Armed with the patience of a saint and the balls of a wingsuit pilot, Jannico Kelk is a 24 year old Brisbane-based wildlife photographer who lives to capture the world’s rarest reptiles and frogs. 

Welcome to WAE! Introduce yourself to our crew…

For the last two years I’ve worked as a Fauna Spotter catching and relocating animals on mine sites in remote areas. This has financially fueled my addictive wanderlust and passion for wildlife photography. From the Pilbara to the Iron Range in Cape York. From the deep virgin forests of Kalimantan to the red sand dunes of Windorah.

How did you get into wildlife photography?

I’ve always had a deep fascination with wildlife, particularly the scaly kind. Once I graduated from school and slowly realised that Civil Engineering wasn’t for me, I spent most of my time looking for animals in Queensland. I initially only wanted a camera to get a quick photo for memories sake and documentation. But as time went by, I slowly wanted a better image to remember the animals found.

Eventually, my trips revolved more and more around photography. Now I have a dedicated shelf for my camera equipment as well my partners and we time our trips with precision to be in the right place at the right time to get the shot!

Phyllurus_gulbaru_Critically_Endangered Desert Spade Foot

What sort of equipment do you use?

I use a Canon 7dMKII , but in the past I’ve used the old original Canon 5d.
For smaller critters such as frogs, geckos and bats I use the Canon 100mmL series Macro. For these types of shots, I want to see every single scale on even the smallest of skinks. I use the Canon 24-70mmL II for larger animals such as Goannas, mammals, and snakes. This zoom lets me get as close as possible which optimises the effect of the Yongnuo 560 speedlites.

For images where I want to portray the animal in its habitat I use two different wide angles. The Tokina 11-20mm, is used for faster or dangerous animals where speed is of the essence. It’s incredibly easy to use, the autofocus is reliable and the optics is amazing. Meaning you don’t miss a shot!

The Venus 15mm Wide Angle Macro is my favourite lenses. It allows me to focus on a subject up 10mm away from the lens. Which means I can photograph a micro-bat whilst showing its natural habitat. This lens is entirely manual and takes some time to get used to but I found it opened so many creative doors the work was more than worth it. Along with those I have plenty bits and pieces. Transmitters, flash brackets, extendable arms, soft boxes, remote sensors. The list goes on!

What sort of animals are you searching for and capturing?

Generally I’m an addict for reptiles and frogs. For work (outside of photography) I’ve relocated microbats so I spent some time photographing them. I don’t really have a favorite particular animal, but for arguments sake I would say the small Monitors of Northern Australia or the Broad Tail Geckos all along the east coast. Some of these species are so specialised that they only exist in one rocky creek line and that’s it. And the journey to find them isn’t straight forward. Lately I’ve become obsessed with Spiny Crayfish, they generally live in crystal clear creeks along the east coast. There’s plenty that haven’t been described and some that are critically endangered.

Squirrel Glider Frilled Neck Lizard Inland Beared Dragon

Why snakes? Some would say that you’re a little bit bonkers…

They’re so diverse, the live and elegantly conquer almost every habitat and they don’t even have legs. Crazy? I never really see it as an adrenalin hit or ego boost, I just think they’re really cool and nice to look at.

What is it about this hobby that keeps you out there chasing down elusive animals?

It’s a few reasons actually. One, I just really enjoy being outdoors. Whether it’s for a weekend or a 3 month around the world trip. I love the entire journey of researching a species to driving out to see it but from time to time you find something that completely surprises you and it keeps you on your toes. It’s an amazing feeling. But mostly, I just really care for wildlife and conservation. Even those that are shunned and prosecuted by humanity just for not being cute and cuddly. Wildlife photography can show these animals in a different light. Full of character, intelligence, emotion and curiosity. They can be surprisingly majestic, incredibly fearless and astonishing caring. I want others who don’t even know about the existence of these animals to see that and hopefully learn to care about them.

Where are your favourite places to shoot in Australia and internationally?

Inland Australia. Locations where it’s so quiet you can hear a truck coming before you can see it on the horizon. People often think these places are boring. But if you know where to look it is full of life.

Borneo. It’s just an amazing place that’s full of lovely people and more snakes and frogs than you can poke a stick at.

Canopy Monitor Peppered Tree Frog Euastacus valentulus

Most memorable moment?

For my first anniversary with my partner, we went to Borneo. Walking through the forest we got caught in a torrential storm and we managed to find a set of rotting wooden stairs. After laying down palm leaves to create a rudimentary roof we hide underneath as the storm rolled over. Whilst we were waiting several Malaysian Horned Toads popped by and we managed to get a few shots in as we waited!

Any close encounters?

Oh, there is literally too many that I care to admit too. I have been bitten and in a nutshell it sucks. There’s nothing cool about it. You end up in hospital, you can’t sleep, people prod you, it’s embarrassing and your friends and loved ones are worried sick that you could die in the next few hours. And to top it off sometimes you’re in incredible pain. Unfortunately when you play with snakes these things happens, even to the best. I’m only 24 and one of my friends died earlier this year from a snake bite.

3 Tips?

1) Learn patience, you will fail at finding something or you’ll find something and miss the shot. But keep at it.
2) Always practice the fundamentals. Lighting and composition is something you can nail without specialized equipment.
3) Get in the car and go. The only way you’ll see wildlife and get better at photography is to get out and practice!