Born in a small town near Utrecht in the Netherlands, Wouter van Brenk (1984) grew up with a great love for nature, wildlife and in particular snakes. Encouraged by his father he learned to spot local wildlife at a very young age, in the forests around his hometown and in the 'Veluwe' area. At the age of six he caught his first local Grass snake, while playing outside at his primary school.
The rise of a passionate herper
More of these early experiences created a specific interest in the fascinating world of herpetology. He started to increase his knowlegde about reptiles and amphibians by putting lots of effort and hours in studying herpetofauna.
In 2008 Wouter bought his first digital camera (Canon EOS 350D) and capturing his herp encounters became more and more his passion as well. The combination of finding species in the field (by using different techniques) and photographing them in their natural habitat soon became a life goal. Probably because it is impossible to herp successfully on consistent base without specific knowledge and persistence. Never mind capturing that 'once-in-a-lifetime' find with your camera decently.
Why you have to be crazy about herping to do it... again and again
Herping is not like driving straight into the 'Big Five'. Actually it can be a true challenge. Weather conditions play an important and potentially frustrating role in the field and understanding habitat, breeding and food priorities is a key element as well. Besides that, some species are very rare and live shy and secretive lifes. Due to the difficulty of certain terrain, a field herper can be tested mentally and physically. Certainly if there is hiked and searched for hours at the best possible spot without achieving a single (highly wished) result. Finally persistence may change everything in the end and true happiness can take it all over, while spotting that 'lifer'.
Maybe these kind of factors and feelings create that endless fascination for wild reptiles and amphibians in every herping heart. For Wouter in personal that includes definitely the connection with (and respect for) nature while herping in the field.
Nowadays Wouter is protector for the Utrechts Landschap organization and active in the field for RAVON, the organization for research and protection of reptiles and amphibians in the Netherlands. Wouter's specific field research is focused on two native Lacertidae species. Sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) populations are doing pretty well in the Netherlands, but Viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara) populations are less healthy and in rapid decline in certain areas where they once flourished. This happens in particular where it occurs in habitats next to the Sand lizard. In one of these areas Wouter analyzes the presence of both species and wether they still coexist.
Photography and awareness
From face-to-face macro work to wide angle in-habitat shots: while using his experience and dedication as a field herpetologist, Wouter is always in search of capturing his next herp encounter. And hopefully the results help a bit to increase awareness in a time where several herps across the globe face the possibility of extinction.
Over the years all photos (of wild reptiles and amphibians only) are taken with Canon equipment. Currently Wouter is using the Canon EOS 7D Mark II camera and different prime lenses (like the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM) ranging from 10mm to 400mm. In addition to that tools like external (Canon) flash, a softbox and a monopod (for example for passive arboreal subjects like Tree frogs) are used.