Wise Eyes

©Brad Wilson

Two to three seconds. That’s the time you may have to make a compelling animal portrait, says Brad Wilson, whose latest photo book, ““The Other World: Animal Portraits”” (Damiani Editore), was released in April.

“In all of my animal portrait sessions, the main challenge is finding a powerful moment where stillness, light, and mood combine to create something uncommon or unexpected,” he says. “I often describe my photo shoots as meditations in the middle of organized chaos—lots of patient waiting for two or three good seconds when something I want is possible.”

©Brad Wilson

For the photo above, he used a Hasselblad H1 camera system with a PhaseOne P65+ digital back, six Profoto Acute 2400 packs with heads, two 72-inch strip soft boxes, one 12x12-foot white silk, and two large black background fabrics. The rescue elephant was photographed at a sanctuary in a huge, open building that the animal could easily walk into, he explains. For the portrait, he dialed back all the front lights so the rim lighting would dominate. “This created a sense that the elephant was emerging from darkness, which added a sense of mystery.” 

Amanda Arnold is a senior editor.