Cotton's Interview with a Photographer:  Melanie Palik

Cotton's Interview with a Photographer: Melanie Palik

After our own hearts this Canadian photographer truly loves nature, wildlife and the outdoors. When the chance arrives you may find her sitting in a hide for as long as it takes, even knowing when to put down the camera and embrace the encounter all to its own. Without further ado we present the next installment of Cotton's Interview With A Photographer featuring Melanie Palik.

Cotton Carrier: Where do you call home?

Melanie Palik: I was raised in Toronto, Then decided to call Northern Ontario home. Moving to Timmins was a Big change from the busy city to a boreal mining town.

CC: How long have you taken photographs for unprofessionally and professionally?

Started back in 2009 just taking photos of our hiking trips, and that gradually migrated into taking photos of backyard critters. By 2012 I was hooked on Birding and Nature photography. Being published in a few issues of Canadian Geographic helped fuel that passion.

CC: How would you define your style as a photographer?

I’m known locally as the bird nerd, which speaks for itself. I’m mostly known for my bird photography. People often don’t realize how many different species we have in our area.

CC: Have you ever gone to photography school?

I’m completely self taught, I also got great advice from fellow photographers online and locally over the past few years and my skills have improved dramatically.

CC: Where is your favorite place or thing to shoot?

I love shooting waterfowl! They can be a challenge though as many are extremely flighty. So I often wear camouflage and use a portable hide. But birds in general are my favorite subjects.

CC: What Camera(s) / Lenses do you use?

My current gear is the Nikon D500 and the Nikkor 200-500mm 5.6 or the 300mm f4 lenses.

CC: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get “The Shot”?

Wouldn’t say crazy.. but it was funny and slightly painful. I sat on a rock by the waters edge last November, it was gloomy with a mix of rain and snow. But the clouds parted and a group of green-winged teal cane within feet of me. (which never happens!) so I sat for hours not wanting to spook them. I was cold and wet and shivering. I sat until it was getting dark and decided it was time to pack it in, but my legs were completely numb and I almost fell in the water trying to get up. I basically had to crawl back to my vehicle.

CC: Who has inspired you as a photographer?

There’s so much amazing talent out there, it’s almost impossible to choose. But Boe Baty, Britney Crossman and Thomas Vijayan are certainly photographers I look up to and that inspire me to improve.

CC: What advice would you tell an aspiring photographer?

Keep practicing! Photography is a lot about trial and error and trying new things and seeing what works. Learn from your mistakes. Find a subject you have great passion with and shoot it!

CC: Can you share a photographic resource you personally use?

There’s so many online tutorials, or photography forums. YouTube has so many great videos as well. I’ve used or quite a few times.

CC: How has photography shaped your day to day?

I work full time and have two young children so I don’t get out as often as I’d like. But most days off I spend in the forest or by the lake. Being in Nature and capturing its beauty really grounds the soul and eases the stresses of day to day life.

CC: Where has photography taken you, and made you experience?

Doing wildlife photography has given me a greater understanding of animal behavior and habitat. I’m also an amateur ornithologist so studying my subjects before hand really makes a difference. I’ve come face to face with many wild animals as well. The lynx was the most memorable experience. So much so I didn’t even get any photos. The birds were alarm calling and I stopped to listen, I heard the snow crunching softly and a young lynx appeared from behind a small patch of alders. We both quietly sat down and shared a moment before he lost interest and continued on. My heart was pounding afterwards.

CC: Any exciting photographic events in coming up you’d like to share?

Hoping next year to visit the west coast, but honestly there’s so many places that I want to visit, I have a very long list. From Alaska to Antarctica.

Check out Melanie’s Instagram