Nico Babot / Member Interview

Landscape and architecture photographer based in New Zealand.


Christchurch, New Zealand

What inspired you to become a photographer?

I wish I could tell stories about how photography has always been a part of my life, but for me travel came first. I admit, I was lucky. I learned to swim in the Caribbean islands, had my first kiss in Romania and knew how to count in Chinese before riding a bicycle. Travel is what I grew up with. I love how meeting people with a different background challenges how you perceive the world.

After a lot of travel around the world, I ended up settling in New Zealand, mostly attracted by its mountains and landscapes, excited about all the opportunities this country has to offer… I’m looking at topographic maps like a kid in a candy store, always searching for new places to explore and share with others. Photography became as a natural progression of this love for exploration.

Tell us about your first photo that really validated your interest as a photographer.

My interest as a photographer came progressively but the picture that really motivated me to become more serious about photography was taken on top of Mount Ollivier. That summit was Sir Edmund Hillary’s first major climb in 1939 (Hillary was a New Zealand mountaineer who became the first climber to reach the Everest summit with Tenzing Norgay). It is not a very difficult climb but the view on Mount Cook, Mt Sefton and the Silly range is breathtaking.

An early start allowed us to reach the summit for sunrise. That morning, the surrounding valleys were filled with thick fog, letting the summits rise like islands in a sea of clouds. That moment was so unique that I took a picture to share it. It is not a very good photo according to my standards but the emotion it evokes to people looking at this picture is the same as the one I had that morning, seven years ago.

Back when you were just starting out, what was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome that?

  • Get away from the technical aspect of photography
  • It is easy to get swamped into technical
  • I escaped it by shooting over and over until every setting and every button of my camera became familiar
  • I can now operate my camera with closed eyes… which is quite convenient for astrophotography!

What do you enjoy photographing the most?

Landscapes are my favorite subject. I love being out and explore, this is what I grew up with and photography is just an extension of that. I am fortunate enough to live in a country that is one of the top destinations in the world for photography so I guess it helps little…

What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?

Landscapes are my favorite subject. I love being out and explore, this is what I grew up with and photography is just an extension of that. I am fortunate enough to live in a country that is one of the top destinations in the world for photography so I guess it helps little…

Tell us about time in your photographic journey where you failed at something and how did you pivot to overcome this?

  • I failed at so many
  • One of them was at the very beginning of my photographic journey (church-astrophotography)
  • What went wrong: wrong time of the night, light pollution, bad angle
  • What I did: analyzed the picture and tried to figure out what went wrong and tried to fix every problems in the picture.

We all have weaknesses, what is yours relating to photography?

Finding time to get out and shoot is another challenge for many. How do you find the time in your busy schedule to get out there behind your camera?

  • I made taking pictures part of my lifestyle. It is not a question of when am I going to shoot anymore, the question is now what am I going to shoot?
  • Practicing, experimenting and shooting are my priorities

There are many photographers starting out, who don't have the money to buy the camera gear they want. What advice can you give to them?

  • Shoot with whatever is available to you.
  • The most important is to keep shooting and learn from it
  • Most of the improvements I made were by changing my photographing habits rather than changing my gear

How do you feel photography has impacted the way you see the world?

Light plays an important role in photography and since I have started my photography journey, I have been more sensitive on how the light is and how it plays with my surroundings. I am constantly looking at how light affects the clouds or the side of a mountain. Even if I don’t have a camera in my hands, I cannot help but paying attention to how soft the light becomes in the evening and where I could get a great vantage point to go shooting.

What is your best photography related tip?

Take your time. For me photography is about enjoying the places I am trying to capture. Once again, I love to see how the light influences the scene in front of me and how much a landscape can change from one moment to the other. It is not unusual for me to spend several hours in one location, just getting familiar with it, trying different compositions and waiting for the perfect moment to take the shot.

What would you like for people take away from your work?

Without a doubt: getting out and explore. This will probably sound cliché but we have a limited amount of time on this planet and you have to make the most of it. People constantly ask me where some of my shot have been taken and I have no problem sharing that with them.

There is a well-known and powerful Māori concept called Tūrangawaewae. Literally tūranga (standing place), waewae (feet), it is often translated as ‘a place to stand’. Tūrangawaewae are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home. If I can inspire people to go and explore, this means that they’ll have a chance to connect with their land and maybe find their own Tūrangawaewae.

What are some ‘must have’ items in your camera bag?

Memory cards… very hard to take a picture without memory cards nowadays!
More seriously, I don’t really focus too much on gear. As a landscape photographer, it is more important to be light and mobile than having too many gadgets to carry. As long as I have a camera, a lens and a tripod, I know that I will be able to have a good time and bring back images… If I haven’t forgotten the memory cards!

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what is the ONE photography book you would want to have with you?

Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s book the Earth from above is a book that impacted me a lot as a teenager. It showed me how vast and diverse this earth was. I think that this would be the perfect book for someone stuck in a limited stretch of land… And it has a lot of pages which means I could use those to light a fire if needed!

Final question, and it’s a fun one: Life has been found on another planet and none-other than Sir Richard Branson is piloting Virgin Galactic and has put together a team of engineers, scientist, doctors and has asked you to come along to document the journey. The challenge is you can only bring two lenses and one camera body and two other items. What would you bring?

  • A macro lens (in case they are small) and a wide angle (in case they are huge)
  • A bottle of wine to make friends with them
  • And my phone to Instagram the story!

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