Meet the Photographer: Rolf Nussbaumer

Other Wildlife, First Place, Professional

12-15-2011 // Laura Tangley
Rolf Nussbaumer, First Place Winner, Other Wildlife

Rolf Nussbaumer was born and raised in northeastern Switzerland, where he discovered his love of photography at age 17. After marrying a Texan in 2003, he moved to central Texas and is now a full-time photographer. Nussbaumer enjoys photographing nature, with a primary focus on birds, mammals, flowers and landscapes. His personal mission is to help people experience nature through his photography.

"Growing up, I spent much time outdoors with my brother," says Nussbaumer. "We loved going on nature hikes. I learned as much as I could about my native surroundings: bird calls, about habitat, flora and fauna, tracks. I was fascinated. Soon I began photographing butterflies to try to capture some of this natural beauty. My passion then spread to other subjects, especially birds."

To learn more about Nussbaumer’s work and see more of his images, visit

NWF: Why did you enter NWF’s Photo Contest?

Rolf Nussbaumer: I entered it because NWF’s photo contest is one of the premier nature photo contests and supports a great cause I also like that NWF has nature magazines with pictures for children. We need to encourage nature education at an early age. I know my hikes as a boy sparked my love for nature and the environment.

NWF: Can you describe briefly the circumstances behind the making of your contest-winning photograph?

2011 National Wildife Photo Contest Winner

RN: In 2010, I was taking pictures on a ranch southeast of Laredo, Texas, during April—one of the best months for wildflowers in the state. The area had been somewhat dry; then the rains came. Toads and frogs were everywhere. When I found this cane toad (Bufo marinus), I knew I wanted to take advantage of the nice field of yellow wild flowers. I set up my flash, camera and phototrap (an infrared camera trigger device). I set the toad down in the flowers and waited for him to jump. He was a great jumper, and I was able to capture his beautiful jumping style.

Although the cane toad is a nonnative, invasive species in some parts of the country, it occurs naturally in southern Texas, where this photo was taken.

Camera Specs: Nikon D3, AF Nikkor 300mm f/2.8, f/10, 1/2000s, ISO 1250, fill flash, Nikon SB-800 Flash, Mini Tripod Novoflex, Phototrap infrared trigger.

NWF: Are there certain types of wildlife that you prefer to photograph or that you find particularly challenging?

Pied-billed grebe by Rolf Nussbaumer

RN: I prefer to photograph birds. Birds come in so many different colors, shapes and sizes. They can be found virtually everywhere in the world. While some are easy to photograph, others offer quite a challenge. For me, water birds can be quite difficult to photograph as I like to take most of my shots at eye level with the animal. To accomplish this, most of the time you have to get wet and dirty, stay wet and dirty, and have your equipment dangerously close to the water. Plus, some of the time, especially in the southern United States, you have to share the water with alligators and snakes.

NWF: Do you have any tips for taking nature photos that you would like to share?

RN: Wherever I go, I research the native life first, which is the best nature photo tip I can offer. Knowing my photo subjects provides insight on their behavior. This knowledge includes diet, habitat, calls, mating rituals and migration patterns. Not only does learning all of this help me be prepared, it is fun as well. I also think patience and persistence are great assets for a nature photographer. A more direct photo tip is to keep your background clean to draw focus on your main subject unless the background adds to your image.

Sword billed hummingbird, South America

NWF: Do you think that photography can promote wildlife conservation? If so, how?

RN: I definitely think photography promotes wildlife conservation. People are drawn to pictures, and pictures are able to evoke emotions. These emotions connect people to nature and make them want to protect what they love. One of my goals is to help people experience nature through my photography. I hope my pictures will help make a difference.

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