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At one with <br class="br_visual" />the rhythm of nature

At one with
the rhythm of nature

© Marina Cano

November 2015

Wildlife photographer and Canon Explorer Marina Cano discusses her career with CPN Editor David Corfield, revealing how music, cameras and a new pair of binoculars have helped her get closer to the natural world...

If it weren’t for a flute, Marina Cano wouldn’t be the wildlife photographer she is today. It’s been an unusual journey for the Spanish lenswoman, but she is grateful for her past life as a professional flautist and says it is her love of music that has brought her closer to nature. “I was a teacher of music for more than 15 years – it’s my other passion,” Marina reveals. “I feel that music helps me with my aesthetic vision.”

© Marina Cano
© Marina Cano

Hippos at rest, Africa. Taken on a Canon EOS 30D with an EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 300mm; the exposure was 1/125sec at f/6.7, ISO 250.

“My work is about a celebration of the natural world,” she continues. “I think I have a special aesthetic sense and this comes to me naturally. The city in which I live, Santander, is incredibly beautiful and the land around me is beautiful too. So my life is steeped in all this beauty and I try to recreate it in my photography.”

“There is a really strong sense of design in my work. I can’t simply document a subject. I have to try and do something artistic, either by finding some drama with the subject or waiting for the light.”

Marina continues: “My father was a keen amateur photographer and when I was about 17 years old I started taking pictures with his old camera, just taking pictures of everything really; but a few years later I discovered wildlife photography and instantly I was in love.”

Realising the dream

Leaving her teaching career behind, Marina decided to follow her dream and – as luck would have it – she lived right on the doorstep of Europe’s largest wildlife park, Cabárceno Natural Park, home to 100 animal species from five continents. “I started taking it seriously about 14 years ago and then published my first book in 2009, about Cabárceno, which is only about 15 minutes away from me,” she explains.

It was to be the perfect learning ground for Marina’s real dream: to travel to the great African savanna and be at one with its incredible beauty. “I always wanted to travel to Africa to photograph the amazing wildlife there,” she explains. “Having this wildlife park in Spain on my doorstep, and the success of the book I made about it, gave me the resources I needed to go to Africa and realise my dream.”

© Marina Cano
© Marina Cano

Reflection of giraffes at the watering hole, Africa. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF85mm f/1.8 USM lens; the exposure was 1/160sec at f/4.5, ISO 1000.

With some funds behind her from the success of her first book, Marina bought herself an EOS-1D Mark IV and an EF100-400mm lens and ventured out in search of adventure. Pretty soon she was finding clients in magazines back in her native Spain, and she used the money to help buy more equipment. And she started to teach again, but this time photography.

“I started teaching others about photography, and found that I could combine my love of nature with my passion for imparting knowledge and this has worked well for me,” Marina explains.

Now I lead two safaris in Africa every year - Namibia and Kenya. I am very excited to run these plus a workshop in Cabárceno, as it allows me not only to enjoy the beautiful animals of Africa in their natural habitat, but also meet other wildlife enthusiasts closer to home, teach them and give them tips that will help them become better photographers and get some wonderful photos.”

About a year and a half ago she moved up to an EOS-1D X and her relationship with Canon became closer after becoming a member of its Ambassador’s programme – as an Explorer – earlier this year. Her enthusiasm for photography and her new-found status has allowed her access to many of Canon’s latest lenses including another wildlife favourite, the EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x superzoom.

© Marina Cano
© Marina Cano

Zebras at play, Spain. Taken on a Canon EOS 30D with an EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 200mm; the exposure was 1/400sec at f/5.6, ISO 250.

“I love all Canon’s equipment because it has been designed with the photographer in mind,” Marina states. “You can just feel the quality and the engineering when you use the cameras,” she explains. With the EOS-1D X I love the speed and quality of the sensor. It works perfectly with the lenses I have and I have really pushed the ISO to the max. It’s always focusing so fast, with the EF300mm f/2.8 and 200-400mm f/4L Extender it is the perfect combination. But I’m a huge fan of the 100-400mm lens too, as that is a perfect zoom range for many wildlife situations. Plus you can handhold it too. So really, these are my three favourite lenses.”

“I’m very old-fashioned with my cameras,” Marina jokes. “Quite austere really. I travel usually just the with EOS-1D X and the three lenses and that’s it. You don’t need a lot of equipment, you need knowledge. When I shoot in the wildlife park in Spain I get to know the different times and the seasons and how that affects the animals. Time is the great teacher, but the right equipment helps that’s for sure.”

Taking the longer view

A recent addition to Marina’s kitbag hasn’t been a camera at all. Instead it’s a pair of Canon’s Image Stabilizer binoculars. And they have made a significant contribution to her way of working, as she explains:

“I use a pair of Canon 18x50 Image Stabilizer All Weather binoculars and they are amazing!” she exclaims. “I have been using them in the wildlife park here in Spain when looking for the bears and also in Africa, too. I really love using them when I am in a situation that I don't know what is fully happening. Sometimes with a camera and a long lens it is not enough to see, but with these binoculars I can see exactly what is going on and it helps me anticipate a moment.”

© Marina Cano
© Marina Cano

Canon Explorer Marina Cano with her Canon 18x50 Image Stabilizer All Weather binoculars.

Marina cites an example of when the binoculars really proved their value as an accompaniment to her EOS-1D X. “I was in the Kruger National Park in South Africa recently and I was taking some pictures of birds quite a distance away on some rocks. At least I thought they were rocks. It was an amazing scene and in the morning mist as they fished in the river I spent around 20 minutes taking pictures of them. And then I realised after studying the scene through the binoculars, that the rocks the birds were landing on were not rocks at all, but hippos! All of a sudden, I had a new meaning to my picture and it made me look at the scene in a completely different way. I was so focused on the birds, I didn't realise there were 30 hippos in the scene as well! I went and rephotographed it in a totally different way as a result, recomposing and recropping to include the hippos as bigger components to the picture.”

“The Image Stabilizer system in the binoculars makes it so easy to view a subject for a long time,” she reveals. “It’s better for your eyes too plus your concentration as a photographer. It’s the one accessory I would never now be without and I recommend Canon binoculars to everyone I have on my workshops!”

Passing on advice

Marina’s journey as a wildlife photographer hasn’t been entirely conventional but her commitment and her approach is beyond reproach. “Digital has made it easy for amateurs to take amazing pictures,” she says. “It is lovely to see so much passion but it puts more pressure on professionals like me to make a living from it. This is why teaching is to important to me and why amateur photographers are actually the best!” she laughs.

“If I can give one piece of advice, I would say something that has worked for me and that is: passion. If you really feel that passion for wildlife – or any subject for that matter - then don't give up. You don't need to go to exotic places to get great wildlife pictures either. Do your best with what you have close. Your garden is your studio. Work hard and look closer to home while you perfect your techniques.”

“For me, my next challenge would be to photograph polar bears but I’m not very good in the cold!” she laughs. “But that would be a dream come true for me. They are very beautiful animals and exist in a changing landscape and I want to see them and their world before it changes completely. That's what inspires me as a photographer: showing the natural beauty of wildlife to as many people as possible.”

Technical – Marina Cano’s wildlife kitbag

EOS-1D Mark IV

EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
EF85mm f/1.8 USM
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM
EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x
EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM

Canon 18x50 Image Stabilizer All Weather binoculars
Manfrotto tripod

Biografía: Marina Cano

Marina Cano

Wildlife photographer Marina Cano comes from Santander, Spain, and after graduating as a professional flautist she taught history and music. She became a photographer at the age of 17, but had photographed nature from a young age when her father took her on photo trips. She soon discovered the largest wildlife park in Europe, Cabárceno, and then Africa, which she says is: “the place where I feel that I truly belong.” Marina’s published books have been ‘Cabárceno’ (2009), ‘Drama & Intimacy’ (2011) and the e-book ‘Babies of the Wild’ (2015). She won first place in the ‘Nature in Wildlife’ category at the International Photography Awards in 2013 and has had exhibitions of her work in South Africa, Spain, England, Korea and Cuba. She has also presented work at talks in Spain, Finland, Cuba and Israel.


Cheetah with cubs, Africa. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF600mm f/4L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/400sec at f/8, ISO 1000.