Early days

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 for one of the most misunderstood animals on the planet: 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 Grass snake, while playing outside at his primary school.

 

Developing a passion

In the years that followed Wouter developed a specific interest in the world of herpetology. Soon he started to increase his knowlegde about wild reptiles and amphibians by putting lots of effort and hours in studying herpetofauna. In 2008 he 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 became a life goal. The unique characteristics of herping fascinated Wouter from the start. For example that it might be impossible to herp successfully on consistent base without specific knowledge and persistence.

 

There is nothing comparable to herping

Herping is not like driving straight to the 'Big Five'. Actually it can be a true challenge.

Weather conditions play an important and potentially frustrating role and understanding habitat, breeding and food priorities is a key element as well. Besides that, some species have high geographical limits, are very rare and/or 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 searched for hours without achieving a single result. But perseverance may change everything in the end. Spotting that 'lifer' means that all effort is compensated instantly.

Field research

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 lizard 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 areas where they once flourished. This happens especially where it occurs next to the Sand lizard. Wouter analyzes the presence of both species and wether they still coexist in one of the study areas.

Photography and awareness

From face-to-face macro work to wide angle in-habitat shots: while using his dedication and experience as a field herper Wouter is as often as possible in search of capturing his next wild herp encounter. And hopefully the results help a bit to increase awareness in a time where several species across the globe face the possibility of extinction.

Equipment

Over the years all photos (of wild reptiles and amphibians only) are taken with Canon gear. 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.

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