Focus on Nick Garbutt

Focus on Nick Garbutt




An award-winning photographer and critically acclaimed author, Nick has photographed wildlife all around the world. He has been guiding wildlife and photographic tours for over 20 years. Nick is particularly well known for his work in tropical rainforest areas like Borneo, Amazonia and especially Madagascar. His all-round skills cover anything from photographing primates in the canopy to small subjects and macro photography at ground level. He is very much an advocate of showing subjects to best effect in the context of their environment.

One of his latest images shows the extraordinary, endangered nocturnal Aye-aye foraging in the forest canopy of Madagascar.



Nick’s Favourite Destinations for Wildlife Photography

We asked Nick to tell us about his favourite destinations for wildlife photography, and the reasons for choosing these locations. His reply was ” My two great wildlife passions are tropical rainforests and big cats and this is very much reflected in my favourite destinations and photographic locations. ”

The Magic of Rainforest

“No habitat on earth is more uplifting to visit than a tropical rainforest. It is a completely immersive experience. At dawn, mists swirl around the canopy and watery rays of golden sunlight push through to illuminate the gloomy forest floor. The air is filled with a cacophony of sounds as birds, primates and insects call. It is magical. No other habitat provides such a wealth and diversity of subjects to seek out and photograph, from beetles, bugs and frogs at ground level to primates in the canopy. My favourite rainforest is Danum Valley in Sabah, Borneo, but there are so many others that provide similar inspiration. For example the unique Marojejy and Andasibe in Madagascar and the sheer scale and feeling of remoteness of Manu in the Peruvian Amazon.”

Encounters with Big Cats

“The tiger will always be my supreme big cat. No other animal comes close. But tiger watching and photography can be a frustrating challenge. Jaguars in the remoter parts of the Pantanal provide hard-to-beat thrills, snow leopards in Ladakh present a huge challenge, but with success comes monumental feelings of accomplishment. However, for visceral excitement and a feeling of being on an equal footing and eye-to-eye with your subject, pumas in Patagonia are my current top cat.”

Yellowstone – my ‘left field’ photo location

“My slightly ‘left field’ favourite photo location would be Yellowstone – but in the winter. Gripped by freezing temperatures, the park is transformed into a magical wonderland of snow and ice. Steam from a myriad of geothermal features rises and freezes into enchanting frost cloaking the trees. Frosty bison graze on whatever meagre vegetation they can find, while coyotes, red foxes and wolves (for the past 25 years) are in their element.”


Nick selects some of his classic images and tells us why they are special to him


The ultimate big cat

“This pre-digital shot encapsulates so much about the plight of the tiger – walking from light into dark and a gloomy uncertain future.”










A frog with attitude

“Horned frogs are such fabulously camouflaged yet expressive creatures. I specifically timed this shot with the first light of dawn percolating through the canopy.”





The spectacular Rafflesia


“Rafflesia are impressive and spectacular, but often challenging to photograph. Having found this one in near immaculate condition, I used three flash guns with soft boxes to illuminate the outside and inside of the flower. It was also important to shoot it in the context of the forest environment.”







Quintessential Danum


“This is quintessential Danum and epitomises why I adore tropical rainforest. Early morning mist and watery sunlight over the forest canopy.”







Inspired by Andre Bartschi

“Seeing macaws at a clay-lick had been on my bucket list for a long time (since seeing Andre Bartschi’s winning photo in Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 1992). The spectacle more than lived up to expectation, although my photos did not quite express the innovation of Andre’s original. ”








A memorable encounter

“I love visiting Yellowstone in the winter. This shot of a bobcat reminds me of one of the most memorable encounters I’ve been lucky enough to experience. I was able to follow this cat for over 40 minutes as it hunted along the shore line of the Madison River.”





Capturing balletic movement


“Skipping Verreaux’s sifakas in southern Madagascar are almost a cliche. But capturing the balletic movement in a photo is still a challenge which makes success very rewarding. ”








Face to face with a fosa

“The brooding, menacing stare of this fosa is compelling. Lying prone on the forest floor and looking down the barrel of a lens to see this, was tremendously exciting.”







The highly endangered Silky sifaka

“This is one of the rarest primates in the world, found only in the remote rainforests of north east Madagascar. The silky sifaka is tough to track down on the steep, slippery, densely forested slopes of Marojejy Natinoal Park. It is very challenging to photograph. I made many trips to the park, before finally getting this opportunity to photograph a female and her infant in half-decent light. ”








Madagascar’s most recognisable bird

“Another oddity from Madagascar, the helmet vanga is arguably the islands’ most recognisable endemic bird. I envisaged getting this shot long before achieving it. It took many years for me to find an accessible nest in an appropriate position. Then I set up a camera with a remote release and triggered the shot from 50m away. ”







Land of Steam and Snow

“As temperatures plummet in winter, bison gather around the steaming hot springs in the Firehole River Valley of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The geothermal heat helps melt deep snow and keeps grazing areas open to the bison. I was exploring the valley by snow coach and was able to get out and position myself so that the light showed the plumes of steam to best effect. With the early morning mist swirling around, the bison in the foreground were often obscured, so I had to wait for the right moment to take this shot. The one on the right had recently emerged from a hot spring, and because it was very cold (around -25°C) the steam had frozen on its coat, forming a thick layer of frost.”





Moss Mimic

“Tropical montane rainforests, such as Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru, are characterised by an abundance of mosses and lichens, growing on the ground and vegetation. A bush cricket looking to blend into this moist, high-altitude environment therefore succeeds when, it too, looks like moss. I wanted to depict the insect in the context of its broader forest environment, to show how it not only blends into the moss on the branch, but also the forest itself. I achieved this by using a very close-focusing fisheye lens.”







Mineral Banquet

“This image was taken on the edge of a rainforest campsite in Temburong National Park, Borneo. When I arrived at the campsite, I noticed groups of butterflies gathering to feed on minerals. So I supplemented the area by urinating on it! Sure enough, by mid-afternoon the following day, there were dozens of butterflies swarming around the place.

I set up my camera at ground level with a wide-angle lens as close to the butterflies as I could and manually focused on the main spot where they were gathering. I attached an off-camera flash to add in a pulse of extra light. The butterflies flew away while all this was happening, so after attaching a 5 metre long cable release, I retreated and waited for them to congregate again in front of the camera. A slow shutter speed allowed me to create impressionistic blurs of the butterflies in flight, while those that were still and feeding were rendered more sharply.”



If you’d like to explore more of Nick Garbutt’s work, we have  created a new gallery featuring the best of Nick’s work  from locations around the world. He also has a featured gallery on our print site, for those who would like to order a personal print product featuring one of his images.