By Abby Huckelbury
Because my passion lies with photography and not writing, I chose to interview Misha Wilcockson, a wildlife photographer who is currently filming a project for National Geographic.
One thing I took away from our conversation was the importance of networking. Misha stressed that reaching out to people and making connections is vital in his world. His advice was to “reach out to as many people as you can, be willing to work for free for a while and just as people for opportunities. The worst they can do is say no.” Another key thing I took away from our conversation was the need for ambition. Misha said to me, “if photography is really what you want to do, then go after it.” I think it is important to keep ambition alive in ourselves and never stop driving for what we want.
His journey to his career began his junior year of college, managing social media accounts for Earth.co. As the following grew, brands began to reach out and him and his partner and they started taking any and every opportunity they were presented with. They then started reaching out themselves to work with charities. Misha headed up that operation, working with Charity:water, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and others. His senior year two guys he knew from Stanford asked him to come and meet with them in San Francisco about a job they wanted to offer him. He took the meeting more as a courtesy to them, expecting to turn them down, but they offered him a $300k salary to be their chief financial officer and Chief Operating Officer. They also said Misha could continue working with brands and as a photographer as much as he liked. Eight months after graduation, he found himself in India on a shoot for Traveler. It just so happened that a team from National Geographic was staying where he was, filming the black panther that lived in the forest there. He decided to take full advantage of the situation, staying up into the early hours most evenings, drinking and chatting with the guy who was leading the team. Towards the end of his stay the guy said Misha should come and work with them on a couple of projects that they had coming up, and he jumped at the chance. He quit his job in San Francisco and began working with a National Geographic team in South Africa a few months later. He has been working for National Geographic for seven months as a freelance photographer and cinematographer.
Misha was given this opportunity to shoot these animals in his Namibia series through his project for a baby animal series for National Geographic. Every morning he would wake up 45 minutes to sunrise and go out in search for the animal of the day. For the wild dog pups, his team knew where their den-site was so they would drive straight there every morning and shoot until dusk. He also has good connections with the people at the reserve considering he has been before.
Misha aimed to have a very natural style in these photos. He likes to become as low to the ground as possible and he chose not to mess around and edit his pictures heavily. He wants to capture the reality, allowing his viewers to see what he sees.
Something I learned that could apply to our class is the advice to be picky and to not settle for adequacy. Also, Misha tells himself to “be as objective as possible,” and I think this is something we need to be reminded daily as journalists.