Studying and documenting the natural world
Ray Maichin is an animal and wildlife enthusiast first and foremost. Growing up he wanted to be a paleontologist, which led to his interest in creatures that currently roam the earth. His interest in photography took off after he graduated from high school, and it occupied most of his time until he decided to pursue a career working with wildlife. He has been taking photos since he was a teenager, usually with his parent’s point-and-shoot as cell phones couldn’t take good photos yet. Ray studied photography on his own, bought a Photography for Dummies book from Costco and watched a lot of Youtube tutorials. His connection to wildlife and nature has only gotten stronger, as has his love for photography. He has combined his interest in photography with his passion for wildlife. Ray’s camera has helped him document some amazing places in Canada, Europe, and Asia.
While his focus is on a variety of subjects, he is always hoping to create an image that tells the story of the natural world, and the people and wildlife that inhabit it.
Like many of us, Ray experienced a big shift in his work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He used to do a lot of concert photography, so his Instagram account formerly featured live music photography in addition to wildlife and nature. Because live music is no longer happening to the scale it once was, he has moved completely to wildlife and nature. His current focus is working on his backlog of photos and improving his editing skills. Getting out in the current climate can be challenging, so Ray spends a lot of his downtime at home continuing to learn and post whatever he can complete. He is hoping to collaborate with local conservation and wildlife groups this year possibly helping them photograph and film ongoing projects. He also has plans to facilitate a photography project featuring the subject of his volunteer work, the Western Painted Turtle! This little endangered reptile is the last remaining native pond turtle in British Columbia which is threatened by invasive species, road mortality, and habitat loss. He feels as though not many people are even aware of this local resident, and would like to bring more awareness to their plight.
Going with the flow
A day of photography for Ray begins the night before a shoot, planning and making the necessary preparations. Charging batteries, emptying memory cards, cleaning gear, and packing the bags. He also tries to anticipate the conditions for whatever subject he is shooting. He scouts locations of where wildlife he plans to shoot may be, and figures out what time of day they may be most active. This also goes for landscape photography, as great lighting can make or break a scene. Then he plans for the weather. Sometimes conditions won’t be looking good but he will go anyway and get lucky with the sun bursting through a gray landscape. Other times, conditions turn out to be worse than expected and you come back with nothing. This, as many photographers know, is part of the game. The greatest photographers are also the most patient and motivated. Ray tries his best to keep trying.
Giving back to nature through photography
Ray’s personal relationship to nature can be likened to a “give and take” relationship. We ALL take so much from nature, even by taking advantage of a scenic hike or walk through the woods. These spectacular habitats are home to ecosystems with varying levels of biodiversity that he has the privilege to enjoy spending time with and photographing. His way of giving back is to try to raise awareness of these beautiful places through his photography. He typically shares information about the wildlife he shoots, and plug any movement dedicated to protecting them or their habitats. There may not appear to be much of an opportunity to do this, but you would be shocked how many habitats rich in biodiversity are under threat from careless government policy in the name of promoting industry. Ray’s home town for instance (Delta, BC), is where he took the photo of the Short-eared Owl. That marshy plain where the photo was taken is under threat of being further developed into further shipping container receiving facilities at the expense of all the local wildlife. Because he sees so many of these local habitats that are under threat, Ray likes to remind himself that no relationship is a one way street and tries to give back in any way he can, even if that is to simply say “maybe we shouldn’t destroy this animal’s home”.
Ray believes it is an artist’s responsibility to try to evoke action with their work when it comes to social issues. This is especially true in his area of photography, where nature and conservation photographers are privileged enough to go into the natural world to take their photos. We must all remember to be respectful in nature, no matter what we are doing. He has seen it even amongst photographers that don’t know they are doing anything wrong. People will get too close, trample habitat in the name of getting “the shot”. Even baiting and flushing wildlife to get their perfect photo! These are issues that remind us that we can all be better and remember that it is a privilege and not a right to be in nature. On a larger scale, we must petition to continue to fight against climate change and local unsustainable practices that contribute to the decline of the very species they like to photograph. If they don’t, there might not be anything left to photograph. He doesn’t want to end up as the elderly person telling the next generation about how beautiful things ‘used to be’. Ray wants to be able to take them out to see it for themselves.