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Michel Roggo

Sitting on a river shore for hours, waiting for something to happen - and maybe even be paid to do so ... what a life!

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Featured Photographer

Michel Roggo

About

I started photography very late, at the age of 30. A friend insisted that I should try his huge Novoflex 600 mm lens. I had absolutely no interest in photography, but because Im a polite guy, I took the lens with me - and tried it out that same evening in the nearby forest to photograph a Roe Deer. One month later I was in Kenya, with my own Novoflex, to photograph the big animals. Very, very naif! On the first trip out in the bush I had to leave my Datsun Cherry in the mud after a night with heavy rain, walk back for 15 km to a ranger station, through the Lions, Hyenas and Buffalos, without being eaten (and yes, guardian angels exist). But I knew - yes, thats a life, thats what I want!

Website: www.roggo.ch

Interview

Why nature photography?
Its simple - its just to be out there. It can be on the shore of a peat pond, 50 metres away from a motorway in Switzerland, or in the flooded forest of the Amazon. Just to be out there and try to find a unique scenery, something that perhaps no one has seen before - a white spot on the map of our world of images. This curiosity is for me as photographer extremely important.

What's best about it?
Its just to be on my own, to do what I want and to have the full responsibility about that. And, sometimes, to have this fraction of a second, when everything is perfect - but, as we all know, that happens very, very seldom.

What's worst about it?
I dont see any negative side in my job, really. What could be something negative, is the need to sell pictures to make first a living and second to allow investing in new material and projects, that is in fact a certain control of the quality of your work. It means nothing to me, when people say that this is a beautiful picture. But when they pay me for that picture, so I know its okay.

Favourite species and places in Europe?
All whats in freshwater. Fish of course, but as part of the environment. And as the freshwater environment is under pressure everywhere in Europe, Im looking for places where I can find untouched springs, creeks, rivers and lakes. In Switzerland, where I live, its extremely hard to find such places. So I often travel to Scandinavia, to the Balkans.

What's in the bag?
Always the newest digital camera with a big sensor, and the best lenses. Most of the time in an underwater housing, so the bag is heavy. Sometimes I dream to be a photographer travelling around with just that Leica rangefinder in the bag

Your specialities / skills?
Searching for images in the little known world of the rivers, creeks and lakes.

What will you do in your next life?
Exactly the same as I do now. But to start photography a little bit earlier and not only at the age of 30 as I did it in this life (but maybe it was important too just to hang around and do silly things for some years).

3 tips for beginners
1) Dont read just all this technical stuff in the photo magazines. Of course you have to be informed to a certain degree, but finally, its not that important.
2) Better dream about pictures. Go to exhibitions, not only of photographs. Go to a concert, to a good movie. Open your eyes for images wherever you are, not only out in the bush.
3) Dont copy the work of others. Dont always go to the same spots. The Snow monkeys in Hokkaido, the Polar bears in Churchill, the Penguins in Antarctica, thats all done and the photo libraries are full off them.

Mission

The main project was to work on the spawning grounds of the Grayling in the Aare River, Switzerland. This is one of two important spawning grounds left in Switzerland. As a kid I saw the Grayling spawn by the thousands close to my home in the Saane River - today there are zero grayling left. So for me it is important to show, how it was all around the country in every Grayling stream. As it is almost impossible to photograph the development of the eggs and alevins in the gravel bed of the rivers, I decided to do it under controlled conditions in the studio.
As another mission, I worked in the Rhine River near the Rhine Fall, where there is still a good population of different fish species. Downstream, the Rhine is stopped by many dams to produce electricity.
And finally I worked in Slovenia, where there are still many almost untouched rivers, working especially with Chub by the thousands on spawning grounds.

Best Picture

Best Picture
Grayling alevin from Aare River (studio shoot), Switzerland.

What's cool about it?
When I show it to people on my i-Phone, they say E.T. phone home! And as fish are not exactly what people love, I guess its an important picture to talk about the politics around our rivers. Especially in Switzerland, where almost every creek and river is used to produce electricity - with fatal consequences for tiny creatures like this Grayling alevin.

Could it be better?
Of course! But how? To be honest, I was not exactly able to frame the picture. I made the picture with the Canon MP-E 65 lens. This lens is not easy to use; the depth of field at a magnification of 5X at f/16 is just 0.05 mm. So theres a lot of hazard in it.

Behind the Scene
On that day, I was in a hatchery to photograph eggs of the Grayling under studio conditions. By the way, the fish warden showed me the tiny alevins, feeding on plankton. Immediately it was clear, that I first wanted to photograph the alevins. But I only had this 65 mm macro lens and some flashlight. I tried my best, but it was nearly impossible to follow the alevins. Some hours and 600 shots later I was completely exhausted. But with very, very few acceptable shots.

Date: April 2009
Location: Hatchery, Canton of Berne, Switzerland
Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, MP-E 65 mm lens, MT-24EX flashlight

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