Inspired by wildlife, the photography of Darío Podestá

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 Photo: Darío PodestáPhoto: Darío Podestá

Originally from Zapala, in the province of Neuquén, Patagonia, Argentina, Darío Podestá is a biologist and wildlife photographer based in Puerto Madryn, Argentina, where he works at the scientific research center Centro Nacional Patagónico (CENPAT).
A passionate wildlife photographer for more than two decades, Dario's photos of Patagonia and South America can be found in numerous books and magazines, and his published work includes a spectacular photo essay of the Argentine Patagonian coast in Issue 24 of Patagon Journal. He has also worked as photo editor for the WWF-affiliated Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina (FVSA) magazine, and his stunning images have won several awards in Argentina, Italy, Spain and the UK, including being a finalist three times for the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award from the Natural History Museum of London.   
As part of a special series of interviews with some of the panel of judges for the 2023 Patagonia Photo Contest, Patagon Journal recently interviewed Dario about his wildlife photography and much more.  
Photo: Darío PodestáPhoto: Darío Podestá
What are some of your secrets to making stunning wildlife photographs? 
I think there are several keys to achieving great wildlife photography. In my case, I constantly look at photos of photographers that inspire me and try to understand why certain photos strike me, so that I can try to project powerful images. While you can be very lucky and get a great photo of a place or species that you are photographing for the first time, I think it is essential to know a lot about the subject and have the photo in mind to go after it. To have perseverance in the search, be self-critical and master the technique to be able to react quickly when the opportunity presents itself.
Does the fact that you are a biologist help you in your wildlife photography?  
Yes. For one thing, through my studies and field work I have acquired a lot of knowledge about different environments and their wildlife, this helps me to predict situations and guides me on how and where to look for certain shots. Furthermore, my work as a biologist has brought me closer to fantastic places and species that are sometimes difficult to access for most people. Knowing and loving nature are two things, I would say, essential to obtain motivating images.
Photo: Darío PodestáPhoto: Darío Podestá
What animals do you most enjoy photographing in Patagonia? And tell us about a unique experience you have had with one of those species while doing photography.
While there are some species that are more charismatic than others, or very “photogenic,” in general I am more interested in the situation than in the subject itself. I prefer to look for a spectacular photo of a common species rather than a common photo of an emblematic species. If you can put the two together then all the better! 
I worked quite a bit with the mara, misnamed "Patagonian hare,” first collaborating with photographs for a biological study. During that time I learned a lot about their behavior and fell in love with the species. Later on I went in search of other types of images that would transmit something of their life and intimacy. That is where one of my favorite images came from, which also won an important award.
Do you think wildlife conservation and rewilding are successful in Patagonia today? What are some of your chief concerns about wildlife in the region?
I think a lot of work has been done in recent years to conserve Patagonia's ecosystems and biodiversity. New protected areas are being created and work in existing ones is being strengthened. We are also conducting baseline scientific research to gather important information on species or processes that are still little known.
Rewilding has also become strong in the region. I believe that, in addition to the restoration of environments, the enhancement of their value and the involvement of local people in these actions is very important. Of course, these types of actions, in order to be viable in the long term, must be carried out with a solid scientific foundation.
Personally, I am concerned about the impact caused by numerous invasive exotic species and, in the case of our oceans, by overfishing and pollution.
Photo: Darío PodestáPhoto: Darío Podestá
You have a photo essay of the Argentine Patagonian coast in Issue 24 of Patagon Journal. What makes that coast such a special place for photography? 
The Patagonian Atlantic coast is a vast expanse of inhospitable and wild terrain, only briefly interrupted by a few towns. On first impression it can feel somewhat desolate, seemingly uninhabited and with a harsh climate. But as you get to know it better, you will soon be amazed by its incredible landscapes and explosion of life. Where the steppe meets the sea, we will find many species of spectacularly adapted land animals and reproductive colonies of birds and marine mammals with hundreds or thousands of individuals. Places that, with the proper permits and ethical behavior, are photography paradises.
What will you look for when deciding the winning photos in the 2023 Patagonia Photo Contest? What do you think is the difference between a great photo and a good photo, for example? 
The contest has different categories so, depending on the category, I will give more importance to different things accordingly. But in any case, beyond the subject matter, it seems important to me that the image, in addition to being technically correct, must have visual impact. Something novel or special that makes me stop and look at it. And, as far as possible, it should transmit something. The author must know how to capture and transmit, in some way, the spirit of Patagonia and its actors.
A good photo is one that is correctly resolved from the technical point of view. It shows a species, an environment or an activity through a good composition of the elements in the frame, has an appropriate lighting, or shows a certain behavior or process, for example.
Photo: Darío PodestáPhoto: Darío Podestá
A great photo should go a little further. In general, when a photographer masters the technique, he goes somewhere to shoot and surely gets a few good photos. Great photos, on the other hand, are rare and require a fusion of several things. While luck often plays a role, it must find us at work. A special photo must have something novel (or not so common), whether it is the location, the species, behavior, lighting conditions, etc. It must have visual impact. Today we are constantly flooded with images, for a special photo to catch our attention it must have "something" that attracts us, invites us to look at it, to think about how it was taken, to transmit or produce some feeling. I believe that every photographer, whether professional or amateur, will achieve throughout his career many good photos but only a handful of "great photos" that will transcend.
What projects are you working on now, and what projects do you hope to undertake in the future?
I am currently working at the National Patagonian Center, part of CONICET. There I collaborate with various research projects through photography. From macrophotography of arthropods to aerial photography for mammal and seabird censuses. 
Personally I am in search of more abstract or less explicit visions in nature photography. As a form of artistic expression rather than trying to document the natural environment. I am also focused on obtaining images that serve as tools for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. Denouncing through photography, showing the human impact on certain species or environments, to photographic reports that provide evidence or disseminate problems or projects related to conservation.
Below, more photos by Dario Podesta: 
Photo: Darío PodestáPhoto: Darío Podestá
Photo: Darío PodestáPhoto: Darío Podestá
Photo: Darío PodestáPhoto: Darío Podestá
Photo: Darío PodestáPhoto: Darío Podestá
Photo: Darío PodestáPhoto: Darío Podestá

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