Ambassador of the month: Lukasz Sokół
In this blog: nature & wildlife photographer Lukasz Sokół from Poland, we asked him a few questions:
What is your name and where do you live?
My name is Łukasz Sokół (Sokół means Falcon in english!). I live in Olsztyn (Warmia and masuria), Poland.
How/when did you get interested in nature and of course, in nature photograghy?
My photography started in 2012. I bought my first SLR, this was a Canon 400D with a kit lens. It was a time of learning the basics and experimenting with the field of photography that attracted me the most. It started with cheap Helios and Pentacon lenses. In that period that I started to notice how important light is in photography and how it can paint a picture. After some time I decided to change the camera to a Canon 50D and buy a Canon 10-22mm lens. It was a time when I was photographing the landscape quite intensively and I started planning my photographic trips for the first time.
When did wildlife photography come into your life?
After some time, I noticed that I would like to get a little closer to nature, and photograph birds and mammals besides landscapes. In 2016, there was a breakthrough as I became the owner of a Canon 400mm f / 5.6. It was a period when I started to meet many experienced Polish nature photographers and I was fascinated by their photographic achievements. Lots of discussions, exchange of experiences, techniques and of course the ethics of nature photography, which was obligatory not to harm nature. Everything was new to me then: Perspective, distance, technique, light, frames ... practically learning from the scratch. The first masking nets, sleeping mats, simple hides and I learned simple masking techniques appeared on my equipment, which quickly resulted in the first nature frames.
I spent more and more time in the field, even without a camera, in order to observe places and species of birds. Noting systematically, observing with binoculars what appears in a given place and whether the place is worth paying attention to. An activity that was very important for me was checking the place of sunrise or sunset. I thought that even a seemingly common species given in the right light and scenery may seem a more valuable photo than an unique species in uninteresting scenery and light. To this day, I am a fanatic of light, reflections, water, fog and shooting in backlight!
Can you describe your style of photography and did it change a lot through the years?
The beginnings were chaotic and unsuccessful. Attempts to approach animals or birds usually ended in scaring off. After a few years, my awareness of nature photography has grown so much that virtually every trip to the field is well planned, both in terms of equipment and strategically. I always have a hiding place prepared, which I only enter after getting to know the area. Spontaneous trips are only when I know the place and know what to expect. A perfect example is my favorite swamp which I reach about 2 hours before sunrise and in 30 seconds I use a Buteo Falco hide in a prepared place in the reeds. A few stuck twigs in front of the hide and on the sides, and I have perfect concealment that the birds do not pay attention to.
What are your favorite subjects in nature photography?
Definitely birds and mammals. And in birds I love water and swamp birds. Places with a lot of water are magic to me. Sunrise, fog, sounds, the smell of the swamp… love it!
Wood sandpipers in front of the Buteo Falco hide
Do you use photohides or other camouflage often?
I think that about 90% of my photos were made out of hiding, using camouflage nets, hides, and most recently the Buteo Photo Gear Falco hide. Although I have a few photos in my work, which were taken during ordinary photographic walks and exploring the area.
Are these hides important to you, which one do you prefer and why?
Yes, solid concealment and its preparation are, in my opinion, the basis of success. If you blend in perfectly with the terrain, both you as the photographer will have comfortable conditions and the birds will behave naturally and stress-free. And this, in my opinion, is important because we are able to capture interesting moments if the bird feels safe (looking for food, copulation, fights). Recently, my favorite hideout that fits perfectly in my places is the Buteo Falco hide. I love the low vista just above the ground and this model gives me that opportunity. Additionally, thanks to the windows I am able to observe the surroundings and I am protected from insects. Inside, there is enough space to spread out a mat, backpack and other accessories. I've stayed in this tent a few times and it was really comfortable.
How does your day of photographing look like, and how do you prepare?
On a spring day, it looks like this: Always checking the weather the day before. If I know there will be a beautiful sunrise, I start to pack my equipment (hide, shoes, clothes, insect sprays) Of course, I always check the battery level and whether the memory card is in the camera. Wake-up time is usually about 3 hours before sunrise to get to the place calmly and enter the hide in total darkness. Sometimes it happened to me to take a nap in hiding and wake up as the life in the swamp gains momentum. My favorite moment is the first 30 - 60 minutes after sunrise, because the light at this time paints the frames wonderfully.
Anything specific which you want to improve in your style, technic or anything else?
I would like to improve my floating hide skills and places because I live in a beautiful place with a lot of swamps, ponds, lakes etc. I love water themes and I love to combine them with beautiful sunrises so I would like to develop this skills.
Can you tell us what you really would like to photograph one day? So what is your dream subject you didn’t succeed so far?
My dream is to go to Svalbard or Sweden/Norway. I would love to photograph, for example, owls, black grouse, capercaillies, and bears in those conditions and landscape.
Are you publishing photos, do you use social media (which one) and do you have a website?
Yes, You can find my photos on Facebook & Instagram.
What kind of advice would you give to younger or less experienced photographers?
Above all, patience and respect for nature. Enjoy the outdoors and keep your eyes and ears open. Education towards species, behavior, traces, voices is also very important because in potentially obvious places there may be non-obvious finds. And usually the number of hours spent in the field is proportional to the number of really good photos. Have fun with it and have as much fun as possible because it is a beautiful hobby!
If you want to see more photos of Lukasz, please feel free to check out his Facebook and Instagram:
Photos: © Łukasz Sokół
Have a look at the favourite photo hides of Lukasz
For more information & inspiration: Blogs Buteo Photo Gear