My happy place: Chris McLennan - travel photographer

By Bronwyn Sell

Photographer Chris McLennan aboard a snowmobile in Alaska. Photo / Chris McLennan
Photographer Chris McLennan aboard a snowmobile in Alaska. Photo / Chris McLennan

My happy place is out in the wilderness taking photos. I find it completely engrossing. You're totally focused on what you're doing, concentrating on getting the shot, sometimes to the point that you don't take it all in until you sit down at the end of the day and think, "Wow, that was pretty cool."

I've had a lot of interesting assignments, working in places as far away as Poland, Romania, Russia, Egypt ... I love getting out into untouched cultures and remote areas. Papua New Guinea is a favourite, with tribal areas that are untouched.

Wildlife gives me a buzz. A favourite place of mine at the moment is Alaska. I get back there sometimes three times a year, summer and winter, and I just love it, particularly in the winter.

I did a shoot there in 2011 when we followed the Iditarod dog sled race. We snowmobiled 1200 km across Alaska in minus 40 and minus 50 degrees, sleeping in a teepee. It was just mind-blowingly amazing and beautiful, and so much fun.

In summer I've spent a lot of time shooting grizzly bears up close and personal during the salmon run, when they're concentrating on catching fish and nothing else.

I'm very fortunate that I get to do what I love as a job. I've been doing travel photography full time for 25 years and wildlife's been a big part of that for the past five or six years. I've worked commercially in more than 45 countries around the world.

It evolves all the time, it's always different - I'll photograph anything from third-world cultures to the Arctic, right through to resorts. There's no knowing what comes next.

It's a lot of hard work - if you're away on a shoot for four weeks, it's 4.30am to 9.30pm every day, with no weekends - but it's rewarding as well. The memories live on a lot longer when you've got photos, it's fantastic to be able to look back through them. You almost forget how much you've done and what you've seen.

Photography has always done it for me, and I'm lucky after 25 years that I'm still passionate about it. I get a total buzz out of creating images.

My other happy place is the time I get to be at home with the family, which most people take for granted. I can be away for seven months of the year, so when I'm at home I really enjoy that time out.


The exhibition A Year in the Wildlife of Chris McLennan opens on Friday night at Shed 5, 90 Wellesley St West. See photographyfestival.org.nz.

- Herald on Sunday

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