We're really pleased to have 5 minutes with New Zealand based Wildlife Photographer, Nicole Baker!
You can follow Nicole's work on Instagram, but don't go doing that until you've had a read below! Let's jump straight into the good stuff.
Hello! Who are you, what do you do, and how long have you been doing it?
My name is Nicole Baker, I live in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. I am a wildlife photographer, which, being based in New Zealand, means a whole lot of birds! Which is great because we are very lucky to have an abundance of amazing birds, with so many unique native species. I have been interested in content creation and photography for many years, starting an adventure travel Instagram in 2016 and in 2020 decided to follow my passion for wildlife photography. It has been a very exciting journey so far, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me.
When you started out in the field you’re in, how did you get your first “break” / was there a defining moment you just knew “This is what I want to do!”
I wouldn’t say that I have necessarily had any big “breaks” as such yet, but it was pretty epic featuring on both New Zealand Birds Online (on a few of their species pages) and on the Sony Alpha official page for New Zealand. Can I say that this interview is a pretty cool moment for me too!? For me, the defining moment when I just knew that being a wildlife photographer was what I wanted to do, was when I took a hiatus from Instagram. I took a break to reassess what mattered to me and what I enjoyed doing, and very quickly realised that I was the happiest when I was around wildlife and nature. When I went out to take photos of the birds around Mauao (Mount Maunganui) I felt super peaceful and could spend hours just watching them. I have my certificate in animal care and always thought I would work with animals; I just did not realise I would be behind a camera doing so. I decided that I wanted to change my photography direction and so invested in myself by purchasing a Sony camera. Since then, it has been an epic whirlwind of experiences, a steep learning curve, and some exciting opportunities. I cannot wait for them to continue and to keep growing as a wildlife photographer!
When people like me ask you that question “What’s your favourite photograph you’ve ever taken” which one do you think of first?
This is a great question because it is so hard to answer. I would have to say it is my latest photo of the heron fishing. I spent many maaaany hours and days at the Estuary at low tide, edging as slowly as possible to the herons so as to not disturb them, then sat there in the mud with little crabs nipping me while I waited for the heron to fish. I was expecting to just get a cool shot of something in his mouth, but when he pounced like a tiger and spread his wings wide and I was able to capture the movement and even the water dripping from his beak, now that was pretty special for me.
Do you have a photographic inspiration?
Oh so many, but if I was to name one it would be @mikullashbee His bird photography is absolutely stunning, and he is also super humble and has given me advice throughout my journey. I would love to go birding together some day! Another photographic inspiration is nature and the birds themselves. It is captivating to watch how everything works together, to see the water droplets on their backs after they have dove down under the water to fish, or the way the light reflects in their eyes, and truthfully it is wonderful finding and discovering more and more species.
What gear do you mostly use and what bags do you use mainly?
I use my new Sony A9 + the Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens. I used to use my Nikon D3300 + the 70-300mm when I first started out and it was pretty great, so would recommend that (or similar) as a beginner option but I must admit I am loving my new set up. The one and only bag I use and will forever is my ThinkTank BackLight 18L, it is incredible and fits my 200-600mm attached to my camera body, as well as my Nikon with the 70-300mm AND my Sigma 30mm prime lens. It is incredible the space for such a little bag! Especially as I then have a lot of storage at the front and sides for my tripod, water bottles, jacket, and most importantly, snacks. I do also have an Osprey hiking bag that I use more for the overnight or full-on day hikes but am hoping to purchase the BackLight Elite 45L for that instead. I also have a wee ThinkTank Digital Holster 150 coming in the post, which I believe will be so useful for the shorter trips out to just grab and go!
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to do what you do?
Honestly, just go for it. Do not let anything hold you back and follow what makes you passionate. If I told little Nicole she would end up being a bird photographer, she would have probably laughed since I used to find birds boring and my Mam is terrified of them, but look at me now, haha! It does not matter about the gear you have or the time, obviously these things are important, but just start with what you have. You can always upgrade later on, so use that 6-year-old camera body with the budget lens, go out straight after work on the evenings, or plan weekends away somewhere. If you really love it, you will make time for it. Don’t be defeated if your photos aren’t perfect, have fun in the experience. Take inspiration from others but don’t compare as we all had to start somewhere, also don’t be afraid to reach out, it’s a really great community. Hopefully see you out there one day!
Great words from Nicole! What's stopping you - get out there and make photographs.
Make sure you follow Nicole over on Instagram where we'll be featuring her work all week. (Which you've already seen because *points up* you're an early bird...) Follow Nicole Here