Speaking of equipment, what camera kit does Steve prefer when working? Has he stuck with his first camera brand Canon, or has he since moved over to one of its rivals?
‘I’ve always been a Canon user,’ he reveals. ‘From the Canon FTB 35mm film SLR I used in South Africa to the EOS 1Ds Mk III cameras that I currently have. The Canon system has always worked well for me and I’ve had very few problems with it.
‘When I returned from the safari in 1994 I immediately went out and bought my own EOS 1 along with a set of lenses including a 600mm, a 300mm, a 70-200mm zoom, a 17-35mm zoom and a 24mm wideangle prime. That set-up served me extremely well for many years before digital arrived.’
So what was the first digital camera to tempt him away from 35mm film?
‘That would be the Canon EOS 1Ds Mk I. At the time of buying it I did some tests to compare it to film and felt it was there at 11 megapixels. From that point on I started doing digital wildlife photography.
‘Since then I have with the Canon 1Ds series, owning every new incarnation of it – from the original 11MP 1Ds, to the 16.7MP 1Ds Mk II and the 21MP 1Ds Mk III version.’
And how does he find Canon’s current top-end DSLR? Are there any ways in which it has helped to improve his photography?
The 1Ds Mark III is an absolutely fantastic camera,’ he says. ‘Once I’d got it I went to northern Canada to photograph polar bears and it was the coldest I’ve ever been; it got to -49°C and Canon hadn’t tested the camera in those kind of conditions. But I found that it worked fantastically. One thing that was really interesting was that I was able to shoot at quite a high ISO in the cold because the colder the camera the less visual noise there is, because it’s often the heat of the camera that creates the digital grain. I was shooting at ISO 400 and getting remarkably little noise.
Image: Indian Elephant, Andaman Islands - 'I shot this at sunset. I like the way the elephant is mirrored – there’s symmetry to it.' Canon EOS 1D Mark II. Canon 70-200mm. 1/200sec @ f/8.
And are there any things about the 1Ds that he would change, given the chance? ‘Well, for the past few years I’ve stopped using the motordrive,’ he replies. ‘Obviously, for many wildlife photographers a motordrive helps to capture fast-moving action, but for me I am more interested in using my brain and my eye-to-hand co-ordination to make the decision as to exactly when I am going to press the shutter. Even if there is something very exciting happening. I like to engage and feel like there is some kind of connection between the subject and me, and I don’t get that with a motordrive.’
So overall, what advice for photographers does Steve suggest? ‘I think it’s a great challenge for people to say, “I’m only going to take 10 exposures today” and they’ll then find that those 10 exposures are pretty good if they are really thinking about them.’