Behind the Lens: Wildlife Photography with William Fortescue - MeanderApparel

June 17, 2022 8 min read

We’ve previously ran editions of our behind the lens series focusing on surf photography and drone photography, but as a nature lover, I’ve been wanting to move onto wildlife photography for a while now. I was lucky enough to have happened upon William Fortescue’s internationally acclaimed work after he was listed as a finalist in theWorld Nature Photography Awards. Soon, I was scrolling through the images on his website in awe, and already had so many questions; what must go into capturing such beautiful shots? How does someone get into this inspiring line of work? And what does someone who is up so close and personal with endangered wildlife have to say about the matter? Luckily for me, William was kind enough to find some time between his trips to the Arctic and Kenya to answer my questions.

I’d love to hear a bit about how you came to be a wildlife photographer. What came first, your love of wildlife or your love of photography? 

I think the former. I didn’t pick up a camera till I was 14 or 15,  but firmly believe we are all born with an intrinsic love of nature - we are a part of it after all. 

I started to take photography more seriously when I left school, when I landed a role as an intern at a safari camp in Kenya. As I was only 18, and at a very impressionable age, being constantly surrounded by the countries incredible wildlife truly cemented my passion for wildlife photography. 

Luckily, almost a decade later, I am now able to make my living from photographing wild animals, something I am eternally grateful for. 

William Fortescue


'Half Tail'

The shots you take are breathtaking. Can you tell me about the process of capturing these images? How much planning goes into it?

The majority of the work happens before I take the image. Say for instance I want to photograph elephants, I first research the best place in the world to do so - often this is Amboseli National Park in Kenya. Once I’ve discovered that, I have to find a local, expert guide, ensuring I have the best chance of success when in the field. Given this occasionally requires getting in close proximity of my wild subjects, I need to know they have the knowledge and expertise to keep us and the animal safe. 

Once all of this is in place, I will spend anything from five days to two weeks working on the image. Usually repeating the same process until I get an original result. Often this can mean following the same animal for five or six days, waiting until it all comes together. 

Elephants in Amboseli

Can you talk me through a typical day in your life when photographing?

Every day is wildly different, but a few key similarities prevail. No matter where I am in the world, the day starts well before dawn. I’m guiding a safari at the moment and we are out the door and on the road by 6am every day - we have to be out there before sunrise, so we can work in that soft morning light.

From this point on days are dictated by the wildlife. Working with big cats for instance (particularly lions), often involves hours of waiting just for 30 seconds of action - they can sleep for 20 hours a day, so I’ve lost count of the hours I have spent watching them sleep. 

Days are usually spent out till way past sunset, meaning I am often out for 10-13 hours a day, depending on the light conditions. 

I’ve also just returned from a trip to the Arctic, where we enjoyed 24 hour daylight as in Spring the sun doesn’t set. 

This meant we had more time than usual to work, so days started around 7am, with binoculars and a strong coffee, but would often carry on till 1/2am as we searched for polar bears. On our last day, we found a mother and her cub at 1am, and stayed with her till 4am, so it was gone 6 by the time the adrenaline had worn off (thanks to a large whisky) and the day was done. These long hours are very, very much worth it though when you get ‘the shot’. 

What would you say is the biggest driver for you in terms of going out and capturing images of wildlife?

There’s a number of reasons. Firstly I truly enjoy it - it’s that simple. I get a real adrenaline rush when seeing a huge herd of elephants, a white rhino standing over my camera or a polar bear on the Arctic ice. 

This rush is matched when I know I’ve created a good image, see it in print for the first time and finally deliver it to the client. Knowing my work hangs on people’s walls around the world is one of the aspects of my work I am most proud of.

White Rhino

Polar Bear on Ice

'Three of a Kind'

I’m sure spending such long periods of time in the company of endangered species makes you acutely aware of the importance of protecting our wildlife. Can you talk a little about this?

This actually ties in well with your previous question, and is a huge part of what I, and many wildlife photographers do. 

Just yesterday we were with a super tusker in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Just beyond the boundary of the park, perhaps 100 meters from where we were, was a large local community. The sad reality is that there is not enough space for both to flourish, and as is often is the case, it is the people that ‘win’, while our wildlife suffers. 

The new ‘space race’ for our generation is not Musk Vs Branson, but people Vs wildlife. 

That said, we must remain positive, and use imagery, documentaries and stories to encourage people to protect wildlife. Negative messaging is not the answer, nobody wants to jump on a sinking ship. I hope my work can be a very small part of that. 

Super Tusker

It’s wonderful that your work has been used to raise funds for charitable organisations. For example, 10% of the proceeds from your print sales are donated to theDavid Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. Could you tell me more about this?

As with many wildlife photographers and artists, I endeavour for my work to be for wildlife as much as it is of wildlife. 

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation harnesses the power of art as a conservation tool, inspired by the founder, David, and so for me is a natural fit to want to work with. 

Their approach is also a holistic one, placing communities living along side wildlife at the heart of their approach. With Africa’s population set to be the largest in the world by 2050, and given the story I outlined earlier with the elephant and community is one replicated across the world, their all inclusive approach is vital. 

Through our print sales, and various auctions and global initiatives like Prints for Wildlife - we have raised just over £40,000 for a variety of organisations since the pandemic took hold. Something I am truly proud of.

William's work on display

William's prints


Last year, you co-founded your safari company,Armstrong Fortescue. What inspired you to start this venture?

It’s a great question - and a few people did ask us what we were smoking when starting a safari company during a pandemic. 

Our theory was that with travel restrictions taking away such an enjoyable element of our lives, that as and when things could return to ‘normal’, there would be a real desire to travel with purpose. This for us was the key part. 

Both Matt, my business partner, and I, firmly believe that the best way to engage people with conservation issues and efforts, is to show them first hand. 

On our most recent safari to Amboseli, we were able to take our guests to visit the Amboseli Trust, an organisation at the forefront of elephant research. They were both so taken by the park, and the work the trust is undertaking, that they now both want to support their efforts - so hopefully the proof in our theory, or madness, is there. 

Will and business partner

'The Guardian'


What kind of expeditions does the company have planned, and how can our readers get in touch about joining you on one?

We’ve tried to make our portfolio as wide as possible, without biting off more than we can chew. 

My personal favourite is our Arctic expedition, which I have just got back from before coming to Kenya. We charter a ship, the MV Villa, and sail from Longyearbyen (the northernmost city in the world), around the Svalbard archipelago.

The snow and ice covered landscape is like nowhere else on earth, and all the time we are on the lookout for polar bears, walrus, arctic fox and great bird life. 

We also offer trips to the Himalayas to search for snow leopards, Uganda for mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and lions, and we host a wide range of private safaris. 

We also have a bookings arm of our business. So for those perhaps after a safari but would rather go as a couple or a family, without us a host, we can organise their customised safari from start to finish. 

For anyone wanting to know more, either email us at or visit

'Simien Dawn'

You collaborate with theDavid Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. I’d imagine David Shepherd is a great inspiration to many wildlife photographers and artists. Is he or anyone else an important source of inspiration to you and your work?

Absolutely. David’s work is instantly recognised for his iconic style, and I believe this to be the biggest compliment any artist can receive. 

From a photography perspective, I’ve long been an admirer of Nick Brandt’s work - he set the standard for black and white imagery in the early 2000’s. 

For my own work, while I draw a lot of inspiration from those before me, I am keen to ensure I form my own style. I’d like to get to a point where someone sees one of my images and instantly knows it as mine. 

'Rumble in the Jungle'


The Covid pandemic brought so many creative industries to a standstill and impacted them massively. How did it affect you, and do you think it had any positive effects on how you approach your work now?

It gave me time to be at home and regroup. It was the first time in three years I spent more than a couple of months in the same place, so I had time to work out next steps and prioritise aspects of my work and life. 

In terms of major changes, as my career was still in its infancy when we went in to that original lockdown, I don’t believe it had any major effects, or perhaps it did and I failed to notice.

I always follow the mantra of ‘one step at a time’, and I think that really helped when so much seemed uncertain. 


I wondered if you had a favourite image that you’d ever taken, or a favourite experience (or both)? If so, could you tell us about it?

I get asked this a lot and don’t think I have ever given the same answer. 

It’s constantly changing and I often find I am more attached to images that were harder to create, even if perceived as less interesting by others. 

My current answer has to be my newest print, ‘A Touch of Frost’, taken at the start of May in the Arctic. 

Polar bears have been the top species on my bucket list for years, so getting to finally achieve that dream, and get an image to show for it, was a dream come true. 

'A Touch of Frost'

Thank you so much to William for taking the time to talk to us.


For William’s Instagram, click here.

For William’s website, click here.

For Armstrong Fortescue’s website, click here.

To shop William’s prints, click here.

For the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s website, click here.




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