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Printing with your destination in mind

Canon Ambassador Thorsten Milse shares how he brought large-format prints of endangered species to life in an outdoor exhibition called Survivor, in partnership with the WWF and Canon.
A jaguar is photographed walking alongside water with rainforest flora behind.

One of nature and wildlife photographer Thorsten Milse's most famous photographs, this image of a jaguar was taken in the Pantanal in Mato Grosso, a large state in west-central Brazil. As Thorsten discovered, the Brazilian people sometimes refer to the animal as 'El Tigre'. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x lens at 560mm, 1/640 sec, f/5.6 and ISO1600. © Thorsten Milse

For more than 25 years, renowned German nature and wildlife photographer and Canon Ambassador Thorsten Milse has dedicated his time to endangered habitats and animal species. He documents what he describes as, "scenes that may not be seen in a few years or have never been seen before", always with his Canon cameras, and frequently printing the results for exhibitions and books.

More recently with his Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, Thorsten hiked a tropical rainforest in Tanzania that is home to 800 chimpanzees. "It's a magical moment when you find a group and participate in the family life and social behaviour of the chimpanzees. This photo (below left) shows how lovingly the mother treats her offspring."

Such powerful face-to-face encounters are tinged with melancholy. "If you photograph some animals in terms of species protection and know that they are the last of their kind, then you often get wistful. I know that I am documenting a special moment of this species that may not exist in 10 years," explains Thorsten.

An adult chimpanzee sits on a branch holding a baby against a backdrop of green leaves.

Memorable face-to-face encounters with species such as these chimpanzees in Tanzania are what motivates Thorsten, who, throughout his career, has advocated for the protection of critically endangered species and habitats. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x lens at 325mm, 1/400 sec, f/5.6 and ISO3200. © Thorsten Milse

Wildlife photographer Thorsten Milse prepares to take a photograph of a black and white lemur hanging from a tree.

Thorsten in action with his Canon EOS C200 camera and a surprise guest.

Thorsten's motivation for species protections means his work isn't complete once he's taken a picture. He's a prolific printer, regularly exhibiting his images for free to bring these environmental issues to the public eye and also to raise funds to support the work of likeminded organisations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

"If the world sees how beautiful and unique our nature is; the fauna biodiversity and the beauty of our animals, then hopefully they will help to protect species and support projects too," he says.

Regular collaborations with the WWF recently included an exhibition called Survivor in Allwetterzoo in Münster, Germany – a zoo actively supporting the preservation of endangered species – for which Thorsten teamed up with Canon in Germany to produce the prints. So how did Thorsten put this together, and how did an outdoor display among living animals in a zoo influence key aspects such as the curation of photos, print size, paper, ink choices and more?

Large-format prints of wildlife are displayed within the green surrounds of a German zoo.

The Survivor exhibition was on display outdoors throughout Allwetterzoo in Germany for seven months, come rain or shine. The impactful 1.8x1.2m borderless prints were produced on high-gloss paper with a semi-gloss protective film to maintain fidelity despite exposure to the elements.

Curation

"For me, being a photographer means artistically staging nature – the animals and landscapes. To be in unique places and to creatively represent life in its incredible biodiversity. I see myself as an observer behind the camera who captures the fascination for the beauty of our planet in moments, and then presents nature in a haunting way and with a new perspective," says Thorsten.

In a zoo popular with amateur photographers who like to take pictures of the captive animals and visitors who will never see such animals in the wild, Thorsten's range of large-format prints of endangered species witnessed in their natural habitats made a considerable impact, and simultaneously blended into their surroundings thanks to their borderless display.

Positioned around the zoo, a total of 60 prints, including a jaguar, a polar bear and a snow leopard, all reproduced in fine detail on a large scale, created a striking environment for viewers to immerse themselves in images and tales of conservation. The borderless prints were made at a size of 1.8x1.2m and were produced using an imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 printer (now succeeded by the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-6100).

A technician wearing white gloves cleans the sensor of a Canon camera.

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A polar bear and two cubs walk across the snow.

Polar bears are often the symbol of climate change, with habitat melting away from under their feet. This situation has become increasingly critical in recent years, as the animals depend on the dwindling ice for their survival. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) at 600mm, 1/640 sec, f/11 and ISO100. © Thorsten Milse

A mother lion and four cubs sit amid grassland, the horizon in the background.

When creating large-format prints, Thorsten is mindful of the ISO settings of his camera. This picture of a mother lion with her cubs was shot at ISO1250, where detail is sharp and dynamic. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x lens at 560mm, 1/250 sec, f/7.1 and ISO1250. © Thorsten Milse

Choice of printer, paper and inks

The Survivor exhibition was in place outdoors for seven months, which brings about altogether different considerations than it does for book printing or prints for indoor display. The high-resolution, high contrast and dynamic colour of Thorsten's pictures needed to be as vibrant on the last day of the exhibition as they were on the first, with no fading or damage that occurs from exposure to daylight and adverse weather.

"Together with Canon, we selected the paper and laminate. All the prints were made on high gloss paper and the protection film is semi-gloss," says Thorsten.

This semi-gloss protection film acts as a barrier to shelter prints from the adverse impact of UV light over time, while the 12-colour pigment ink employed by the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 improves performance in black, dark and red areas. The end result of this dynamic combination is stunning prints capable of both commanding the eye and withstanding the elements.

The large-format Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 is also able to host rolls of paper up to 1.7m in width and 18m in length – plenty big enough for Thorsten's 1.8x1.2m images – and with a print resolution of up to 2,400dpi.

It automatically detects the media and uses the appropriate inks, with larger cartridges that realise a significant saving on ink costs over time, especially for a high-volume exhibition like Survivor.

An Iberian lynx stands on an almost vertical branch, looking alertly towards the camera. The background greenery is out of focus.

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Large-format prints of wildlife are displayed outside a commercial building in Hamburg.

After seven months at Allwetterzoo, the Survivor exhibition was moved to the centre of Hamburg, Germany, where it continued to be on display outdoors in custom-made metal frames outside Überseequartier Nord, a famed commercial building.

The cover for the book Survivor, with a wild cat pictured on the front.

The 60 images on display in the exhibition can all be found in the book, Survivor, which boasts a wider catalogue of 184 of Thorsten's pictures taken over his 25 years as a wildlife photographer.

Survivor impact

In addition to the many visitors who saw and were impacted by the stunning prints displayed in the zoo and consequently outside Überseequartier Nord, a commercial building in Hamburg, there is a wider body of Thorsten's images in a book, also called Survivor (see right image above). And for every sale of the book, €2 will be donated to the WWF.

Reflecting on the power of the printed image and the impact he hopes his work will have, Thorsten says: "Every day we lose some species. If we want them to survive, we must cooperate with nature. In this special time, protecting biodiversity and the preservation of these species is one of the most important things… Wildlife photos are works of art with very special creatures and thus each picture is also a tribute to the endangered species."

Autor Tim Coleman


Thorsten Milse's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Canon Ambassador Thorsten Milse surrounded by green plants with his Canon camera and lens raised and ready to shoot.

Camera

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Excellent low-light performance, deep-learning AF and 5.5K RAW video in a compact package that delivers class-leading performance. A favourite camera of many professionals.

Lenses

Printer

Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-6100

The latest version of the printer Thorsten used for the Survivor exhibition is a high-quality, large-format printer, enhanced with smart software solutions, security encryption and advanced media handling.

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