Staff Profile - Andy Rouse
Andy’s History – I was born in London as a true cockney, under the sound of Bow bells (although as it was the East End of London I suspect it was the sound of someone stealing the bells). Eventually I graduated with an honours degree in Electronics, which was exceptionally dull and caused me to be terminally boring. After treatment with electrodes (much more fun), I recovered and joined an American computer consultancy and travelled the world breaking large banking computers. Then someone slapped me round the face with a freshly caught mackerel and I realised that computing was not for me and the world of wildlife beckoned. So I resigned from my job, bought a cheap secondhand car as my flashy company one was snatched back, and the rest is history so to speak. Except, of course, for those electrodes. I’ve been a professional wildlife photographer since 1995 and live in the countryside in the south of the UK with my partner Tracey (a Doctor of Zoology and a great photographer) and, faithful if slightly mad dog Muppet.
Andy’s achievements – Perhaps the greatest professional achievement so far has been to host Discovery Channel’s Wildlife Photographer TV series. Five years ago, a camera crew (my mate Steve!) followed a few of my adventures around the globe, trying to get wildlife shots on a shoestring budget. Anyway, it was good at the time, but I have changed a lot in five years and I’m happy that it’s no longer being shown. At this point, I’d like to apologise to anyone that flies Singapore Airlines in the next year, as they’ve bought several episodes of the series to show in flight. I wholeheartedly apologise for putting you through this in advance and recommend whiskey as the best way of getting through it. Or gin, but that has alarming side effects. Anyway I digress, as one often does when approaching forty.
I’ve been placed reasonably well in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, having a few Highly Commended Awards and winning the prestigous category – Animal Behaviour Mammals. I’ve only just started publishing books and have five to my name so far, the last one being Life in the Wild. We’ve just finished my sixth book, The DSLR Masterclass, which will be published in Spring 2004. We are currently working on a series of books on cheetahs, elephants and leopards. I write several magazine columns on photography and wildlife plus an Internet review column for www.warehouseexpress.com. I give many seminars and lead tours, but these are never advertised to the press since that costs money! Instead we use our existing website, mailing list of over 5000 people to fill these tours – our latest to Kenya filled up in less than 2 hours. I give lively talks to large organisations/groups, either on photography or much more preferably, how wonderful elephants have such polished toenails. Last year during a talk, the audience did manage to escape from the hall during the talk, but now I’ve got really strong chains so that is a thing of the past.
My final achievement is living long enough to see England absolutely trounce the Aussies in the Rugby World Cup. If there are any Aussies reading this then HA!
Andy’s Focus – I just love being out in the field with wildlife and endure all the necessary office administration for this sole purpose. I love to travel and probably spend 5-6 months out of the UK every year. My style is to get unusual angles of some pretty unfriendly animals and this invariably puts my life at risk. Several times I’ve nearly been killed (lions, elephants, polar bear, rhinos and an amorous female ostrich), but I accept this as part of the job. At the end of the day, I’d rather be sent to my Maker by the horn of a black rhino than by some senseless drunk driver. One thing should be said, whenever I decide to get close to an animal I do so either with the advice of a local expert or using my own extensive experience. I’m an advocate of fieldcraft and knowledge of animal behaviour over any photographic skill, and of course it goes without saying that the animal comes first.
Andy’s favourite places – I see many wonderful places around the world but am always happy to come home to a nice pint of warm beer in the my local pub. The UK has some FANTASTIC wildlife and I am really at my happiest donned from head to tail in my camouflague gear stalking my local deer. If pushed however I’d say that my favourite countries would have to be Namibia, Sri Lanka and Svalbard. The latter is a truly special place, an arctic island where I have been several times to photograph polar bears. We travel around on skidoos, camp on the ice in tents, eat reindeer and go to the toilet fully armed. Wow, what a place!
Andy on being a professional Being a pro in the UK and European markets is very different from the US, or so my colleagues across the pond tell me. Generally our revenue per sale is much lower, with the average magazine publication yielding just $60, and, of course, there are far fewer clients. Therefore, I have to be a jack of all trades and be very aggressive and forward-looking in my business. I have a network of agents throughout the world to sell my work, including NHPA and Getty Images. I rarely sell to the US market, due entirely to my laziness and inability to say the word “Awesome dude” in every sentence. Hopefully this may change in the next year or so as my books are at last available on Amazon.com.
Andy on digital After toying with digital SLRs, I finally made the jump in November 2002 and have not taken a single film image since then. I now use the superb Canon EOS 1Ds, which gives a better result than a scanned Velvia image and gives me much more flexibility. I’ve also used an EOS 10D and had many images published from that, up to A3 and beyond. This is perhaps the biggest lie that film bigots spread about digital – the numbers game. You cannot compare the file sizes of a scanned film image with a DSLR image as they are like chalk and cheese. A digital image, if processed correctly to minimise noise, will be of a far higher quality at a smaller file size than its film counterpart. My photography has improved no end in the last year and I can say that changing to a D-SLR has definitely allowed me to experiment a lot more and try shots that I might otherwise be reluctant to take. I know that opinion is divided in photography circles, all I can say is that it works for me. If you want to know more then you can buy my next book The DSLR Masterclass - oh, what a shameless plug!