I had an opportunity to interview one of my favorite wildlife photographers, John Crawley, about his photography journey, traveling, and birds in particular. Enjoy reading the interview and make sure to check out his Instagram!
How did your interest in wildlife photography start?
- I have always had an interest in wildlife for as long as I can remember. My parents were great at supporting those interests from an early age. As a young adult I started working in television production. After spending 20 years in broadcast television where I worked primarily as a Director of Photography, I left that industry, so it was an easy transition combining the two and started photographing wildlife.
Why birds of all the animals?
- I have interest in all types of photography, however, wildlife and more specifically birds are my favorite subjects. As a child I kept reptiles as pets. That interest shifted to birds as I became a teenager. At that time I became a licensed falconer and kept and trained raptors for approximately 15 years. It was during that period that I really developed my passion for birds which has continued through the years.
Where did you travel to take photos of birds?
- I have travelled to many areas to photograph birds and even throw in a camera and lens on family vacations in hopes that the opportunity to get out and look for birds arises. Some of the locations for bird photography include: Asia, Europe, Africa, Central and South America, and much of the U.S.
Do you prefer being alone when shooting or do you like having other people with you?
- There are times when it is therapeutic for me to go out and spend some time on my own photographing birds. However, I enjoy the company of others and usually go out with someone or a small group. I don’t enjoy photographing with people or groups that try to make it a competition or don’t want to share what they see. I tend to be quite open and It is much more fun when opportunities are shared making it a collaborative effort. I personally feel that it is more difficult to grow as a photographer when one keeps to themselves and doesn’t interact with others. Exchanging ideas, thoughts, and opportunities is a great way to increase one’s horizons.
What is your creative process like?
- I usually spend some time developing a mental list of some sort of target animal/bird or group of items when I go out. Starting with a mental image in mind of what I’m trying to accomplish helps me focus on achieving that goal. Once I have found my target I usually make some safety photos first. I then start looking for ways to make the image better. Clean backgrounds and sharp images are important to me so I spend considerable time moving around and trying different angles. I don’t like to postprocess much, so getting a good, clean image from the camera is key for me.
Which countries did you visit on your photography journey?
- Some of the countries visited include; China, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Kenya, Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Galapagos (Ecuador), Canada, and many parts of the U.S.
What’s your favorite camera gear for nature and wildlife?
- I am a Nikon guy. It is my opinion that Nikon produces the prettiest images. I was fortunate enough years ago to pick up an 800mm lens, it is still my favorite, and my go to lens. I currently photograph mostly with a Nikon D850 camera body, my current favorite. However, I also use a D5 and D500 at times depending on the situation. I am patiently waiting to see what the next generation mirrorless Nikon bodies will offer.
What is your favorite bird?
- What is my favorite bird? That is a really good question! I don’t think I can narrow it down to one bird, I can make a short list. American kestrel, Merlin, Horned puffin, Toucans (as a group), Saw whet owl, and Cedar waxwings would all be strong candidates.
Where should bird lovers travel in the US for the best bird watching?
- Boy that really depends on what they want to see. There are so many amazing places, and so many that I haven’t yet experienced. I would suggest Southern California, Southern Texas and the Florida peninsula for sheer numbers. However, I would suggest that one decides on what they want to see and do a little online research. There are so many places with wonderful birds.
Do you have a favorite country or state in the US regarding bird, nature, and wildlife photography?
- Again there are so many amazing places, but I would have to pick Costa Rica and Alaska as two of my very favorites. As a good friend of mine says, “Costa Rica always delivers!”.
With your colleagues you organize photo tours, can you tell me more about it?
- My good friend Matthew Studebaker (www.studebakerstudio.com @matthewstudebaker) leads photo tours for a living. I have been on many of his tours and highly recommend him. I also help him with several tours. I take participants to Costa Rica and St. Paul Island, Alaska for him and we jointly do a tour in Northern Utah during the winter. Matthew’s specialty is Alaska and his Songbird tours. However, he has many more to offer ranging from Polar and Brown bear tours to specialty birds in Central Florida, check him out!
What are you working on right now?
- It’s been a really strange 18 months! I’m just starting to look at more travel. I do have a trip (with Matthew) to Lake Clark National Park, Alaska to photograph Coastal Brown Bears next month, and we still have some openings for Costa Rica this fall. I am also working on a trip to Costa Rica emphasizing macro photography for spring of 2022. A little further out is a trip to So. Georgia Island, and looking at an Australia trip, we’ll see how things go.
Please share your social media accounts and websites where readers can find you and see your work.
- Currently I am only posting regularly to Instagram. I have three accounts that I use, they are @jc_places for my travel photography, @jc_nature for my non-bird nature photography and @jc_wings for my bird photography. I am thinking of putting together a blog, check back with me to see how that is coming.
Thank you so much for taking time to answer these questions.