Shem Compion is an adventurer, nature photographer, creative, author and photography hide builder.
Who’s passion is to share his love and experience of the natural world with other people. His full time existence is wildlife and nature photography, one of the few remaining professionals in the field today. Shem loves to celebrate creative photography by exploring every aspect of the natural world, making him one of the most diverse and celebrated natural history photographers, whose work has been awarded and published all over the world. Born in Africa, Shem travels the world to share his stunning images, his knowledge and his deep natural history experience with other people.
After discovering his love of photography, Shem decided the best way to become a wildlife photographer was to live like one. He sold his belongings, quit his work and for 7 months travelled up Africa in a Landrover exploring all the famous reserves to live his dream, namely to exist as a full time wildlife photographer, this adventurous trip to many remote and far off places is where he captured many of his first iconic images - ones that would propel his professional career forward. From those carefree days, he never looked back.
Ever the adventurer and explorer Shem still makes one trip a year to a wild and remote destination. Here he clears his mind and opens up his camera - often producing some of his best and most creative photographic work.
Shem has been leading and hosting private and scheduled photo safaris since 2005. In 2005 Shem formed C4 Photo Safaris to facilitate the safaris he ran. He has been leading and hosting private and scheduled photo safaris since then and C4 Photo Safaris has now grown into the largest specialist photo safari company in Africa. He still personally hosts a number of photo workshops and photo tours each year in addition to guiding his private photo safaris.
Shem has always grounded his skills on being a naturalist and a photographer. These have been appreciated and used by the likes of the BBC Natural history Unit on the multi award winning BBC Planet Earth series. He was involved on the Great Plains series showing lions hunting elephants in the Savuti, Botswana, of which you can see a short part of the video here.
Another example of his inherent naturalist knowledge is that Shem implemented and built the first dedicated underground photography hide in Africa from which to view animals, birds and elephants at eye level. The experience was gleaned from years as a youngster observing birds from self-constructed hides in his back garden the hide has become a marvel throughout the photographic world, with clients travelling from every corner of the globe to capture subjects in the unique angles and perspectives that the hide allows the images taken speak of a vision not often seen by photographers today, not to mention the humbling experience of being within 1 meter of a very large elephant. The hide is testament to Shem’s creative photographic skills combined with his deep passion for nature. This video shows more about the hide while this video shows how close elephants get to you. (To read more about the Photo Hides see the website here)
In 2009 Shem was commissioned to publish his first book “A landscape of insects” together with Dr Duncan MacFadyen. The ability to contribute his skills via his knowledge in the printed form started Shem working on more publications. Shem has to date published 5 books. Each of these is a visual celebration of imagery and text that shares immense insights, knowledge and experience by himself or his co-authors. You can see all the books Shem has published here. Each publication is about Shem sharing his knowledge of his deep founded passions- wildlife and photography.
Shem’s educational background is conservation with his niche being creative wildlife photography. The two complement each other very well and allow him to be in the right place at the right time when it comes to anticipating wildlife behaviour. This is evidenced in the many publications and awards his images have won over the years. This experience cannot be taught, it is learnt over 20 years immersed in nature. His work has been featured in publications the likes of BBC Wildlife, Africa Geographic, Naturfot Naturfoto passie, Outdoor photographer UK and Terre Sauvage. His images have won acclaim in a variety of competitions around the world. You can see some of his awards and publications here.
To read more about Shem and his work, read his insights and also further below.
In 2007 Shem was awarded a specially commended image in the BBC wildlife photographer of the year competition. This award is unique in that it has only been awarded twice in 10 years and indicates that the image has the potential to win the competition outright even though it did not win its category. The image, “Meerkat moment” is displayed at the BBC competition every single year, being used in the exhibit and also for calendars and other merchandise. It also graced the cover of the BBC wildlife magazine - one of the world’s pre-eminent wildlife and nature magazines. In 2009 the BBC wildlife magazine commissioned Shem to produce a complete portfolio of his work - all on the meerkats. The portfoli simply titled “Meerkats” was published in September 2009. It was based on Shem’s time spent with these amazing creatures in the dry Kalahari of South Africa where he spent a number of weeks photographing the meerkats in some very harsh desert conditions. Meerkats are one of Shems favourite animals so it was fitting that the BBC promote this body of his work.
Commercially, Shem has worked for many clients in the natural history world.
In 2010 Shem supplied all 56 images to the acclaimed Africa Geographic wildlife calendar which went on to sell out within 2 months, the first time it has done so.
He won the birds category in 2009 at the Getaway-Fuji awards as well as the runner up in the Insect and Reptile category. His image ‘Spike’ was awarded the image of the year by the PSSA for 2010 and he has over the last few years gathered another 9 highly commended awards in the Getaway-Fuji awards.
Shem took a particularly poignant image of African penguins under a burning sky near Cape Town in June 2010.The African penguin is facing extreme conservation issues, with numbers dwindling fast. The image was listed as a National Geographic Environmental image of the year in 2011 and helping to raise immediate awareness of the penguins’ predicament.
Being a creative, Shem is constantly developing new ways to work with his images. From books, publications, calendars, commercial shoots and other media ,Shem uses his images for the good of nature. Indeed these are all secondary to Shem’s real passion, that of spending time out in nature creatively capturing new images with new vision. Alone or with his clients.