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Interview with Leonardo Castro

Interviews

25 March 2016

Posted by Anna Fraser

Hi Leonardo! Tell us about yourself in two sentences - who are you?

I'm a nature photographer from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest – the most threatened biome in the country – and I live in a little town called Espera Feliz. I'm an unconditional nature lover, the kind of person that can easily spend an entire week inside the jungle in search of a great image just with the basic requirements to survive and to photograph.

QWhat's the weirdest situation you've found yourself in while taking a photograph?

ACoincidentally, my weirdest experience is also one of the most recent. In nature photography camouflage is a very effective device and I tell you, it's easy to come across as a 'strange' guy when camouflaged in a world full of 'normal' people. I had watched a documentary about the techniques of Hungarian photographer Bence Máté, and got inspired to put a similar concept to the test. I used my most recent backyard hut that has a large hole in one side where I can rest my lens. It's built entirely of materials found around and about (twigs and dry leaves) so it looks as natural as possible. And so, "Oh my God! What's that?", said someone. And "Look! There's someone in there!", said many others after that! Then I got up quickly, scaring all the various forms of life around me, and I said "Relax, it's just me!". The concept works quite well (I've managed to get really nice shots with it so far!), so I've repeated this technique since then with some frequency. I like to think that this is just part of the job!

QWhat do you shoot on? What's your favourite set up?

ALiving among patches of tropical rainforest, and since my first adventures into the rainforest itself, it is there that I find what I want to show. Wildlife is what I like to shoot, and nowadays most of the time I use a Nikon D7100 (lightweight body) with a 70-300mm VR II lens. For me it has the perfect balance between price, overall quality of the equipment, and of the images I want to capture. Not to mention portability. I can get everything I need safely in a simple motorcycle (my second passion) and go anywhere I want to go.

QWhat's your number one tip for an aspiring photographer?

AYou will probably get beautiful pictures by pressing the shutter button, but it's the delete button that is more likely to give you a solid career.

This is my favourite of all my photographs. For me, this picture sums up everything that photography really is, the powerful and intimate creation process that allows you to get... Read more

This is my favourite of all my photographs. For me, this picture sums up everything that photography really is, the powerful and intimate creation process that allows you to get into the heart of the image, often guided by only a combination of intuition and determination. One day my mother found a small caterpillar in her backyard and then, perfectly in sync with her son, decided to put it in a plastic bag and bring it to me. She said "I know about your love for nature and photography and so I thought you would like to see it." A simple attitude of pure and unquestioning maternal confidence, after all, few would care about something as irrelevant as that, even more so knowing that I was hardly able to produce anything at that moment (late afternoon) in that specific place (in a house with poor lighting) with such simple equipment (only a 80 dollar point-and-shoot Canon A490 and a small LED headlight). At that precise moment, aware of all the difficulties imposed, I set myself against my own indisposition. Most of the effort was just to meet the kindness and trust of my dear little mother. My sister held the headlight beside me patiently while I tried some different angles, and almost an hour later I finally found myself in that sea of possibilities and limitations. A single matchstick, a small box serving as a tripod, some duct tape, an unbearable pain due to a thankless photographing position, and suddenly it was extraordinary to see the beautiful picture emerge from nothing, straight to the small screen of my camera. We did it! From an unknown town in the Brazilian countryside, a week after the photo was taken, it would already be in Washington (via Your Shot) to be highlighted on National Geographic's website homepage, Daily News section - <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/03/pictures/120301-best-news-pictures-we-love-aurora-india-dogs/?source=hp_dl1_news_pictures20120303#/best-news-pictures-02-2012-caterpillar_49401_600x450.jpg" target="_blank">Pictures We Love, Best of February 2012</a> for about five consecutive days. It was used to announce a gallery of amazing images from the most respected sources, including institutions such as the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). From that experience I've taken away three things: it's hard to challenge simplicity, Canon Powershot cameras are really powerful and... listen to your parents because they know what is best for you, always! Read less

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Leonardo Castro

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Walking through the small farms and ranches of Brazil, you can find a little of everything. This time, while I was visiting some of my wife's friends, I ended up becoming the ta... Read more

Walking through the small farms and ranches of Brazil, you can find a little of everything. This time, while I was visiting some of my wife's friends, I ended up becoming the target of frantic and unexpected attention, a small puppy (female) of multicolored eyes. She is what we might call a 'genetic anomaly' that attracts the attention of the town's children! Read less

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Leonardo Castro

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The big striped caterpillar (Pseudosphinx, probably, quite common here in Brazil) decided to cooperate in a creative process that comes down to almost pure experimentation based... Read more

The big striped caterpillar (Pseudosphinx, probably, quite common here in Brazil) decided to cooperate in a creative process that comes down to almost pure experimentation based in failure and successes. Thus in this photo, after several attempts, it finally worked with the right angle, the right background (black fabric covering the bed of vegetables), the sunlight behind the subject and the flash light carefully measured. Read less

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Leonardo Castro

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The noblest of all the criteria: the moment. I knew night photography would have something to offer. Then, during one of my first attempts, I was presented with an amazing seque... Read more

The noblest of all the criteria: the moment. I knew night photography would have something to offer. Then, during one of my first attempts, I was presented with an amazing sequence of events within this tiny portion of Brazilian rainforest: cannibal tree-frogs in action. Pictured: the big Hypsiboas faber swallowing its smaller competitor – you can see the little fingers in her mouth. Read less

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Leonardo Castro

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Luck, most genuine luck. In order to obtain luck, you need to go get it. This is photography! The really interesting thing about these little grasshoppers is that at this stage ... Read more

Luck, most genuine luck. In order to obtain luck, you need to go get it. This is photography! The really interesting thing about these little grasshoppers is that at this stage of their metamorphosis they are totally black. Then a few days later they will become beautiful green and yellow insects, the arthropod representatives of the local wildlife that honours the colours of the Brazilian flag. Read less

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Leonardo Castro

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There are years when, perhaps influenced by climate changes, the population of leaf-cutting ants explodes in certain Brazilian regions. On this day they were everywhere. It was ... Read more

There are years when, perhaps influenced by climate changes, the population of leaf-cutting ants explodes in certain Brazilian regions. On this day they were everywhere. It was a clear sky, full of bright sunlight, and while I was lying in the shade under a small bush I watched all that movement backlit by this light. In a second I decided to get up and look more closely at something that caught my attention, this wonderful scene that occurred amid the chaos. Read less

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Leonardo Castro

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What a privilege to get your hands dirty in the process of raising your own home! I wanted to record it, after a full day (like many others!) of hard work, on this occasion, tyi... Read more

What a privilege to get your hands dirty in the process of raising your own home! I wanted to record it, after a full day (like many others!) of hard work, on this occasion, tying with my own hands the steel bars that would stand within the concrete columns. It was certainly more difficult to take the picture alone, without dirtying and damaging my equipment, than to spend the whole day folding rusty wires! Read less

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Leonardo Castro

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