Despite existing in a small region, the wildlife of Transylvania have developed quite a few far-reaching legends around them and the lush landscape they occupy. László Gál is an ecologist, tracker and mushroom specialist, in love with Transylvanian wildlife. Photographer, director and cameraman of a genre that has no script.
He is shooting a series called Wild Transylvania, about the wildlife surrounding us, where “secrets lie on every corner”, he says. He has received several international awards, also works for National Geographic and is proud of not using camouflage during his shootings.
– How come you’re so obsessed about nature?
– Nature, for a long time was startling for me, didn’t seem friendly at all. I began to work on my fears step by step and at one point nature turned out to be the best teacher for me. Since then, my life became closely bound to nature.
– Since when do you document nature and the habits of animals?
– It all started around 1994, I was doing photo shootings with a Smena 8 camera. As time went on, I increasingly felt that I wanted to document movements and sounds also. I remember, the acquisition of the first digital mini camera was a sudden decision of mine. One day before I was going to the rutting of wood grouses and I knew this was something that had to be documented with video and sound. Eventually I did find the location of the rutting.
– What kind of lifestyle does this imply? Is the life of a tracker kind of like that of a solitary hermit?
– Lifestyle, right, that is the correct expression. I somehow always had this lifestyle. I was a tracker way before I was documenting nature and observing the animals drew me even closer to them. After a while a short encounter was not enough, I needed to spend much more time with them for thorough documentation. In order to do that, I had get to know the behavior of the animals. Starting from then, I wanted to see them in all of their life circumstances. I realized early on that in order to achieve that, I have to be out there and began living accordingly.
– When did you become a professional cameraman? If one looks at your images there is no question about their quality.
– This is a stolen profession for me. The composition of images is almost the same as in photography and the rest I learnt from my own mistakes, while editing my videos. This of course was still not enough to make a movie so I started to read about video making and I also took professional advice.
Filming for me means that first I have to know my subject. I am trying to learn about their behavior as much as I can and make field observations. After this it can take days or even weeks until I manage to capture the adequate images. It takes this long because I do not feed animals, nor do I use artificial camouflage either. So my plans are often ruined if the wind turns or I make an inappropriate movement after hours and hours of observation, one that the wild animal notices and runs away. Sometimes they come too close to me or I move too close to them and the shoot is over because we crossed into each other’s safety zone.
– When did you first start to think about making a Transylvanian nature documentary?
– The idea of the Wild Transylvania series came after my friends encouraged me to share my experiences and my images. People started to invite me to lectures in schools, so I slowly realized that there is a real demand for what I do. After that I started to do the movies with the intention of teaching and I tried to share information that I considered important and for which I also had the proper images-
– In a previous interview you said nature documentaries start to drift away from nature. What did you mean by that?
– Offer has to meet market demand and demand is driven by today’s lifestyle. Nature documentaries now all have an action movie script. Fast-moving action scenes, drama, chase, bloodbath and reconciliation. Unsurprisingly, viewers are afraid to go out in nature because they think what they see on the screen is reality. Of course this is also part of reality, but not to this extent.
– What are your future plans?
– I would like to improve communication between ordinary people and science using all the knowledge accumulated in the making of nature documentaries. I would also like to make educational movies from the raw filmed materials I still haven’t used and give a realistic image of Transylvanian wildlife while better connecting people to it.