An Interview with Herman Gerber, professional camera operator in the Sabi Sands.
1. Hi Herman! Please present yourself in a couple of words…
I am a professional live wildlife photographer and 6th generation African.
2. You are currently working for Safari TV. Sounds really exciting! 🙂 Is this some kind of “dream come true” experience you are living at the moment? Tell us a bit about how you got to this point, what your background is, etc.
Definitely a dream come true, even if I didn’t realize it at first. I’ve always enjoyed spending time in the wild, and entertainment and conservation are two of my other big passions. These three form the perfect tripod from which I can share my beautiful continent with the rest of the world, through Safari TV.
I was born and bred in Cape Town, and travelled all over Southern Africa as a child with my family. From a young age I have enjoyed the wilds of Africa and mastered the family handycam, dreaming of one day ending up in the entertainment or conservation industry.
I completed an acting degree at the University of Stellenbosch and after that travelled with a community theatre for a while… only to become more and more intrigued by jobs behind the camera.
Then, after doing a specialized wildlife film making course in Cape Town in 2008, I received a call from Graham Wallington (WildEarth TV CEO) and the rest is history. I moved to the beautiful Sabi Sand Game Reserve to do camera work for WildEarth and am now head camera operator for Safari TV.
3. It must be such a thrill waking up with wild animals in your backyard, huh? Is this something you feel comfortable with? Any anecdotes regarding some of the “local visitors” you may have encountered? Any “naughty” baboons, “vicious” snakes or “unpredictable” hyenas wandering about your property?!
Waking up and going to bed with the sounds of the bush makes it all worth it! We have a troop of very naughty vervet monkeys with quite a sweet tooth. More than once I’ve had a cheeky monkey stare at me, chewing a chocolate stolen from my secret sweet stash.
We also have some cat visitors that enjoy taking down our washing from the line. Karula is a female leopard in our area. She and her two sons (Mixo and Induna) see our camp as part of their playground.
I’ve also encountered a female hyena early one morning as she was wandering through our camp.
4. Take us on a typical day at “the office”…what do you do? Do you have a certain daily routine, or do tasks vary from one day to the next? You must be an early bird, I presume?
This is normally my routine:
05h00 Wake up.
06h00/06h30 Departure on a three hour game drive (until 09h30).
10h00 Breakfast time. Then I need to clean the camera equipment…
11h00-13h00 Social networking.
14h00 Get ready for the PM Safari.
15h00-18h00 Out on the afternoon drive.
18h30 Make sure everything is ready and on charge for the next morning.
19h30 Have dinner and maybe something cool to get rid of all the dust in the throat. 😉
Michael: Beer, I presume?! 🙂 😉
After that I normally take it easy and get ready for bed.
5. Being skilled as a “camera operator” is in itself extremely interesting! What would you say are the top 5 qualities necessary to become a successful cameraman in your domain?
Being a live wildlife cameraman means you always have to be on top of your game, since there is no editing involved as you are broadcasting. Patience, patience and more patience is probably the most important thing when you are trying to catch that perfect moment. “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast”.
As long as you keep on breathing your shots should be steady. Framing pictures is what it is all about. Remember the rule of thirds and try not to have your subject in the middle of the picture. You must certainly enjoy animals and understand behavior to know when that leopard is going to jump or pounce. For me camera work is something very ‘Zen’, and you need to be at peace with yourself and your surroundings to get the perfect picture and make it flow into the next.
6. Africa is a “Garden of Eden” when it comes to national parks and wildlife preserves. How do you feel about the current conservation status of this stunning continent? Are you confident about the future? In your opinion, what areas do we still need to improve upon in order to sustain such vital resources?
I think that people are realizing that they need to preserve wild areas, and in itself it is already a big step in the right direction. Here in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve animals can roam freely into the Greater Kruger Park and Mozambique. Even though the humans can’t move around as they please, for the animals it is just one big “Garden of Eden” with not a fence in sight.
In Africa, poaching is still a big problem and this seriously needs to be addressed. The trading of endangered species must be stopped completely. The most important thing is educating people so that they want to preserve our natural world.
7. Lastly, what would you recommend to people who’d like to follow the same kind of path as yourself? Is passion really enough to pursue one’s dreams? Any tricks to overcome some of the challenges we all have in life? A “secret formula” perhaps? If so we’d really like to know everything… 🙂
Following your passion is certainly the way to go. If your passion is big enough, overcoming challenges are so much easier. Try to figure out where you want to be in 5 years time, and be sure to work towards that even if you have to change your strategy along the way. Embrace change and use it as a means of personal growth. Oh yes, eat healthy and do exercise! 😉
Thank you Herman! 🙂