Michelle Valberg: From Amateur to Professional

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In our interview series “From Amateur to Professional”We will be asking established photographers to share their photos in order to see how their techniques have evolved, changed, or improved over time. 

You’ll get to see the progression of their images, learn how they got started, and find out how they transitioned from amateur to professional.




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Michelle Valberg, a renowned photographer of wildlife and a Nikon Ambassador, has spent three decades captivating audiences. He has inspired them to cherish and preserve our natural environment.

Travelling around all corners of the globe, Valberg’s deep-rooted love for Canada and the Arctic takes precedence in her work.

When and why first caught the bug of nature photography?

The nature photography bug swept me off my feet when I bought my first camera.

To make a living in photography, there wasn’t a photography job I said no to for the first 20 years of my career – weddings, portraits, events etc., they all helped support my nature addiction.

Show us your first image. What did it look like back then compared to what you think now?

My first photo was taken from a stream at Lake Placid. Before my father gave me the camera, I had never taken any photos. After I took this picture, my life was forever changed.

Michelle valberg

It was like yesterday. It was what ignited my passion to want to learn more about photography and make a living doing it.

Show us 2 of your favourite photos – one from your early/amateur days, and one from your professional career. Why are you proud of these images, and what makes you feel that way?

I still love many of the images I took nearly 40 years ago. They made an impact on my life in some way. They are part of my photographic soul.

Michelle Valberg photography

This is one of a narwhal from my first trip to Canada’s Arctic… it blew me away – not only to capture an image of this elusive creature but to have the experience of capturing it.

Boss the Spirit Bear is my favorite image.

Michelle Valberg spirit bear Boss

This photo was taken in the Great Bear Rainforest. It has appeared in several magazines and won numerous awards, including a gold medal at 2022’s World Photographic Cup. It was an experience I will never forget.

When did decide to become a photographer professionally? How did you make the transition and how long did that take?

I became a professional photographer at the age of 17 after graduating from high school. I studied photography at University and College and started my business while I was in school.

It’s my only career and I love it. I am very fortunate to have been able to make a living through photography for the past 38 years.

Was there a major turning point in your photography career – a eureka moment of sorts?

My major turning point in my career happened when I visited Canada’s High Arctic. I was working on a Canada book and desperately wanted to take pictures of polar bears.

Michelle Valberg polar bear photography

I made a telephone call, and two weeks later, I was standing at the edge of a floe near Pond Inlet Nunavut taking photos of polar bears. Bowhead whales. Walruses. Seals. Birds. And narwhals.

It became my mission to bring the north to the south – to show this beautiful magical place on Earth. This meant spending more time in nature and less in the studio. It was an enormous transition that I am forever thankful for.

Do you return to certain species, places or subjects? Could you compare the images from your last shoot and your first? Explain what’s changed in your approach and technique.

I have now been to Canada’s Arctic over 60 times. Each visit is unique. Each visit I learn more. From better equipment to more knowledge, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be a wildlife photojournalist.

My mission has also evolved, which has made me a more accomplished photographer.

Michelle Valberg photogarphy

My journey around the globe as a Nikon ambassador for Canada and a wildlife photographer has given me incredible experiences in every continent.

I hope to inspire a generation of conservationists through photography. I want to encourage more engagement and a genuine interest for the preservation of our planet.

Because, in the end, it is the emotion evoked by an image that has the power to change the world – one click of the shutter at a time.

What has changed in the way you edit and process your images?

It has definitely changed! I started out with Photoshop and use it almost 100 percent of the time to do post-production. Over time, we change our tastes, dislikes and vision for the final product. Just like in the days of the darkroom.

Michelle valberg photography

To stay relevant, we need to constantly improve our style and keep our interest in photography high.

I believe it is important, however, that we always stay true our unique style.

What was the biggest challenge you faced starting out, and what’s your biggest challenge now?

It was and still is my biggest challenge to be a female creator and entrepreneur in an industry dominated by men.

The time constraints and travel I do are also a challenge. I have to find a balance in my life between the desire to photograph all the time, and my family.

After 2.5 years at home due to Covid, I went on a travel/work overload coming out of pandemic. Now I must evaluate my next steps and determine what to do.

What’s the one piece of advice that you would give yourself if you could go back in time?

Never back down. Never be intimidated. Be yourself. Believe in yourself.




‘ Credit:
Original content by www.naturettl.com: “Michelle Valberg, From Amateur to Pro”

Read the complete article at https://www.naturettl.com/michelle-valberg/

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