Brandon Harvey has come a long way from snapping pictures with his hand-me-down film point-and-shoot. As the operations manager of Maple Leaf Adventures and a mate aboard the 28-metre schooner they use to take expeditions to the Great Bear Rainforest, he uses photography to tell the story of each trip. And he is rarely without his camera close at hand.
What do you shoot with these days?
I'm a Canon guy. I recently upgraded to a full-frame sensor Canon. I'm shooting a 6D. GoPros have become a very commonplace piece of equipment on the ship, to the point where the majority of the crew own one. The quality is quite phenomenal for such a little machine you can throw in your pocket.
What have you learned about wildlife photography over your 15 years of experience?
When I was a less experienced photographer, it was a common drive to get really close-up pictures and try to fill the frame with that beautiful animal's face and eyes. That was my big focus. I started reflecting on other photography that I liked and I realized that context was really important. It's beautiful to show a bear, but also important to show where it lives, its habitat and the scenery. It makes for better photography.
Given your job often has you shooting in the same places, how do you keep photography interesting?
Every morning, we wake up and we have a plan. But we just don't know what's going to come out of the woods or what's going to walk down a river. Yes, you may be shooting bears hunting salmon and it is similar to the years before, but there is always going to be different light, different weather. There might be fog for ambiance that you didn't have the year before. If you go in late August and return to that same place three or four weeks later, you're going to see a very different estuary or landscape than you did the month before. That keeps it fresh.
What advice do you have for new photographers looking to go on the Great Bear Rainforest Expedition Cruise or another Maple Leaf Adventure?
My best advice would be to really understanding how your gear works and what it is capable of before you get on the trip. I would never recommend people go out and drop thousands of dollars on gear because the gear is only as good as the person using it. It's better to have gear that you're comfortable and confident with than go and invest a lot of money right before a trip and not really know what you're getting into. Take the time to practice and understand your camera.
And once they are on an expedition aboard Maple Leaf?
I think it's great to take photos, but something I really encourage everybody to do — even obsessed photographers — is to stop and put the camera down for a minute and just take it in. Don't make it all about the end product. You just have to stop and enjoy it for what it is. I think in doing that, you are going to become a better photographer because you are likely going to see things you may have missed with the camera to your eye. People miss a lot of things because they are obsessed with their cameras.
Would you like to join Wildlife Artist Robert Bateman and his wife Birgit Freybe Bateman for a cruise of the Great Bear Rainforest? The Canadian Geographic/Maple Leaf Adventures expedition takes place this June. Visit Maple Leaf Adventures' website for more details.