Interview: Gian Paolo Vanni, Photographer Chasing Killer Whales

Gian Paolo is a photographer from Italy that is currently living in Norway where he is chasing killer whales and sharing his passion for photography with other people. Sounds like a dream come true:)! We started following his work a while ago and what caught our eye, apart from the killer whales obviously, is that after the wales there were some sick surfing shots, after the surf, there were landscape shots, after the landscape, there were amazing drone videos etc…let’s just say he is very versatile.

Can you first please introduce yourself

My name is Gian Paolo Vanni. I am 35 years old and I was born and raised in a small medieval town in the heart of Tuscany called San Miniato where history, art and culture merge into the beautiful and unique Tuscan countryside.

What sparked your interest in photography and how did you get into photography?

I graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Empoli in photography – a passion I have cultivated since I was a child. Photography has also inspired me to explore many of the most fascinating places on our planet.

How did you end up in Norway?

The reason for my first visit to the Norway dates to 2016, when I spent some of the best days of my life photographing the most spectacular animal I know – the killer whale. Since then I have returned to north Norway to photograph and film these animals over and over again.

After a few trips I eventually started working for an Italian tour operator and I started travelling with and leading groups of photo and nature enthusiasts to Lofoten islands. Not long after I also began traveling to other parts of Norway where I was able to document this wonderful country. The nature, the landscape, northern lights, midnight sun, beautiful fjords… I love everything about it.

I also started organizing photo courses in Norway (and all over the world) and they have been very popular. Being able to inspire others with my work and helping others experience this amazing nature is very fulfilling. Making a living by sharing my photography knowledge and helping people on their own journey with a camera in their hand is, I feel, the life I would like to lead.

What was your most memorable whale encounter?

Last winter there was this very special moment. I was on my stand up paddle board and at that moment there were several whales in the fjord. Some were very young and curious and they decided that they will check me out. In an instant I found myself among them. One of them first showed me the belly and then the tail turning several times on the surface. A friend of mine was able to capture that from the boat. I’ll never forget that moment.

You shoot all kinds of things from nature to animals, from surfing to drone videos. What is your favorite thing to shoot?

As a nature photographer my favorite subjects are animals and among them orca is my number one. During the winter I bring my groups out in the sea to photograph these animals and it is a really amazing life experience. The best month of the year for this is November, because there are many orcas and whales and the light is spectacular.

When I am particularly inspired by the surrounding I feel the drone is the best way to capture the whole scene, everything around me. So I often use it during my travels. It helps me to tell the whole story. I am also obsessed with the sea, it is impossible for me to stay away from it for too long. One of my most memorable days was when during a trip to Hawaii in 2013 I surfed for the first time. Since then the waves and power of the ocean have a hypnotic effect on me.

Your plans for the future?

My dream is to live here in Norway and at the time of this interview I have completely moved my career as a photographer and tour guide to Norway. The nature here never ceases to surprise and amaze me and I am lucky to be here with the person I love. Our dream is to start a whole new chapter in life here in the Arctic.

This is why my girlfriend and I recently opened a photo studio in northern Norway in Storslett in the Nordreisa commune. We work a lot with portrait photography, events, weddings, we organize workshops all over northern Norway, we have many beautiful projects and we are only at the beginning.

Any places that you want or plan to visit after the pandemic?

I have several trips scheduled for 2 years already but obviously, with the pandemic everything has been postponed. So hopefully my next trip will be in December. The plan is to go on an underwater cruise to the Raja Ampat Islands in Indonesia. Before that I have the usual workshop in October to photograph mating deer near my house in Tuscany. In April 2022 I will go for a boat trip in Svalbard, then Alaska, Patagonia and Antarctica are next targets.

You spend lots of time near and on the water, how important is a good waterproof bag?

Almost all my journeys are in wet environments and protecting my photo and other equipment is essential. Let’s say that I can sleep peacefully having a backpack that gives me safety whenever I am in risky wet situations.

Where can we follow your adventures and your work?

You can follow me on my Instagram page @gianpaolo.vanni where I post content from all of my adventures and where I give updates on my group trips.

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