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Solvin Zankl

In this job it does happen that on the flight home nobody really wants to sit beside you. However, despite the smell of guano - I somehow feel attached to seabirds. Important: "Talk" to your subjects on eye-level!.

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Featured Photographer

Solvin Zankl


I was born 1971 in Marburg , Germany and began my career as a photographer in 1989, inspired by the experience of a one-year stay in the Caribbean at St. Croix , U.S. Virgin Islands . Later, I completed my Master in Marine Biology at the University of Kiel - and being close to the Baltic Sea and the North Sea with its famous tidal flats I began to photograph life above and below the sea surface. Since 1999 I have been working as a professional photographer, specialised in producing wildlife stories on assignment all over the world.

I always try to catch the behaviour and the typical character of my subject from my personal view. My pictures are printed in many magazines worldwide, including GEO, BBC Wildlife, Natural History Magazine, Airone, Illustreret Videnskab, Terre Sauvage as well as in the book of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

Website: www.solvinzankl.com/


Why nature photography?
Wildlife photography is what I am good at! I want to deliver my impressions and emotions to the viewers of my pictures. My own scientific roots are the reason for the documentary style of my stories. And when my pictures help to promote nature conservation I am truly happy…

What's best about it?
What I really like about my profession is the fact that I work in a field where I myself see my biggest talents in. What a gift.

What's worst about it?
Travelling by plane is the worst for me…I try to avoid it whenever possible, but for many expeditions there is no other way. I regularly put a project within Europe into my timetable and then I travel as I like it the most: on ground and on the water!

The shift to digital photography further increased the time spent in front of the computer. I feel like I need more time to get out and take new pictures, so I try to outsource as much of the office work as possible.

Favourite species and places in Europe?
I personally am fond of seabirds, especially the Northern Gannet. The shape in flight, the coloration and the plunge diving of this bird really got me. Consequently my favourite place in Europe must be – Bass Rock, of course. Working there I can really throw myself into it, with all senses. The intense smell, the special sound, and the beautiful sight of a Gannet breeding colony together are simply wonderful.

What's in the bag?
Not long ago I used to get to the safety check-in at the airport with several clear freezer bags full of film in my hands – telling people that I insist on a hand-check, how film-safe the x-rays ever may be! These days are over - I carry memory cards instead.

Packing up is digitalised as well: I listed every piece of equipment in a spreadsheet in my computer together with the respective weight. I can customise the weight of the luggage before I packed it!

Two cameras, lenses between 14 and 400 mm, tripod, flashes, batteries, memory cards, laptop… and a hat! Never forget your hat when you wear a hairstyle like I do. Whether it’s cold or hot - you’ll need it!

Your specialities / skills?
I think a very important skill is my patience and my ability to be really focused, how uncomfortable everything around me ever may get. And I can go on without eating for a long time! People assisting me have to consider that or they may just get close to starving (remember, I will go on being focused…).

Last but not least I always feel a strong, true interest in the whole story about the animals in front of my lens.

What will you do in your next life?
Maybe I could be a professional beekeeper and a hobby photographer (vice versa in my present life).

3 tips for beginners
1) Find your own way.
2) Be creative.
3) Very important: learn to discard second choice pictures and to condense your selection.


I will visit a world that many people do not know from their own experience: the underwater world. Our physical constraints simply work against us down there and not being able to spend more than 2 hours per day on site searching for your well camouflaged or fast swimming objects is one of the biggest handicaps in underwater photography.

The Tuscan Archipelago National Park (ital.: Arcipelago Toscano) in the Mediterranean Sea will be the place for me to go. This park consists of a chain of islands around Elba and protects the surrounding sea.

I will put my focus on the small underwater life as crabs, corals, bivalves and sponges to show the colourful marine realm. But I will also turn away from the hard bottom communities and the sandy sea grass beds towards the open water, where sea turtles, dolphins, sunfishes and tuna fishes live. I know that they are definitely out there – if I will see them, I do not know. Everything can happen right in front of you…or just around the corner and you will never know that it was there. I will depend on the experiences and support of local people and due to the limited time, I need an extra ration of luck to get the Mediterranean highlights into the frame.

Best Picture

Best Picture

What's cool about it?
I took this picture a long time ago, but I still like it a lot. The challenge was to get the duck right into the reflection of the setting sun. I had to adjust my position, considering the angle of the sun coming down and the direction the duck took. The former was much easier to estimate than the latter (as you can tell from the track). And what if the duck would not have turned its head to show the silhouette of the beak…

Could it be better?
Well, in fact I really like it as it is! Others may think different.

Behind the Scene
For me this picture carries the essence of the wonderful German Wadden sea in the peaceful, quiet time span around sunset. It makes me think of the birdcalls you can hear there in the evenings. I always liked to be at the Wadden sea, whether being a child myself, and later showing it to others during my time as a warden at Pellworm, or today going there with my own two sons.

Date: 1993
Location: Pellworm, Wadden Sea , Germany
Gear: Nikon F4, 300 mm and x2 extender, 1/350 sec at f2.8

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