Nature photographer Marina Cano specialises in African wildlife and has won many awards for her work, which has been exhibited all over the world.
Graduating as a musician, Marina spent her early years teaching music and history. She had, however, been taking photographs since she was a teenager, and became passionate about it while accompanying her father on photography trips to Africa. It was at about age 16 that Marina began taking photos more seriously, documenting the enormous Cabárceno Wildlife Park in Cantabria, which is just 15 minutes away from where she grew up, and home to more than 100 species of animals.
It was her early experiences at Cabárceno that have kept her coming back over the years, eventually leading to her publishing a book by the same name in 2009. The 750 hectare former toxic mining zone has been transformed into a refuge for endangered African wildlife, and Marina’s striking images tell their story.
Her lifelong devotion to wildlife and nature eventually led her to pursue photography full-time. As well as Cabárceno, Marina has also published the books Drama & Intimacy (2011), the e-book Babies of The Wild (2015), Inspiración y Naturaleza (2016) and her most recent volume, Wild Soul (2018). Her images have been published around the world in numerous respected publications, including a cover for the National Geographic book The Wisdom of Mums, a cover shot on the National Geographic Traveler magazine in Spain, as well as images in its Spain, Portugal and Poland guides.
In 2015, she was a finalist in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. In the same year she was appointed as a Canon Ambassador. She delivers lectures and photography courses around the world, and has exhibited in cities worldwide, including Havana, Seoul, Cape Town, Seville and London.
Known for her distinctive fine art, portraiture style of wildlife photography, Marina says there’s no magic recipe for creating images of animals in ways that people haven’t seen before. However, she believes that if you are passionate and dedicated to putting the time in you will soon develop your own unique style of imagery.
What drives Marina these days are the stories behind the images; the same enthusiasm for wildlife that motivated her to pick up a camera as a child. She hopes that photographers who are equally passionate about their subjects remember that it is easy to think you’ve been lucky when you get a shot you are proud of, but behind every successful image there is a story to tell. It's a story not just about the animal, but about yourself – the hours waiting in the rain, in the cold, in sometimes harsh environments, watching and waiting for that perfect moment to press the shutter button. Then there are weeks and months of intense research, not to mention the big sacrifices made to be able to purchase all the expensive gear. There is more to a great image than just serendipity.
How did you get your passion for wildlife?
“I wasn’t born in Africa, but I often feel like Africa was born in me. As a child, I was lucky enough to have the largest wildlife park in Europe just 15 minutes away from my home in Cantabria, Spain. It was here that I fell in love with wildlife, and that love took me to Africa.”
Who have been your biggest influences?
“The biggest influence on me by far was my father: his love for nature, his curiosity in life, and the fact that he was an amateur photographer were all big influences on me picking up a camera for the first time. So I learnt a great deal from him. As I began taking photos the work of Gregory Colbert, Nick Brandt and Steve Bloom also provided great inspiration.”
How important is understanding animal behaviour for a wildlife photographer?
“Understanding animal behaviour can help in some moments, and with some species, but for me I think it is far more important to be passionate about wildlife photography. You need a passion to be there waiting for action, and to persevere.”
Do you have certain species in mind when you go out photographing, or are you ready for anything?
“I try to stay ready for everything. Whatever big or small thing surprises me, this impacts me. It doesn't matter if it’s an ant or an elephant! I like all challenges.”
Do you take certain gear with you for different species of animals?
“It depends on the environment I'm planning to visit. If I know I'm going to be far away from the animals, for instance, I make sure to pack a long lens. Or if there is any possibility of including an amazing landscape to give context, then I’ll pack a wide angle, or my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM.”
“I wish that when I was younger I had believed in myself more, and stopped thinking so much that I couldn't do something. 'Just go girl, go!' That’s what I wish I could tell my younger self. I think the best thing photographers can do for themselves is to forget about any boundaries that are only in our heads. Work hard at what you want to do and just go for it. That's what I did, and as I did it I realised that I could have done it several years before. Don’t waste time!”