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Marsel van Oosten

Marsel van Oosten – A true adventurer


We all try to preserve some of our great memories through photography. It is no secret to the world that Marsel van Oosten is one of the greatest photographers in the world and recently we had the outstanding opportunity to ask him some questions about his work. Find more about the man behind the lens and get inspired for your next shots.

After graduating from the Academy of Arts with a BA in Art Direction and Graphic Design, Dutch-born Marsel van Oosten started a career in advertising. As an Art Director at various renowned agencies, he won numerous awards for his work, amongst which are one silver and two gold Lions at the prestigious International Advertising Festival in Cannes. The acclaimed television commercial for a Dutch nature conservation organization is an excellent representation of both his creative and emotional approach to communication, as well as for his love for the natural world and his concerns in relation to the environment.

Marsel’s images are famed for his mastery of composition, lighting, colour, and perspective. In his work he tries to simplify and to get rid of the extraneous – simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. In addition to winning the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Travel Photographer of the Year, and International Nature Photographer of the Year (twice), his awards include a First Prize in the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, a First Prize in Nature’s Best International Photography Awards, twice the First Prize in the Travel Photographer of the Year, and several awards in Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

His images are featured in galleries and museums, used worldwide in advertising and design, and he is a regular contributor to National Geographic.

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Where does your passion for photography comes from?

I've always been a lover of nature. When I was a kid, I frequently went with my parents into the woods for long walks. At home we often watched films and documentaries about animals. Yet it took a long time before I started taking photography seriously. I didn't like it at art school, so then I ignored the subject. After graduating in graphic design and art direction, I got a job as an art director at a large advertising agency. In the fifteen years that followed, I collaborated extensively with selected photographers to shoot my campaigns. As a result, I was regularly on photo shoots and I learned a lot from that. I also learned to appreciate photography a lot more, and in the end, I bought a camera to take pictures during vacations. I soon found out that my photos weren't very good and I decided to look into it in more detail. Then it became a serious hobby that eventually got completely out of hand. The last three years of my career in advertising I had my own advertising agency which was quite stressful. Nature photography became the way to escape that stress for me. At one point I wondered if I couldn't be a better photographer because it seemed to make me a lot happier.

Zooming on Tablet
Zooming on Tablet
Zooming on Tablet

When did you start combining photography with adventure?

When my wife and I went on our honeymoon, we opted for a safari in Tanzania. For me that was the first time that I set foot in Africa, and the first time that I photographed wildlife. It made an undeniable impression on me, and from that moment on I was sure that I wanted to make it my job. I knew that would not be easy because fifteen years ago there was not much money to be made in my photography genre. During a brainstorming session with my wife, Daniella, we decided to organize special wildlife photography trips all over the world. At that time, this only happened on a very small scale, so we saw many opportunities there. It turned out to be the right choice because business has been going very well from the beginning of our company. Our starting point has always been that we only do things that make us happy. That has turned out to be a good strategy. When we no longer like a trip, we throw it out, even if it is financially unwise to do so. We both love photography, animals and nature, and travel, so this is the perfect combination for us.

What is the most spectacular expedition / travel experience that you ever had?

It is difficult to compare journeys because they are all very special in their own way. Our expedition in the Sahara through Algeria, Libya and Chad was really spectacular. I would like to do that again when peace has returned to the region. My most recent expedition to Socotra, Yemen, was also a special experience. Although there is a civil war raging the journey was by no means harmful.

What is your dream voyage?

In the end I would like to drive an overland truck around the world again, in search of unknown pieces of wilderness.

(Now a question everyone wants to know) What is your perfect camera setup to photograph wildlife?

There is no perfect setup because the animals and the circumstances always differ. If animals are very shy, then I need long telephoto lenses, but if they are relaxed, I can sometimes even use a wide-angle lens. In principle, I love to show animals in their natural habitat, with a lot of attention to the beauty that surrounds them. My ideal nature photo is actually a beautiful landscape photo with an animal in it. That means that I prefer to shoot with shorter lenses because then I can show more of the landscape. A 24-70 / 2.8 or a 70-200 / 2.8 are ideal lenses for this. But in practice I mostly use my 180-400 / 4.0 with built-in 1.4x teleconverter for my animal photography. Usually, it is not possible to get close enough to wild animals to use short lenses.

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Is there anything exciting in the calendar for the future?

Absolutely. I am currently working on a new book: MOTHER (a Tribute to Mother Earth). It will be a visual ode to nature and an overview of my best work of the past 15 years. No fewer than 394 pages and 244 photos, so a really bulky book. I've been working on it for over 10 months now, and I'm very happy with the result. It will be available worldwide on April 22.

In addition, we had to postpone all our photo trips from 2020 to 2021 and 2022, while those years were almost full. For us, the upcoming two years will be all about non-stop travel and photography with a number of new destinations that we are very much looking forward to. I also have some personal projects in the waiting room, but they will have to stay there for the time being.

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