– Words by Sean McIntyre Photographs by Don Denton
Catherine Babault still remembers the excitement of returning home decades ago to develop the photos from her college trip to the UK. Equipped with a Kodak 110 instant camera, Catherine joined her classmates on a tour of several of the country’s top tourist attractions. After the film rolls were processed, snaps from his friends revealed a list of destinations: Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Big Ben.
Catherine’s picture envelope was entirely different.
“I had a lot of pictures of a horse in a field,” she says. “Forget the queen, it was all about nature.”
She might not have realized it at the time, but this horse represented the germ of a distant and destined career as a freelance wildlife photographer. Now comfortably settled in the Comox Valley, Catherine happily swapped a clerical job in the public service to pursue her lifelong dreams with her goals and the wilderness of North America.
Catherine’s passion for photography, exploration, and education has grown into a full-fledged photography business that includes online and in-person workshops, public presentations, independent and archival photography, and the recent publication of his first book of photographs.
Vancouver Island Wildlife: A Photo Trip celebrates an island rich in scenery and species, though it is the result of photographer Catherine’s patient and respectful approach to her chosen profession. Catherine approaches her work with a scientific rigor similar to that of a biologist, carefully reading research papers explaining the habits and life cycles of specific species. She scans the maps like a cartographer in search of new areas and access routes. She also has the “always prepared” mindset of an adventurer ready to go into the wild.
“You have to get up before sunrise, watch the weather forecast, check road access, road conditions and bring a first aid kit,” she says. “Even if it’s just one day, it’s an expedition.
Of greatest importance, perhaps, is his approach to the animals themselves. Catherine is a strong believer in ethical photography. According to WildSafeBC, a registered company dedicated to the prevention of human-wildlife conflict in British Columbia, ethical photography is about not using calls or baits to attract animals and always leaving animals a lot of life. ‘space.
Before leaving, Catherine makes sure that the soles of her boots are free of seeds and pathogens that could contaminate the areas she visits. She avoids odors that can distract animals and always approaches as calmly and calmly as possible to avoid stressing her subjects. The staging of the shots is out of the question.
“No animal is harmed, no environment will be destroyed; that’s how I approach it, ”she says. “For some people, it’s all about vanity, shooting and publishing. For me, it’s about showing the species we have here and highlighting our responsibility in the sustainable development of our region, as well as its preservation and restoration for future generations.
Catherine is based in the Comox Valley, but her studio covers wilderness areas that are mostly found in northern Vancouver Island. His favorite spots are located anywhere north of Nanaimo to Cape Scott and the west coast of Vancouver Island. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she even made several trips to Alaska to photograph grizzly bears. After three years of devoting herself full-time to photography, however, Catherine came to appreciate the immense wealth of flora and fauna, and interesting places to photograph them, which can be found at a relatively distance. short drive from home, although not. It is not uncommon for her to drive three or four hours to reach a particular site.
“When we talk about Vancouver Island, people think of Victoria, Tofino, Campbell River, sometimes Port Hardy, then they think of whales, bears, eagles, sea otters and that’s about it. . But there’s more to it, and that’s what I want to convey in my book, ”she says. “We have so much diversity that we can sometimes take it for granted. There are many species of special concern in our area as well as endangered species like the Vancouver Island Marmot that locals and visitors may not be aware of.
Vancouver Island Wildlife: A Photo Trip contains some great pictures of bears, eagles and sea otters, but these are just a sample of the species featured among the 150 full-page color photos in the book. Images rise from the island’s intertidal zone into alpine meadows framed by snow-capped peaks.
There are tiny brown-backed chickadees, northern red-legged frogs, and scurrying crabs, along with the fascinating natural patterns found in the sky, sea, and leaves. An American mink appears to pose for the camera with a herring in its mouth, a sea lion and a seagull swirl around the day’s catch, a Vancouver Island groundhog comes out of the ground to catch the morning sun and a elk feeds a herd of three calves.
After hearing Catherine explain the patience and dedication of her approach to a project, her ability to capture such intimate images is understandable. These images give the feeling of being immersed in nature. It is as if the spectator were there waiting with her: waiting and watching for the arrival of the intimate moment.
While landscape and wildlife photographers, especially novices, may feel the pressure to rush out to snap a photo before moving on to the next opportunity, Catherine’s effort to be a part of her landscape gives the impression that animals have welcomed her into their world. This, in turn, puts the subjects of his photos at ease, a state that serves those fleeting moments that produce spectacular images.
“I am fascinated by the natural world. I like to be there and be quiet. I enter my bubble with no one to distract me, and I walk in the forest very quietly, very slowly. I look around and start to hear the forest, ”she says. “It’s fascinating to see these animals in their natural environment and to have this little moment. Sometimes it’s a few minutes, sometimes maybe an hour or more, but it’s still amazing to see.
More information on Catherine’s photography, workshops and public presentations are available on her website, catherinebabault.com or on Twitter, @catherinebabault.
Article courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
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