AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH Michelle Valberg
Lens Magazine|December 2020
Light & Motion Master of Light, and Canadian Geographic Photographer-in-Residence
MARK EDWARD HARRIS

At Home in Nature

While Nikon Canada Ambassador, Light & Motion Master of Light, and Canadian Geographic Photographer-in-Residence Michelle Valberg has traveled to all seven continents on assignment, she finds her native Canada an endless source of inspiration.

The results of her three-decade camera-in-hand explorations have not only graced the pages of countless magazines and hung on the walls of numerous exhibition spaces and embassies worldwide, but they have also been reproduced on postage stamps and on a Royal Canadian Mint coin.

Valberg is a strong believer in giving back, both to the photo community through workshops and lectures as well as to society in general. In 2009, she founded Project North, a not-for-profit organization delivering education and sport-based opportunities to youth in Canada's remote Arctic regions.

AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH Michelle Valberg

BY MARK EDWARD HARRIS

Lens Magazine: What does Canada offer that might not exist or is less accessible in other countries?

Michelle Valberg: As much as I love traveling the world, I love discovering my own country. Canada is extremely rich and diverse in culture, wildlife, and landscapes from coast to coast to coast. From polar bears and walrus to bison and puffins, mountains and ocean views to grasslands and endless prairies, there is so much to explore, see and photograph.

I also love photographing and exploring my own backyard. We have a cottage on Sharbot Lake, not too far from our home in Ottawa. You will often find me in my kayak before sunrise photographing creatures like loons, blue herons, swans, raccoons, and otters.

I find harmony in nature. I am at peace when I am alone on the lake during the early morning hours. Hearing the haunting call of the loons echo across the lake makes my heart full. When I am home in the city, you can find me photographing people in the studio, but I continue to find the time to go into nature when I can. I am constantly refining my craft and skills as there is always more to learn both in photography and nature.

We all can become better stewards of our world when we are spreading the word with images of what we have to lose if we don't take better care of our planet.

L. M.: Interestingly, you say from coast to coast to coast. In the continental US, we say coast to coast. Canada actually does have three, which opens up even more photographic opportunities. What's in your camera bag when you head out to photograph wildlife both around your country and the globe?

M. V.: I have been photographing with Nikon mirrorless cameras for over two years. What's going in my Think Tank camera bags is changing all the time now with the new lenses and cameras emerging on the market.

I was recently part of the pre-production test of the Nikon Z 6II, which has landed a significant spot in my camera bag. I am waiting for the Nikon Z 7II release, and then I will switch out one of my Z7s. I consistently work with three camera bodies. Soon it will be a Z7, a Z 7II and a Z 6II.

For wildlife, my favorite lenses are the 800mm and 500mmPF. I love the prime lenses and using the 2x extender on both. To be honest, until last year, I was an anti-extender gal. But now, being able to hand-hold 1000mm - in other words, a 500mmPF with 2x extender I am all in and achieving awesome results. The long focal length combined with silent photography has meant spending more time with creatures and having more opportunity to photograph them as well. Without a doubt, there is less interruption in behavior or disturbance to the animals with the mirrorless system. If I have an opportunity to use a tripod, the 800mm is on one of my bodies, and if my subjects are far, I will put on the 2x extender.

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