Hi Filipe! We have known each other for a long time, since we lived together in Angola. And it’s a great pleasure to have you for this interview my friend. Could you start by introducing yourself to the readers?
Hello Hugo, looks like an eternity and still clearly remember the night I met you – dinner, a big discussion at the table with us having 2 totally diverging points about some issues but always laughing about it. That is the way that discussions should be! I am Portuguese guy, born in Lisbon in 1980, raised in Faro, studied Economics back in Lisbon – a man with zero skills but adapted to do anything “A-OK” – now wandering around the world trying to find my cozy special place while applying to jobs in my career area in any random country I can find and try to enjoy it as possible.
Since you started collaborating with NGOs on development projects, which one motivated you the most? Could you give a brief description of the places and projects for which you have given your valuable contribution?
As a Finance Manager on NGOs rarely I can really give my valuable contribution that can be seen – it is a backstage operation – but I usually my “special contribution” makes everything needed to happen to be possible, we just need to take the risk and a start a blank MS-Excel sheet. Every NGO that I have worked with had its special interest and each one had very different programmes and the current one has an extra special feeling on it. I am currently working for a wildlife conservation organization and I feel our actions to have a much more direct impact than any other human development activity. The animals do not ask for help, do not thank us but they do survive and grow in numbers with projects like ours.
At the time, in Angola, even though you were surrounded by photography lovers like myself, and the cameras were a constant presence in our house, this subject didn’t arouse great interest in you. What has changed?
That is an unexpected and funny question! I believe it was too much about things that I didn’t understand that were (still are) new to me – I was surrounded of 3 avid photographers, with the basic math of each person owning the minimum of 2 cameras and 4 lenses, you can easily understand that in my “field of depth” could be equivalent to F0,1, a blurry background of a whole new world to me.
Despite that, I was going out for photographic sessions with you, smoking cigarettes and discreetly paying a natural and slow attention to what it was being said. Thank you for the patience of explaining repeatedly what was an ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture and also was interested on the cool photos that were coming out of those sessions – still on the top on what I have seen in terms of Portrait Photography.
Interestingly, although you find yourself surrounded by wildlife and magnificent landscapes, your first camera was a compact from the RX100 series. For roughly the same value there are other options with APS-C or M43 sensors. So, would you like to explain what influenced your choice and how this camera was decisive in this growing passion for photography?
At the time, and while taking several shots with my smartphone and trying to sell the idea to you that my Wiko phone was doing the job I wanted and that the pics were just marginally worse than the photos you guys took (as I my main interest was/is taking photos of situations and not to other theme) I finally decided to give myself a point of self-respect and admit that I needed a camera… a real one! And a real one, like I referred previously, that I could understand, that did not need any lenses to attach or clean.
The decision of which first camera I was going to buy (and I advise all first-timers or even to semi-amateurs) was based with the opinion of 3 people and I wanted portability but also image quality, as I wanted to be able to keep my genre, take in my pocket, to be discreet and with possibility of some artsy composition. And I couldn’t be happier with the decision! I still think that the M1 is the best camera you can get if you want an overall set of specifications and image quality.
That improved my passion for photography immediately in terms of playing around, testing possibilities of shadows, longer shutter speeds, apertures and at the same time getting a real photo of it. I strongly believe that we can only enjoy something that we understand and when I started to understand how photography works it was a very informal but good increase of my interest and fun on taking photos.
Having the ability to carry in your pocket a camera with an excellent image quality that can go with you everywhere is a huge advantage, isn’t it?
Definitely! That is a true for a good share of photographers – most of them have THAT one, that camera that is the compact and fits as carry-on camera. Not only it fits in a pocket and you can travel without any worrying on weight and space but also it is very discreet and that goes along with my style as a photographer.
Personally, I like to take pictures in the less invasive way possible because I always want to photograph a specific situation, trying to capture the moment that if I am noticed it may stop, especially when there are people involved and also something that I am learning now with wildlife, the animals can be very self-aware when someone points the camera at them.
When you discovered that you needed more range to shoot wildlife, once again you went to a camera with the 1″ sensor: the powerful RX10 mkIII. That’s a lot of money for a camera with such a small sensor! But those who own it, claim that it’s worth every cent. Do you agree with them?
When I found out that I would be living surrounded by wildlife, I knew immediately that I needed a camera that had to have very specific features. I repeated the same purchase process as my previous camera and built a top 3 cameras from 2 unrelated friends and myself. The RX10 M3 was included on the 3 lists.
I still did not understand much about cameras and lenses, so I decided to search in the internet not only cameras but also what is needed or what are the recommendation for wildlife photography and that helped a lot in the decision and to know what features were mandatory – things like weather and dust proof cameras, the need of acting fast (that made me think again that I would prefer not to have attachable lenses), very long reach and good rate of shots per second – those were mandatory. I never realized that there was actually a camera that could fit my laziness and quest for quality, but again Sony played the trick on me and shown me this great camera, again!
I agree and the versatility of this camera is amazing allowing me to reach into macro shots to a huge distance object, which naturally comes with its flaws on taking photos on low light and few options on auto-focus that are basically the common flaws across almost every camera on this price range anyway but the big difference is that no other series can include all of these features.
When we say that you photograph wildlife, we’re not talking about squirrels or deers. We really mean wildlife! And half of them would either kill you or eat you if they had the chance! Would you like to explain the context in which you photograph these animals, some of which you can even photograph from the windows of your home?
The context is the Mother Africa in a nutshell. I am currently working in Zambia with the Zambian Carnivore Programme (glad and proud to mention it in this article) that allows me to live in the bush and to sneak out from my financial duties and join the field teams so I take the opportunity to photograph animals up close. The rule number one to live or explore photography of wildlife is to respect the animal and your life, there is no space for mistakes, to go out from the car to try the best photo and not getting too close.
Several photos are taken from the balcony of my house, it is impossible to resist the constant flow of animals in the small lake I have in front of the house as you can see from the photos that I provided you for this article. My house it has a special peaceful feeling into it, as a safe haven to avoid the predators, so I get all the friendly daily life pictures of them.
When I join the field operations, is when I can take photos of more intensity that are carried by the predators and see specific animals that are scarcer around housing.
Other photos are simply taken while driving from a close by town from mundane tasks as shopping, visiting someone or even getting home drunk after a party! We never know when an animal can simply show up.
For someone who had no particular interest in Photography just a couple of years ago, you have a great sense of timing and framing of your images. How did you develop your sense of aesthetics? Looking at other’s work, in social media, blogs, Youtube?
Thank you Hugo. I had no inspiration on others as I only started to follow photographers on Instagram this year and everything I search on the internet is when I want an answer on a how-to question and recently reviews about cameras.
I think that I found that my taste and style on photography it is an extension of the way I experience life and my surroundings and the way I observe things happening or things that are unnoticed in front of us, that make me to wait for things (usually I wait for something silly to happen), to believe that a certain thing will happen and anticipate it or simply, as you referred, to find a different perspective or composition that gives to the subject an inherent difference, intensity or highlight the feeling of the photo. I believe with the right luck and photo, the subject gives what we want and the contrary is also true, with the change of framing, perspective and the editing.
Although you do mostly wildlife photography, would it be correct if we stated that the camera for you works more like a way record of your daily life? And many times with a pinch of humour! 🙂
That is correct. I think that 90% of my photos are wildlife because I am living in Africa in this context but maybe we could consider with some weight of truth that my photos could be categorized as daily record because this is part of my daily life and the truth is that I am far from what is a wildlife photographer, in terms of time spent in the field, the compositions that make it to be wildlife showing what are the true colors of Africa wildlife and nature and its beauty. I do have fun taking photos and I want my photos to be a bit funny too and make fun of my subjects. The nature not only provides the world with beauty and science, but also goofy, awkward or even pure comedy moments.
Two cameras, the same sensor, different purposes. Do you feel that these two amazing devices serve all your purposes and fully satisfy your needs, or have you ever wondered whether it would be worth switching to an APS-C or full-frame system?
To be very honest, I am happy with the simple but powerful setup with the 2 cameras I have. My purpose is the flexibility of reach as I am an all-around photographer and be able to cover reach from macro to distant moving or still subjects and objects in the best quality possible and my needs are portability and make my decisions before taking a photo as quick and simple as possible.
Saying this, there is such thing as a perfect setup and I give a peek on other cameras in the market, especially I end up looking for Sony cameras on the RX series and I look forward to upgrade my cameras in few years. Ideally, I would upgrade my RX100 M1 to a RX100 M5 or RX1 R2 for wider, artsy and image quality photography and my RX10 M3 to newer model M4 that has a much better AF system. With these upgrades I would noticeably increase my capability in response of the flaws on my current cameras.
I am learning a lot about the photography world and I strongly believe that that are so many features, variables, different personal experiences and tastes that, even feeling much more informed and understanding of the equipment I need, I will continue to have an humble approach and will go for the same purchase and ask you and others to provide me a top 3 of cameras for my both upgrades taking in consideration my new needs and brainstorm. I am asking sorry in advance but I guess it’s an exercise you enjoy.
When one day you return to a more… “conventional” life in Europe, far from these subjects that have aroused your interest in Photography, do you think that you will continue to photograph with the same passion, perhaps going for other genres?
You continue to anticipate all my steps and identify the right bugs in my head. This is an internal fight that I have already experimented when I was back to Portugal for 4 months during the last winter. I took a very small amount of shots but all of them were situational moments.
Going back to what brought me to the photography world as being an keen observant of specific details and happenings on my surroundings, I guess I will continue to go for the same genre, but want to try to focus on a genre that fits better with the dark-noir and counter-nature style but I also want to explore the documentary photography genre due to the fact I work for the non-governmental sector and I have access and exposure to things and realities that are not commonly seen by others and awareness and acknowledge is always needed. Who knows? Everything will depend on which country I will be working next… so let’s allow all gods to make a top 3 and brainstorm and decide for me where I would go.