Raising awareness with a camera: photographing reptiles and amphibians in the Columbian forest with Sebastián Di Doménico

Photo courtesy of © Sebastián Di Doménico

At only 26 years old, Colombian photographer Sebastián Di Doménico has already accomplished a lot in his time as a wildlife photographer. With work featured in publications like National Geographic, The Guardian, Biogeographic magazine and others, Di Doménico has spent the past five years bringing attention to the secret life of wild animals.  

As he puts it, he uses his camera to celebrate the beauty of some of the “strangest and most feared animals in Colombia.” Specializing in photographing amphibians and reptiles, he uses his photography to raise awareness around the importance of these animals to the ecosystem. 

We got together with Sebastián to learn more about how he got involved with photographing animals in different regions of South America and about his unique photographic style which he defines as “portrait lighting techniques applied to animals and their environment.” 

Tree frog photography

Photo courtesy of © Sebastián Di Doménico

Raising awareness through photography

In the beginning, when he went out to look for animals, he didn't even take photos with a camera, he used only his cell phone. When he returned and showed off the creatures he had seen to his friends he found that they all wanted to know more about the animals in the pictures.

“That's when I realized the potential of photography to bring awareness and conservation messages to people who don't know about the richness of South America's forests.” 

Always having been a lover of nature and animals, he began to learn how to use a camera in order to share that passion with others. After a while, however, he started taking landscape and documentary photography in order to tell better stories. 

“I live in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, but unfortunately it is one of the countries that most destroy its biodiversity. So my idea was to give a voice to those animals that can't speak for themselves and bring their message to the people.”

Sebastián believes that an image says more than a thousand words and is inspired by the knowledge that he can generate a positive change by using social networks to transmit the message as far and as wide as possible. He has even produced work specifically for social media with more content on the way.

Years of trying to spot species have somehow turned me into a ‘Pokemon master,’ now I feel I have to capture all the animals with my camera.

Advice for getting started in wildlife photography

After years of photographing wildlife, Sebastián has learned the ropes. He recommends that anyone wanting to improve their wildlife photography investigate the area ahead of time to optimize the chances of finding the animals they are looking for, as well as making sure to time their trips according to the animal’s sleep schedule, but even then, you never know what you will find. 

“If it’s a bird that is seen frequently, I have an idea of how I would like to photograph it. However, there are moments where rare animals appear out of nowhere and for those moments you have to improvise. 

Before a trip, I study the species and have a good idea of how a photo might look if I find what I'm looking for... If it’s a frog or a snake, I have to go out for long walks in the forest at night and take a kit focused on macro subjects.” 

He says it’s essential to be persistent and always carry water, plastic boots, camera equipment, flashlights, charged batteries and lots of coffee! 

But even when you are most prepared, you can’t plan for everything. 

 

Photo courtesy of © Sebastián Di Doménico

 

From failure to success

In his career, Sebastián says he has had “thousands of failures” from putting his trust in the wrong people, to making photo galleries with no visitors, to not making the cut in photography competitions. But for him, each failure is an important lesson helping him raise the bar and he knows that the best way to learn is by trial and error. 

Only by making mistakes do we learn how to do things better. I have failed a thousand and one times trying to take pictures of animals either because they escaped or because I made a mistake myself.

His biggest success, on the other hand, would make many photographers green with envy. He has published a photograph on the National Geographic website, fulfilling one of his biggest dreams. 

 

Brown bear nature photography

Photo courtesy of © Sebastián Di Doménico

Some trips are more dangerous than others 

The life of a wildlife photographer is anything but boring. We asked Sebastián to tell us a story about one of his most intense, interesting, exciting or funny shoots, and we were not disappointed.

“There was a time when I worked largely on taking photographs of animals in the studio. During a trip to the Amazon a poisonous snake showed up in the hotel and I decided to place it in the studio before releasing it away from the resort. The people at the hotel were very afraid of it and wouldn’t let me take pictures in common areas so it was necessary to do the photoshoot in a shower. Let’s just say being locked up with a poisonous snake in a shower taking pictures is a very... stressful situation.” 

Wildlife photography

Photo courtesy of © Sebastián Di Doménico

“I believe that a good nature photographer needs a good balance of the following qualities: Patience, perseverance, and creativity.” 

Be sure to stop by his website to see more photos and follow him on Instagram here! 

If you enjoyed reading about wildlife photographer Sebastián Di Doménico, be sure to read more about how Todd Feeney followed his passion for photography after a life-changing heart attack or about Siegried Dubois’s concert photography career.  

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