Auckland's walk on the wild side
He started life as a zookeeper, but these days Jason Edwards makes his living from shooting animals, rather than feeding them.
Edwards is a world-renowned photographer, with National Geographic, who has captured everything, from camel racing to the return of a child's remains to the Aboriginal community, on film since quitting his job at Melbourne Zoo when he was 18.
This weekend he is in town as part of the Auckland Museum's Camera season of photography.
The exhibition features a retrospective look at the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year winners from the past three years, and photos from the world's most prestigious wildlife photography exhibition, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalists.
And yesterday, Edwards was on hand at the museum to tell tales of stalking African deserts and what it takes to get the perfect photo.
"The reason I still love photography as much as I do it because it has never become work for me. My friends say I am Peter Pan.
"Every story I do, I try to enjoy to the upmost. I've done stories on fungi where I've lain in the mud for a week ... and it's been the best thing since sliced bread. Then you have the big impressive shoots like the great migration or Antarctica."
But Edwards says of all the frames he has taken his favourite came at the end of a long, three and a half month stint in Africa, when a heard of wildebeest and a lone giraffe crossed the plains just as the rain started.
"The light was so perfect, the composition was so perfect, and it had been the shoot of shoots. To this day it is probably my favourite shoot. It was crazy, it was like being set free for months on end to do whatever I wanted to document."
The award-winning photographer says the perfect shot is more than just pictures. Edwards wants his work to tell a story.
"Composition is everything to me - I don't crop my pictures, so if I don't get it right at the time, it goes in the trash. Then it's 'is the light perfect, is the depth of field perfect, are all the elements in that picture telling the story I want them to tell?'"
"Most people, they get a great shot and they show people, but they forget you were not there with them, you're not slapping the mosquitoes, you're not eating the food, hearing the sounds.''
And he says the job is not without it's hardships. Edwards has been sick more times than he can count, lost a year from his memory because of a virus and temporarily lost his vision thanks to a rogue insect.
But it's the little things that many people don't consider when they see the end product.
"People who aspire to do what I do don't realise that it is tough on family and friends. You are away a lot, there's no communication - it's not like when I'm here in New Zealand where I can call home - there's no phones, no fresh water, no fresh food, you sleep when you can sleep.
"And I do 20 hour days, every day for months on end, that's just how I'm wired. But I love it to death, it is the greatest thing on the planet."
The Camera Season of Photography is at Auckland Museum. The launch, featuring Jason Edwards, starts on Saturday at 10am.
- © Fairfax NZ News