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  • “Science Is The Brain And Photography The Heart”: Conservation Photographer Daisy Gilardini Puts The Nikon D6 To The Test

  • Conservation photographer Daisy Gilardini will take you away. Originally from Switzerland, now based in Vancouver, her award-winning photography documents the Polar Regions, with an emphasis on Antarctic wildlife and North American bears.

    Throughout her photographic adventures, she’s explored the challenges facing the black bear, Kermode, grizzly and polar bear. Now, in her own words, she puts the new Nikon D6 to the test, to capture this majestic animal and act as an ‘ambassador of Nature’.

    A Journey Over Time

    I picked up my first Nikon when I was 16 years old. Back then, I was a teenager in awe. I’d look up to the big names of wildlife photography – photographers like Thomas Mangelsen, Tui De Roy, David Duobilet, Joel Sartore, Galen Rowell and Moose Peterson – who were like heroes to me.

    So, when it came to selecting my gear, the choice was simple; use the brand that was used by my favourite photographers. That brand happened to be Nikon.

    Then, over the years, I came to realise just how harsh wildlife photography can be; not only on your body, but on your equipment. This is especially true for someone like me, who specialises in polar regions and often works in some of the most challenging conditions on earth. Daily battles with cold, rain, snow, low-light… this is commonplace for me, so my camera has to be robust, reliable and super-fast.

    And that’s why I’ve stayed with Nikon. It’s always excelled in providing equipment I can rely on in the most remote and difficult areas of the world, allowing me to focus entirely on capturing inspiring images.

    Why Science and Photography Must Work Together

    Nikon D6 | AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR | f/9 | 1/800s | ISO 5600 

    Photography is not just an art form. It’s one of the most important and powerful mediums of communication we have. It’s a universal language, the only language understood by everyone, regardless of colour, creed, nationality or culture.

    I believe in the power of beautiful images to stir emotions and touch people’s hearts, all the while delivering a positive message about the environment. I believe that to share the beauty and wonder of nature without a strong message would be a wasted opportunity.

    As conservation photographers, it’s our duty to capture the beauty of natural places and wild species that are at risk. We have a collective responsibility to raise awareness through the power of the images we capture.

    While science provides the data necessary to identify issues and come up with solutions, photography reflects these issues in a way everyone can understand. Science is the brain, photography is the heart. We need both to reach people’s hearts and minds if we’re to move and spur them to action. For nature, and for us all.

    Putting New Tech to the Test

    Nikon D6 | AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR | f/9 | 1/1250s | ISO 6400 

    This was my first trial of the of the Nikon D6 and it gave me the most valuable asset a photographer like me can have: time.

    Wildlife is usually most active during the early hours or in the evening when the light is beautiful, but scarce. In order to freeze any action, like a bear jumping in a river to catch fish, I need to shoot at a very high speed (equal to or faster than 1/500s). In low light conditions this is only possible by pushing your ISO high up, so the impressive ISO capabilities of the Nikon D6 stretch the amount of time I have to work in the field.

    The water resistance of the D6, meanwhile, means that, if and when it starts to rain, I don’t have to call it a day or worry about my equipment.  I can endure bad weather and keep shooting, no matter what. And as much as I don’t like shooting in the rain, I have shot some of my best images in the worst possible weather. This combination of speed and robustness gives me more time to catch the moments of magic.

    Quality equipment also helps you tame the uncontrollable. When I’m in the field I can’t control the light, the environment, or my subject’s action. I can’t ask a bear to jump again! I need to rely on the best equipment possible. I want to capture each unique opportunity when it happens, so it’s extremely important to know your camera’s capabilities, so you can maximise your chances of getting a successful capture.

    This really comes to the fore with the D6 in terms of its autofocus (AF) capabilities. The AF options at my disposal – from a surgically precise single point to more dynamic focus areas, from 9 to 105 points, 3D tracking, groups that can now be customised, the impressive Auto AF mode – are extraordinary. With the new auto-area AF tracking I can even pinpoint the starting point of the focus, if I can predict the subject’s position when entering the frame. The Nikon AF system has always had a great reputation in the industry, but the new D6 pushes it further – it, alongside the high ISO performance in challenging conditions, allows me to capture high-quality images that were impossible to capture before.

    Now Is The Time For Change

    Nikon D6 | AF-S NIKKOR 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR | f/8 | 1/1000s | ISO 500 

    The digital age, together with social media, has opened the door for wildlife and conservation photographers, and scientists, to a greater degree than ever before. Technology and internet platforms allow us to reach more people, in more places, faster, more efficiently and effectively, than at any time in human history.

    We’re living in the information age. And while problems such as the climate crisis, industrial pollution and environmental ruin may seem insurmountable at times, we’re better positioned today than at any time in history to convey a message of hope and renewal.

    Within this, Nikon gives me the tools to become the voice of places and species at risk. Thanks to photos I take, I can be an ambassador for nature.

    For bears specifically, I’ve studied the origins of our relationships with them and have come to understand the deep bonds that exist between us, while not losing sight of the problems that come with that. From habitat loss, due to the climate crisis, logging and the fragmentation of available territory, to the illegal trade in body parts, to trophy hunting – these animals need a voice to speak on their behalf.

    The Three Ps of Progress

    I believe the key to success, in photography and in life, is doing what you love. Make your passion become your profession and you’ll never feel like it’s work. Whatever I do, I try to apply my ‘Three Ps’ rule: Passion, Patience and Perseverance.

    PASSION: The love and passion you put into your photography will shine through your images

    PATIENCE: There’s a lot of frustration involved in wildlife photography. You can spend hours and hours, and even days or weeks, at the mercy of the most challenging weather conditions, without getting the shot you’re looking for. Patience is simply essential.

    PERSEVERANCE: Never give up! At the end you will succeed . . . and it will be worth it!

    Find out more about the Nikon D6 here

    Go behind the scenes of Daisy's first shoot with the D6 here