Sven Začek - Scanning the frozen forest


Aerial photography is always interesting because it gives you a new perspective. For a project I have photographed many places in Estonia. I have started to look for animals in the landscape. I know it’s hard, but my knowledge from having photographed on the ground can also be put into good use while taking pictures from above. Winter gives a nice opportunity and covers the ground with a pure white blanket. On that blanket everyone can be seen. On this particular day I was able to photograph 38 Moose, about 10 White- tailed Sea Sagles, 4 foxes and about 15 Roe Deer. After landing I was quite okay and filled with adrenaline, but the pilot was freezing :)

Location: Estonia

Tags: aerial photography, forst, frozen, haliaeetus albicilla, predator, sven zacek, white-tailed sea eagle, winter

We’d love you to comment on our photographs. If you can, please do so in English. And as we are here under our own names, we’d appreciate if you would do the same when commenting.

* optional
Your email address will not be published.


  1. Sandra said:

    23/02/2011 01:45

    Great image! Great story!
    Was already wondering how you got this perpective. Arial photography in winter might be quite hard due to the cold temperatures - but if you see the outcome, it's definitly worth it.

  2. Roy Mangersnes said:

    23/02/2011 09:40

    Very interesting perspective, and great light. This is a brilliant picture, as many of your airial shots!

  3. Werner said:

    23/02/2011 10:59

    Cool project - in the narrow sense of the word ;)

    And a fantastic example of an animal in it's environment.

  4. Bruno said:

    25/02/2011 22:05

    What a majestic scene. I love the tridimensionality given by the trees: you can almost feel like touching them with my hands... Sven, you win: this is really a cool project and hats off considering that, from my experience, it is very difficult to get nice and sharp pictures from a plane! My only issue would be about the possible disturbance caused to elusive species while flying low. What do you think?

  5. Werner said:

    26/02/2011 20:02

    Hey Bruno,

    sorry Sven, the answer was your's, but I really would like to say something concerning that topic. Yes, Bruno, I think you are right, there most probably will be a disturbance while flying low. BUT, there would be much more disturbance while hunting, logging or any other kind of "normal" human interaction. We should keep in mind that at the very moment we are discussing about how to behave correct while taking pictures thousands of species are eradicated, thousands of acres of nature are settled. This really should not be an excuse for irresponsible behaviour in nature, but, at least in my opinion, it's much more important to make these images and to share them with a greater audience to arouse the public's interest in our environment accepting that we most probably are disturbing in that special moment, more or less. And, moreover, I like the idea to discuss issues like that here in the Nature Photo Blog! So, thanks Bruno for get it started ;)

  6. Bruno said:

    28/02/2011 20:10

    Werner, many thanks for stepping in and for expressing your points.
    As you might know, unfortunately I am well aware of the really BIG issues,
    which affects the natural world nowadays and which minimize what impact
    wildlife photography can have on it. And yes, this activity can be a very powerful
    tool for inspiring people with concern for Nature and to make them step in
    for its sake. Yet, I think things could be read also "vice versa". Having seen
    unfortunately too many "bad" photographers in action, justifying all their acts
    with the presumed good their pictures will do to nature one day in return, I
    don't accept anymore the dogma that nature photography is intrinsically
    good for nature and, therefore, always justified. This here, of course, is
    not one of such cases. But, in my own personal opinion, I don't believe that
    in times of internet, digital photography with all their visual surplus good nature
    pictures alone will still do their job, if they would get around without an active,
    ethical and informed photographer behind them. But this is just my 2 cents.

  7. Meelis Kivirand said:

    28/02/2011 21:06

    Very powerful picutre of flying eagle and what a frosted trees!

  8. Sven Zacek said:

    28/02/2011 21:26

    Great discussion guys. I have thought about it and I was discussing this with the pilot too. Let's take the Sea Eagle for example, because I think the disturbance can only be towards birds. The animals either just stare or step under a bush and stare from there. Although I did encounter three Roe Deer that started running like crazy. Other Deer were again just staring.

    But the Eagles looked like individuals in the sense that I think two just flew away. But others started circling and almost playing with us. Flying around the helicopter. At one time there were three Eagles that circles around us and played with each other. It was a great sight to see. The pilot told me a story about how once he saw an Eagle perching on the top of the tallest spruce three in the forest. The pilot approached him with the helicopter until he was so close that the feathers of the bird we blowing with the wind generated by the helicopter. Yet it still perched and looked relaxed. I think that the Eagles feels like kings when it comes to altitude and they are not afraid of other flying objects.

    So I think what concerns aerial photography then the disturbance is as minimal as possible.

  9. Jaak Põder said:

    01/03/2011 00:14

    I am a lot less 'green' now than 10 years ago when I knew very little of nature.

    Disturbance as such is overseen when houses are built or new roads are planned. The bad part for nature photographer is that the result is not a house (with no connection whatsoever to the environment that was there before) but a picture showing everything as it was at that moment. So a lot of questions of moral arise. I have some pics from one year where moose and eagles were (and from what I heard, nested also) and the next year it was real estate business only (slogan 'come live in forest', nests gone)

    In my opinion, the nature photographers, even the most ignorant ones, are a very small nuisance to nature compared to what actually is going on. I've met few photographers who have absolutely no clue why this or that bird is flying around (while they lay 2 meters from their nest of freshly hatched chicks and not knowing it) but this is the tip of the iceberg. The bottom of iceberg is economics. And that's where the moral has to be, not a single pic of a bird flying around.

  10. Werner said:

    01/03/2011 11:52

    Hey there,

    interesting aspects! I think you are right, Jaak, when you say that nowadays there are very many nature photographers who don't know much about the species they are taking pictures of. Animals are only subjects for them. These "new" nature photographers very often come from photography, not from nature conservancy as many of the "old" photographers do. Let's take your latest image in this blog, the tern, as an example. It's nest photography. Of course there was a disturbance when you made this photo. But I strongly believe that you know how to behave in such a situation, where and when to build the hide, how to approach. So, as a well educated wildlife photographer you tried to minimize the disturbance and you made a great, emotional picture. A photographer without your knowledge could have caused a disaster: Tern goes, gull comes, chicks eaten. In GDT we had years ago a discussion to prohibit nest photography. I - and many others - think that's nonsens, because the breeding period is a very important part of the bird's life. With a photo like your's you can evoke the emotions of the people. Not for nothing nest photographies are very often used by nature conservancy for charity appeals. Perhaps a conclusion could be that we have to be aware of the fact that our only presence in nature could lead to disturbance, but with some knowledge and some "feeling" for a situation we can reduce the risks for wildlife and do some stunning shots!

  11. Bruno said:

    01/03/2011 17:19

    Guys, I hope I haven't been misunderstood and that nobody felt personally touched by what I wrote. Actually, I am very happy that we are discussing this really important topic here and see that we pretty much agree on the core of the question.

    Werner, you made a very good point now and couldn't agree more. It's exactly what I wanted to say.

    Jaak, I agree that nature photography is a minor nuisance compared to real habitat destruction, but we shouldn't overlook the fact that nowadays there are really many more (nature) photographers out there than it used to be. Many of them, get equipped, learn about a bunch of good spots and move in nature, thirsty of animal portraits only to show off on a photography forum around the Web... Of course, everybody is free to do whatever he/she feels like doing, this is out of question. It is the NUMBER of people out there with a camera that, in my opinion, should be faced as another, new way of exploiting natural resources, and therefore, to be strictly (or ethically) managed, even though at the end this will boil down to very personal matters...

    Sven, I believe what you write and I know too well that you are an uttermost serious and true wildlife photographer, otherwise we wouldn't see so many incredible animal shots from your side...;-)) I have seen other people successfully photographing animals from the sky (es. wolves, bears in N America, birds in France, ungulates in Africa) but my experience with aerial photography is nevertheless different from yours and probably theirs. I also love taking pictures from the sky and took off about ten times to photograph cities and mountains, always relying on the pilot's experience and common sense for the legal and ethical aspects. This was before I worked in Slovakia. While I was there on the look for bears and other wildlife (you know the story: hiking, backpacking, sleeping in the wild and so on) I witnessed on at least three occasions (once it was an helicopter, twice touristic airplanes) female bears with cubs completely freak out and abandon their normal feeding activities to rush into the forest as the noise of an engine was barely audible. Only minutes later, the airplane/helicopter would fly by and pretty high. This, perhaps has to do only with very wild areas and mountain acoustics or with animals that previously had bad experiences (aerial hunting???), honestly I don't know... But personally I don't feel anymore so comfortable at the idea of flying low above wild areas.

  12. Jaak Põder said:

    01/03/2011 18:33

    Bruno, I'm very glad your post got us talking on the subject. We all have our level on sensitivity on the matter and voicing it is what we should do more often :-). I absolutely agree that the ethical part is very important in nature photography, I however see that the issue of nature photographers being problem to nature is highly exaggerated. We had a case in Estonia where Hannu H. was knocking on a tree to see (and take pics) if the owl is in the nest - one ornithologist saw it and it was broadcasted by all the main newspapers (bad photographer disturbing owl). While almost all ornithologists themselves knock on the tree to see if there is owl there if they want to know it! The weight of nature photographer's influence to nature (according to the public) is in my opinion not in proportion to the reality.

    Werner, this tern is not the best example of my being careful. The mother tolerated me up to with macro 180mm (and also with wide angle) without any hide. Father was a bit less tolerant.

  13. Lars-Eric Sellberg said:

    03/03/2011 20:59

    A wonderful picture, the perspective and the frozen trees and these fantastic bird...

  14. Theo Bosboom said:

    10/03/2011 10:36

    Cool picture Sven. And an interesting and important discussion as well.

  15. Luis Llavori said:

    04/05/2011 22:41

    Una captura en vuelo increíble con un fondo maravilloso!!! enhorabuena