I had the pleasure of interviewing a man who believes that nature is his sole inspiration in life! After returning from a macro photography workshop in what was a very rainy Tuscany, Alberto Ghizzi Panizza set aside some time for me to shower him with questions, some very difficult for the Italian to understand… oops!
Life is Good Doing What you Love
Currently, he is hosting a lot of workshops on the weekends and has been invited to photograph the radio telescopes in Chile; he is very excited and honoured to have the opportunity for a second time. He also works with Nikon, Italy, doing various workshops from macro and landscape photography and even time lapse.
Going Back to How it all Started
Alberto’s father was a painter and ever since he was a young boy he has always found that art was a pleasing way for him to spend his time. Drawing and painting drove his creative spirit to eventually become an amazing photographer who captures the character, spirit and even the thoughts of insects and animals big and small.
Like most successful photographers, he started out getting up at the crack of dawn to photograph the insects close by before heading off to work. After 10 years of doing this, he learned to understand the characteristics and behaviour of his little subjects and learned the macro photography technique of photo stacking. This technique is used to increase depth-of-field and obtain perfectly sharp images. “What makes this technique so difficult is that if you have just one shot in your shot sequence that is wrong or out of focus, it throws off the whole photograph and you have to try it all over again. So it takes lots of hours behind the camera practicing to perfect this method.”
Love, Respect and Understanding
A photographer of all things in nature, Alberto not only photographs macro images of insects but also enjoys photographing landscapes and all kinds of wildlife.
“It’s as if they (animals/insects) also express emotions such as curiosity, happiness and fear.” Watching them for hours on end, trying to get that perfect photograph has taught him to respect all animals and insects. He only photographs insects that are completely unharmed, alive and in their natural habitat and goes on saying that “it may be more difficult but that’s why you have to study their behaviour” but laughingly admitting, “except for mosquitoes!”
The Subject Provides Inspiration
Not interested in planning his shoots, he prefers going for long walks hauling along a VERY large backpack with all his equipment. “Having a friend assist you with all the gear really helps!” He mostly uses natural light with reflective panels and a tripod but says that sometimes if the subject moves around a lot he has to use a flash to freeze the insect. When I asked him if he ever does ‘setups’ in studio he said that he never shoots in studio only for the exception of shooting the water droplets with the flowers or backgrounds reflecting in them.
Creating Water Droplets Reflecting the Background
To create the flowers reflecting in the water drops, simply position yourself at such an angle that you see the background/flower reflecting in the water droplet. If you get the sweet-spot you will see the dewdrop almost acts like a fisheye lens and reflects whatever is in the background.
Let’s Talk Retouching
Always shooting in RAW, he does so little retouching that the final image usually looks the same as the Raw file. He does as little as possible using Camera RAW and doesn’t make use of any strange effects. When it comes to macro photography your light really needs to be good and then, you don’t have to go through that extensive post-production routine. He only does photo-stacking using Helicon Focus. Photoshop can also be used but he prefers to use specialised software to get that professional look and feel.
Two of His Proudest Moments to Date
Actually, the first time he took a photograph of a dewdrop with the background reflecting in all the water droplets is undeniably one of his proudest moments. That, and when he took the photograph of the two damsel-flies ‘holding hands’. On that day, he noticed two damsel-flies who seemed to be in-love but were in actual fact fighting! The one fly was pushing away the other and he was taking multiple shots of the occurrence to secure that ‘wining’ image which consists of about 20 photographs photo-stacked together. He started taking photographs of damsel-flies about 10 years ago and throughout that time his image quality grew exponentially because he was learning the behaviour of them and learned to anticipate whether they are going to move or be still.
A Polar Bear Praying for a Future
One of my (and Alberto’s) absolute favourite photographs is the photo of the polar bear who looks to be in thought. I asked him to elaborate a bit on how he shot this ‘once in a lifetime’ image. The bear was actually sleeping and he was happily taking one shot after the other and then, suddenly, the bear opened its big, beautiful, brown eyes. Standing only about 10 or 15 meters away from his wild subject, Alberto was really scared! He had his car parked close by since polar bears are known to reach speeds of up to 60km/h. At the point when the bear opened it’s eyes Alberto grew even more scared, took a few more shots before quickly jumping in his car and driving away. Although he was scared of the polar bear, Alberto says that when he took a closer look he realized that he saw some sort of fear or hopelessness in the eyes of the bear. “The photograph is seen and described in many different ways but I feel as if though the bear is praying for a future. Global warming is actively effecting these animals’ lives.”
Gratefully Fulfilling His Duty
With a heart of gold, Alberto feels as if though it is his duty to depict these animals as loving, evoking emotion in the viewers and rising awareness of animals, insects and all of nature. “I’m grateful that my career allows me to travel the world, taking photographs of the tiny damsel-fly in Italy to the polar bears in Canada and the majestic elephant of Africa. Really showing the beauty this world has to offer.”
I am in awe of Alberto’s supreme gift… Finding splendour in all of nature and sharing it with us. This interview has surely changed the way I look at everything the earth has to offer. Every leaf, every little bug has life and purpose and it is our job to take care of it. He does his part; I truly hope we can all be so lucky as to say we do ours.