Anskar is a wildlife photographer and nature conservationist. He spends his time traveling and studying, and is passionate about wildlife management and responsible photography.
What is the current project you find yourself in and where can our readers find you?
My name is Anskar Lenzen and my current large-scale project is finding a way to combine my knowledge for wildlife & nature conservation with my passion for photography. Over the past few years I studied Wildlife Ecology & Wildlife Management (earlier on in the Netherlands, now in Vienna) and gained intensive and profound knowledge about species and nature conservation. Through this I also saw a lot of the harmful mistakes that fellow photographers make, such as trespassing boundaries to reach a unique photographic angle or using drones in protected areas.
Most often, but not always, this is happening unknowingly, and all of this is usually done just to get a unique or special image. By doing so, people actually threaten our precious nature and animals which is kind of ironic as these are the foundation of their job, passion or hobby.
Readers can find me via my Instagram account @anskar.lenzen. I try to raise awareness about these kinds of topics and use the reach I have built up over the past two years in the most powerful and meaningful way. I talk about topics such as natural forest decline and species protection or simply give facts about nature and animals. All this is highly valued by my followers which I am really grateful for! The website my girlfriend and I operate, againstthelight.org, supports all of this with blog articles and best-of photographs of our beloved nature.
What does growth mean to you?
For me, growth means to grow with your responsibilities and your experiences. Each decision we take and each direction we choose to go, will somehow transforms us. It is up to us alone to determine where this will lead us and how we take these chances to grow. Most people think that “bad” things will make you weaker and only a few will take these drawbacks as a chance to grow. I had a lot of these bad things happen to me in the past, but instead of letting them weaken me, I grasped them and turned them into new chances. Into growth. This way of thinking helped me a lot in overcoming obstacles in my life.
Did you ever have a make-or-break moment where you had to risk it all?
Indeed I had. In 2014 I made the decision to move away from home, which at that time was Langen in Germany, into the 600 km distant Leeuwarden (the Netherlands). Back then my everyday life kind of dragged me into a hole and I was incredibly unsatisfied with myself, my job and my overall life. This led to more and more bad decisions and at some point, it was time to pull the ripcord.
At first, the thought of not knowing what will happen next scared me but nowadays I need exactly that. I get easily bored when everything stays the same over a longer period. In the end, moving away from the known everyday life into the unknown and the exciting offered me a lot of chances in my life.
If it hadn’t been for this decision, I wouldn’t study what I really love, I wouldn’t have started with photography and wouldn’t have lived in various beautiful countries such as Sri Lanka, Ecuador, the Netherlands and now Austria. Last but not least, I woul not have met someone along the way I truly love and who shares all these experiences and interests with me.
But I don’t want to lie. The beginning, being thrown in at the deep end, was really difficult. I had a hard time finding new friends and I often doubted whether it was the right decision or not. But once I overcame all these obstacles, it turned out to be the best decision of my life!
Of course, I still visit my friends back home as often as possible and we always have a blast when I’m back.
In an alternate dimension, every job pays the same. With that in mind, what career would you pursue?
Money is not the most important part of being happy for me. I can live with very basic things. I save a lot of my money and the most luxurious products I own is my photography gear. Most of the time on our photography trips we sleep in my tiny car and eat canned food all day long. It’s simple but it’s so good! I think we all have much more than we actually need and we complain way too much about it. Through my studies and photography, I’ve been to many different countries (a privilege I am more than thankful for), some of them are really poor. Most often, people seemed to be much happier when they had much less than us. Yet, there certainly is a threshold to extreme poverty.
Getting back to the initial question: I would do exactly the same what I am doing now. I would still try to combine my study with my photography and it will probably never make me a millionaire. But that is absolutely not my goal. I think we are all the happiest when we do whatever we love instead of doing a job just for the money.
If you have nothing on your schedule or an unexpected quiet moment, how do you choose to use your time?
Well, for me these moments are most often the early morning hours (or very late evening hours) of the weekends that I am not traveling. Because we are on the road a lot on the weekends and studying during the week, a lot of work bottles up and has to be worked off at some point. These are the times my head is clear and my motivation is at its peak which means I am the most creative and get most of my work done. I sit in my apartment either at my desk or on the balcony (depending on the season) and cross off whatever is still on my to-do list.
This work can be editing photos, writing blog articles, studying and so on. Some people are very good at working “on the go” but I am not. That is why these quiet, boring and unspectacular weekends are so important to me. In fact: I am writing this interview on a said Sunday morning!
What piece of advice or request do you have for our readers before you leave?
Do what you love and what makes you the happiest is the simplest advice I can give everyone. I see so many people struggling or rushing into unhappiness just because they have a job they don’t love.