Arie J. van den Hout
At the age of seven our family moved to The Biesbosch, a wetland area in the centre of The Netherlands. This is like coming home. I am overwhelmed by the unspoilt beauty of nature. Immediately after school I go to my paradise. At one day I softly glide in my canoe past endless reed beds, at another day I sit motionless in a hide pointing my camera expectedly at an empty branch, or lay flat behind a dyke at dusk, with my brother and friend, waiting for the cranes to come and roost.
Eager to capture my intimate encounters with animals on film, at the age of fifteen, I buy my first camera body, a Canon AE1 Program, a Velbon tripod, and borrow a small 70-230 zoom lens. That means I have to get very close to the birds for a decent picture. I dig a pond and build a hide at 2m distance. I muffle my camera so the birds are not disturbed by the sound of my camera shutter and mirror (a hell of a noise at such close proximity). My heart beats like a drum when I take my first picture of a drinking Greenfinch so close by.
I manage to save so money and buy a Canon 300mm f4 lens, with a 2X tele-converter. In my struggle to prevent camera shake, I buy my first Gitzo tripod, which stands like a Bollard, and still does 35 years later!
When I am 15 years old, I write a letter to one of my hero wildlife photographers, Jan van der Kam, for advise on which films to use and so on. On my 16th birthday Jan phones me. Kodachrome 64 Asa it must be. From that day on, pictures become richer and smoother, thanks to Jan.
In the same year I visit a local camera shop to ask for the price of a Canon 500 or 600mm f4. DFL 16.000,= for the Canon 600, or in euro's 7000. That seems pretty far beyond current possibilities. But I keep dreaming. I make a cardboard cut-out of it to intensify the dream...
I discover more and more places, first in the Netherlands, than also abroad, such as the Camargue in the South of France. That leads to my first exhibition, my first presentation about photography (at a Rotary Club), the first newspaper article about my work.
At the age of 23 I move to London to be with my girlfriend and start Business Studies, specialising in marketing and export management. My new continent provides tremendous room for discovery. I roam the country side from London towards the East, through downs, heath lands and gravel pits and all the way North to the lochs, mountains and coast of Scotland. Photography is great here, from Puffins on the Farne Islands, Gannets on the Bass Rock, Shearwaters on Skomer Island, to Dartford warblers on the heath lands of Thursley Common.
In the UK I buy my first professional Canon "L" lens, a 300mm f4L and soon after a 400mm f 5.6L arrives. What a razor sharp lens this is! To capture the birds at the sea bird colonies, I add a 200 f2.8L and later a 80-200 f2.8L to my equipment. They are all mounted on EOS bodies. These assets provide a massive improvement in quality.
Next to my studies and photography I take up a writing course, aiming at publications for magazines. I take steps to approach nature magazines, which result in publications in Birds (RSPB); Nature Photography, Practical Photography and Birding World.
After spending eight years in England, I move back to The Netherlands. As my career takes off, the big white lens of my dreams comes into view; the Canon 500mm f4.5L. The cardboard cut-out substantiated into the real thing.
I am invited to join Foto Natura, a prestigious stock agency that supplies nature publishers and conservation organizations throughout the country. My pictures now turn up in agenda's, calendars, postcards and the like, in many cases associated with Vogelbescherming Nederland.
I make several trips to Africa for the big cats and other savannah inhabitants and upgrade my lens to a 500mm f4L IS which assures the perfect rendering of every intimate detail.
In 2003 I meet Daan Schoonhoven. During the early stages of stock agency Buiten Beeld we work together with great pleasure. With the pix-websites and the Birdpix books Daan provides a new platform for my pictures. It also gives me the chance to do a lecture showing my work at the NVN Photo Day at Burger Zoo.
Currently I live in Het Gooi, in the center of The Netherlands, not far from Hilversum. I never stopped making pictures from hides. The local conservation organisation Het Goois Natuurreservaat uses a lot of my images and we are currently setting up Nature Photography Workshops together.