY THE COURAGE TO USE HIS SKILLS TO GIVE A VOICE TO THOSE WHO CAN’T SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.
If the definition of success is turning your passion into a career then Melbourne photographer Doug Gimesy may just be among the accomplished people walking the planet. The son of a “very kind and gentle mother” but a “selfish and bullying father”, Doug was exposed early to the impact inconsiderate behaviour can have on those unable to speak out.
Increasingly sensitive to this type of injustice and only too aware how nature and wildlife are at the mercy of human practices, he graduated as a zoologist but later learned to use his passion for photography as a tool to help those affected. “Since I first graduated as a zoologist about 30 years ago, the number of animals in the wild has halved, the number of marine species has halved and human population has doubled.
The pressure we have placed on our natural world continues to increase unabated, and we need to do what we can to address this. For me the appropriate use of imagery can be a powerful tool to help people discover, value and protect the natural world – well, that’s my hope anyway.”
Doug also holds Masters Degrees in Bioethics and the Environment. In addition to his conservation photography, he is a Governor of the World Wide Fund for nature (WWF) in Australia and sits on the Monash Health Human Research Ethics Committee.
Self-taught but still reluctant to call himself a professional shooter as the majority of his income is not derived from photography, Doug has been a member of the AIPP for about three years and along with conservation videographer partner Heather does a lot of pro-bono work for not-for-profits whose values align with his own. His work has seen him shoot in various overseas locations including in the Southern Ocean, Antarctica, South America and New Zealand however it is the 53-year-old’s work on a photojournalism piece on Kangaroo Island that has garnered him the most recent critical attention.
Named the winner of the 2016 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year ‘Our impact’ category, his image entitled ‘The Killing Field’ was part of a broader series (Fast cars, slow deaths) that aimed to highlight how many animals on the island are killed or injured by vehicle impact – especially between dusk and dawn.
To help raise awareness and support a petition he launched calling for a reduction in dusk to dawn speed limits on the island, Doug says he wanted to try and capture in just one image, a picture that told the story that driving fast at night plays an important part in wildlife road trauma.
Having been using Nikon equipment since being introduced to it by contemporary Daisy Gilardini around three years ago, Doug shot the image with his in field camera-of-choice, a Nikon D750, owing to its good low light capabilities and rear tilt LED screen. “It was our last day on the island and someone had told me that a kangaroo had just been hit and killed a short distance from where we were staying. So we drove down, found it, marked the spot, and then went back later that night to set up. It took about three hours to get it right. Setting up the composition wasn’t too hard, but getting the exposure and lighting correct was really tough. I wanted to have the car going past very underexposed so it looked ghostly on the road, but the car lights and speed sign perfectly exposed, with the kangaroo highlighted.”
The image was captured on Doug’s second photo-documentary visit to the island, having been to Kangaroo Island seven months earlier as part of the same project. In his first attempt Doug felt the image captured didn’t have the visual impact or all components needed to tell the full story.
“It was also poorly lit – it seemed flat as I had used only one flash – and didn’t have a speed sign in the background. For the feel I wanted, I knew I’d need to use at least two flashes, but I had never been very confident using even one flash. So two flashes, fired many seconds apart, was going to be a challenge for me, especially when in the field with variable conditions.
To up-skill, I did a portrait lighting course, then a one-on-one session with Glynn Lavender who is great at using flash, and using it quickly. I then practiced back on the country roads just out side of Melbourne. [For the winning shot] I used two Nikon SB910 flashes, fired 27 seconds apart and both in manual mode. One was hand held and fired manually near the start of the exposure just as the car drove past (through a small diffuser). The second fired was set up on a stand with an umbrella and fired as a rear curtain flash when the car was in the distance.”
Seeking a “clean, crisp, clinical” image, he chose a NIKKOR AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR lens with a focal length set at 26mm in the hope it would allow him to capture the image he wanted without any significant image distortion. A second image from this series, which depicts the dedication and affection provided to an orphaned joey by members of the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Network, recently made the finals of The Big Picture competition in the US.
His work can also be seen in an upcoming National Geographic Travel magazine, which purchased seven of his images for a piece it is doing on Melbourne. However with his conservation work continuing to take priority, Doug and Heather will shortly head to Africa where they will create a short educational and fund raising video that aims to highlight the great work done by Cheetah Conservation Botswana. “After that I am going to try and focus primarily on Australian conservation issues however it’s just so easy to get lured away to exotic places.”
To find out more about Doug’s photography work visit www.gimesy.com, www.facebook.com/DougGimesyPhotography or www.instagram.com/doug_gimesy. To add your signature to Doug’s petition to introduce dusk-to-dawn speed limits on Kangaroo Island, go to www.kiwildlifetrauma.com
Words: Tracey Porter