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Ford Vignale Lifestyle photographer standing in the water taking photo

TIME IS THE JEWEL

NATURAL TALENT

Jasper Doest has become what he always dreamed of being: a nature and wildlife photographer. What’s more, he has reached the top of his profession. Boating through the Dutch national park De Biesbosch, he reveals what makes his job so fascinating.

Jasper Doest got up, as usual, at 4am. With his Ford S-MAX Vignale, he drove to De Biesbosch. He knows you’ve got to be there very early in the morning. That’s when nature’s at its best – in Africa, Japan, South America and here, in this national park, with its delta-esque landscape. A little later, Doest is out of his boat and in the water, up to his neck, feet in the mud, carrying his camera and a huge telephoto lens, searching for the perfect photo. If he has to wait five or six hours for it, that’s no problem. And he often spends five or six months on a single feature story. There’s no rush. This is his dream come true.

Turning Professional

Doest bought his first camera with his first pay cheque – “A Minolta Dynax 500 si. I was truly happy with it!” – and started photographing a nest of grebes close to his home. Then he quit his research job at Unilever to study biology at the University of Amsterdam. On that course, he spent three months on Spitsbergen, near the North Pole, observing what climate change was doing to nature there. He saw something else there, too: arctic foxes. Wow! That became his focus.

Back in the Netherlands, he spotted a photography competition – for professionals. He entered anyway and his pictures of the arctic foxes won. The media called him “the professional photographer Jasper Doest”. So he thought: why not? He turned professional.

Ford Vignale Lifestyle Jasper Doest unloading his stuff from his car; Jasper working on a notebook

National Geographic

Soon after, he sent his work to the Dutch edition of National Geographic magazine. “They told me: it’s looks great, Jasper, but it’s not a story.” That made him think. How do you tell a story with photographs? A few months later, National Geographic offered him a chance anyway: three months to photograph the wisent – the European bison. Those three months became six months. It was certainly worth it.

Oh, they liked it. And it really was a story. The jury had reached a decision: I was made of the right stuff.

These days, he also works for the US edition of National Geographic, the ultimate icon of nature and wildlife photography. In an average week, he shoots about 10,000 pictures. None is ever photoshopped. He’s passionate about that: “No! I don’t use Photoshop! Never, ever!’ Instead, he uses time – and talent.

Award Winner

His feature about the Japanese Macaque monkey earned him the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award in 2013. That was a really fantastic assignment. Being there with those monkeys is an amazing experience. You can work at such a close distance that they can touch my camera and sometimes sit on my back. I became part of their environment. And you know what the young monkeys made me think of? My kids. Exactly the same behaviour. Doest has two children and his wife Maaike works as a school teacher.

Ford Vignale Lifestyle Jasper Doest on a boat

A Lucky Day

Hour after hour, he boats through De Biesbosch. Periodically, he gets into the water and stares through his telephoto lens, looking for beavers and their lodges. He hasn’t had much luck today. “Huh?” Doest says. “I saw beautiful nature, all day long. That’s a lot of luck.” When he has finally finished his work, he loads all of his equipment into his Ford S-MAX Vignale. “It’s the perfect car for my job – and also on off-road terrain.” Tomorrow, he will rise again at 4am and drive to De Biesbosch.

You have to have a very positive attitude in order to endure this. And hey, I can’t complain. I have the best job in the world!

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