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From mining to wildlife photography – Interview with Ferenc Csige

We interviewed former mine worker, Ferenc Csige from Oroszlány, Hungary about his passion: wildlife photography. Ferenc spends his free time and early retirement years cycling and taking pictures of wildlife in the nearby forests. We asked him about photography, mining and flow experience.

How did you become a miner?

I was born in Balmazújváros, a town in the Hungarian Great Plain (Alföld), but my uncle was a miner in Oroszlány. When I was in sixth grade, I visited the family. My uncle took me to the mining museum and I listened to his interesting stories of mining, which I really liked. Later I graduated as a skilled mine worker.

What does a day look like in a miner’s life?

Like everyone else’s who works in 3 shifts. You get up in the morning and do your daily business. Have you ever had an office job? Well, that’s exactly the same. 🙂 I started mining school at the age of 14, that was when I first entered a mine. At the beginning, it was strange, of course, but after a while, you get so used to it, that it is no more different than going to an office.

By dealing with stressful situations underground, have your boundaries been pushed above ground as well?

Definitely. While I was still working I was less protective of my physical body. I protect myself much better now. I don’t have the same daily stress anymore, but it can also be associated with aging.

What are the good and bad sides of mining?

The good thing is that I could retire at a young age. But that is not why I started, at that time there was no such opportunity. The salary was quite good, and I had more than 2 days off a week. But to tell the truth, after a busy day, I rarely wanted to do anything else, and 8 hours sleep was definitely needed.

Of course, this type of work is not beneficial to physical health, for example the joints wear out. Although coal is mainly produced by machines, I worked in a place where we drilled, blasted, picked, carved, shoveled by hand. All this to prepare the ground for the machines to be able to work.

How did you start photographing wild animals?

At first, I wanted to take pictures of people, but during a hike in the forest a deer accidentally came out in front of me, and I took a picture of it. That’s how I started photographing animals, by accident. I find it very difficult to photograph people, you need to earn their trust to get the best out of them. Also, animals don’t complain 🙂

However, what’s more important that being on the move is my way of life. Wildlife photography is like hunting, it gives a kind of adrenaline. You go out into the woods, you see the game, you try to scout it, and if you succeed, it’s a huge satisfaction and excitement. The only bigger success is if you can leave the game without disturbing it, which is unfortunately rare.

What level of photographer do you consider yourself?

I don’t know, I don’t measure myself to anyone else, I do it for my own pleasure. My main leisure activity is cycling, taking pictures is just an additional hobby.

Professionals usually have their own spot, and they can wait for hours in one place for the right moment. They also have a machine that can take great pictures from afar. I don’t stay at the same place for long, I like to move. I know a couple of places where the lights are likely to be good, but the vast majority of my pictures are accidental.

I think that to a certain level the mood of the photo is more important than the quality. Whether it is professional or not, but I don’t have the patience to wait.

What do you prefer to take photos of?

I would rather photograph people (portrait photography) because it is more spectacular, only much harder. It also requires more specific technology, such as proper lighting. Changing the lighting when taking a picture of a person gives a completely different atmosphere.

When you take a picture of an animal, it is done, it always looks the same. On the other hand, I really enjoy the conditions of taking a photo of an animal, it’s a greater experience than the photo itself. When I scout in the forest, I am in a state of flow, which makes it exciting.

What animal do you prefer to photograph?

It’s seasonal. In the spring a little fox, a little pig, in the fall a stag. It is a great challenge to photograph a stag because it only moves at night, and lies in the dense during the day. Cows are easier to get on lens because they move during the day.

What does photography give you?

Among other things, a sense of accomplishment. I’m glad if the lights are right and I was able to shoot from a good angle. The feeling of success is even greater if I can take pictures in their natural environment (not on a spot where food is given to them regularly).

Admiring beauty. Beauty is eternal, I can always find something in life that is beautiful. Gazing at a beautiful landscape, looking at a beautiful woman, a beautiful car always gives pleasure.

But mostly it is the scouting, the movement and flow experience itself that is motivating for me.

Which pictures are you most proud of?

For me a picture is not an achievement, but rather luck. But there are a few pictures that I especially like.

Stag bathing in shallow water: This is one of my nicest experiences, I took at least 70 pictures of it. After a while, he came so close that he noticed the camera’s voice and jumped.

Fox: This is a really good picture, it was a very gentle fox. It didn’t go away while I was photographing it, although I was only 10 meters away. However, there was no hunting experience in it, I was just lucky.

Roaring stag: A stag came out to an open space, drank, and wanted to leave, so I imitated roaring so that he would move a bit, because he was at such an angle that it was difficult to photograph. He turned and roared back to my great amazement.

Aren’t animals attacking you?

This is very rare, the animal tends to try to escape unless it is cornered.

How is your relationship with hunters?

Many hunters frown upon when you’re walking through a hunting area, although hiking is allowed in the forest. We do not have to be arrogant, but we must be aware of our rights. But it has happened that I’ve befriended a hunter, and next time he showed me a good place to take photos. No matter how hard I try, unfortunately, I can’t go in complete silence, you definitely make noise in the woods.

How come you don’t want recognition?

I value recognition, but I do not wish to become popular. I don’t have my own facebook or instagram page either. My photos can be found on my facebook profile page.

In what areas do you wish to improve?

Patience. Then I would probably take better pictures. I cannot wait still for long, I can sit for 1-2 hours, but I don’t have the patience for more. Over the years, I have become more experienced, such as where to look for animals, how to approach them. I remember that at the beginning it was enough to see some part of the animal in the photo. My expectations are higher now, but usually the photos meet my own expectations.

Thank you for the interview!