Stéphane Granzotto

Only the caudal fin of a sperm whale is visible as the whale dives deeper into the ocean. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III by Stéphane Granzotto.

Stéphane Granzotto is renowned for his spectacular images of sperm whales, such as this photograph, taken in the Indian Ocean. "While I was diving to try to photograph the social life of a group of sperm whales in Mauritius, this adult female swam towards me, and brushed right past me," he says. "She stayed like this for a few seconds, and offered me her caudal fin. An unforgettable moment!" Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens at 16mm, 1/200 sec, f/4 and ISO 160. © Stéphane Granzotto

When wildlife photographer Stéphane Granzotto and his camera went diving with sperm whales a decade ago, he had no idea those iconic images would go on to make him famous across the globe.

The Canon Ambassador's spectacular pictures of sperm whales sleeping vertically were taken off the coast of Mauritius, during a six-year project documenting the animals' behaviour, and were shared by National Geographic. "It was like a dream," says Stéphane. "It was an incredible discovery. It's such a powerful experience to be in water with this huge animal, these giants, and yet they are so peaceful. They have been described as very big predators, but they are very shy, so intelligent and clever, and they welcomed us into their world."

Born and raised in France, where he still lives today, Stéphane's passion for both photography and the underwater world was ignited during childhood. "I was 10 years old when I first picked up a camera," he recalls. "But I started taking it seriously when I was 17. There was a pure and beautiful river behind my garden and that really set off my passion for the aquatic world, because I was so curious to see what was living in the water."

Stéphane went on to study video and photography at Stendhal University in Grenoble in the French Alps, before learning to dive. "At the beginning, I wasn't diving to take pictures," he says. "That was my dream, but it was very expensive. Then I built my first underwater housing for my camera, and it was a revelation. It was also a huge revelation for us videographers and photographers when the Canon EOS R5 was released, to be able to do both with the same camera."

A headshot of Canon Ambassador Stéphane Granzotto.
Location: France

Specialist areas: Wildlife, filmmaking

Favourite kit: Canon EOS R5
Canon RF 600m F4L IS USM
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM
The fins of a pod of orcas appear above the water's surface under a cloudy sky, with mountains visible in the background. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM lens by Stéphane Granzotto.

This image was captured north of the Arctic Circle in Norway. "As the polar night approached, a family of orcas swam peacefully on the surface," says Stéphane. "I was a few dozen metres away from them, yet I could hear their breathing. It can be very difficult to take good pictures in this location because of the light, but the Canon EOS R5 is amazing." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM lens at 400mm, 1/1250 sec, f/6.3 and ISO 160. © Stéphane Granzotto

Five orcas swim together in a deep blue ocean, the surface of the water visible right above them. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens by Stéphane Granzotto.

Stéphane spent many weeks with this group of orcas in the north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, where this image was captured. "Every winter for four years now, I have tried to photograph orcas hunting for herring," he says. "After the hunt, orcas often gather as a family to spend some quiet and social time. That was the case here, with this family that I was able to approach and photograph." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 19mm, 1/160 sec, f/4 and ISO 6400. © Stéphane Granzotto

Today, Stéphane captures mesmerising images and video of animals both at sea and on land. He has also made over 40 documentaries for French and international television companies, and published fine art books on sperm whales and orcas.

It was during a trip to Norway that he took his world-renowned orca images. "I spent many weeks there trying to film and photograph the orcas above the surface and underwater," explains Stéphane. "The light there is crazy, but I trust in my camera. I put the autofocus on automatic because it's very dark and I had to swim extremely fast, and the water was very cold, but I loved it. You can spend six months with orcas and nothing will happen. So every time I manage to capture a good picture, it is a gift. I am so happy."

The fin of an orca is visible as it pokes out of the ocean, snow-capped mountains visible in the distance. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens by Stéphane Granzotto.

This is another image of an orca captured north of the Arctic Circle in Norway. "I had been photographing orcas hunting herrings for weeks when suddenly, a male came very close to my boat," says Stéphane. "It blows just a few metres from me, in a setting of incredible beauty." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 111mm, 1/1600 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 320. © Stéphane Granzotto

As for Stéphane's biggest challenge in his work? Knowing when to quit a story. "After working with the sperm whales for six years, I knew I had to move on to something else, but part of my heart will always be with them," he says. "I'm not a compulsive traveller – I try to work on a project for some time and really understand what's going on, and meet people I can learn from. I'm very humble. I just want to take pictures of wildlife because it's so magical."

How does photography in the sea compare to working in freshwater?

"Freshwater lakes are a great, wild environment. They are so rich; there are many more species in the freshwater, so it's incredible. Often, when I show my pictures at exhibitions, people say to me, 'You must have to go far away to take some good pictures.' But the answer is no – you just have to look in your garden, or close to you, and be curious. Jump in the water with a mask, and you'll see some amazing things. I am just as happy in a small river as I am in the ocean."

Where do you get your inspiration from?

"It all comes from nature and the world around me. I have loved being in the wild ever since I was a child, when I would go camping in the wilderness with my father. The outdoor world is an endless source of inspiration for me."

Do you prefer to tell a story through photos or videos?

"For me, it is two different ways of telling a story, but I love both, and of course, with my Canon EOS R5, now I can do both in the same way. Some days I'm only filming and some days I'm only taking images, but I love to capture both."

You've published several fine art books. What's it like seeing your work displayed in this way?

"I love the books. I learnt how to print my photography when I was a student in the lab in black and white, and now I have a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer. I love to see my pictures on good quality paper, and in frames. When you offer it to someone like that or showcase it at an exhibition, it's something very noble. It's a real art form for photography."

What's been your most memorable wildlife experience?

"Swimming with orcas in Norway was a very strong encounter and experience. There, a humpback whale bumped me as she came up to catch the herrings, and she stayed at the surface in front of me with all the herrings in her mouth. She then made this sound; the most powerful sound, something I'd never heard before, and she was looking at me. I will never forget that; it was unbelievable."

One thing I know

Stéphane Granzotto

"To do what we love is the best way to succeed. You have to persevere, to keep going to be well known. It is important to learn about the environment, and the species. With photography, we have to learn in order to grow, and we must be respectful. With all these ingredients, it can be a success."

Instagram: @Stéphanegranzotto

Website: Stéphanegranzotto.com

Stéphane Granzotto's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Stéphane Granzotto's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS R5

Whether shooting photos, videos, or a mixture of both, the EOS R5 promises sensational 45MP photos at up to 20 frames per second – or flick a switch for cinematic 12 bit 8K RAW video. "The EOS R5 is one of the very best cameras ever produced – it is excellent," says Stéphane. "I love the autofocus, the definition and the incredible sharpness of its images. Lightweight and compact, it also allows you to produce very high-quality videos."


Canon RF 600mm F4L IS USM

With a 600mm focal length and f/4 maximum aperture, this super-telephoto lens is perfect for Stéphane's wildlife shots. "I love this lens," he says. "Its sharpness is incredible, as well as the autofocus and stabilisation. The nature images it allows you to create are simply fantastic. Using it is a real pleasure."

Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM

Boasting unrivalled contrast and sharpness, plus 5-stops of image stabilisation, this lens offers performance and image quality like no other. "Lightweight, efficient, versatile, both in photos and videos, this lens is very impressive," says Stéphane. "Mounted on an EOS R5 or EOS R3, it is capable of stunning results, even when the light conditions are complicated. I also love its minimum focusing distance, which is very short."

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

This high-performance f/2.8 telephoto zoom lens offers exceptional image quality. "Much lighter and more compact than previous EF versions, the sharpness of this lens is enormous," enthuses Stéphane. "When light conditions are low, like in the Arctic with orcas, this is the ideal lens."

Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM

Offering up to 5-stops of image stabilisation to preserve sharpness in low light, and a 24-105mm zoom range covering wide-angle, standard and telephoto focal lengths, this lens is a must for Stéphane. "This is probably my favourite video lens," he says. "It can do everything, from wide shots to portraits. Its stabilisation, autofocus and sharpness are excellent."

Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM

Capture more, even in low light, with this fast f/2.8 L-series ultra-wide angle 15-35mm zoom with 5-stops of image stabilisation – ideal for when innovative angles can make all the difference. "I just can't live without this lens," says Stéphane. "I use it mostly when diving. Its excellent sharpness and great luminosity are great assets," he adds, "90% of my pictures are taken with this lens."

Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye

Fire up your photography with this super sharp fisheye lens. "With its fish-eye angle of view and its superb sharpness, this lens is the king of underwater photography," says Stéphane.

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