Thorsten Milse

Hundreds of wildebeest crossing the Mara River in East Africa during their annual migration.

Canon Ambassador Thorsten Milse has travelled the world as a wildlife photographer. This image is from his visit to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania during the largest annual migration of animals on earth. "Millions of wildebeest migrate through the Serengeti and Maasai Mara," Thorsten explains. "They always cross the Mara River, where predatory animals are waiting for them." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x lens at 400mm, 1/640 sec, f/11 and ISO800. © Thorsten Milse

Canon Ambassador Thorsten Milse is one of the most sought-after nature photographers in the world, with a track record to back up his popularity.

Thorsten was born in 1965 in Bielefeld in Germany and had an interest in photography from the age of 3. At 13 he bought his first camera – a Yashica FR1 – with the money he received following his confirmation. He went on to become an electronic technician and a graphic designer, before choosing to pursue his passion and become a professional photographer.

Establishing a reputation in the competitive field of wildlife photography takes years. Although, after starting out, he was fortunate enough to sell some articles to smaller magazines, Thorsten was wise to realise that he couldn't rely on wildlife photography alone to put food on the table. He supplemented his income by photographing models and buildings for advertising agencies, as well as undertaking commissions from health spa companies. During this time, he built an extensive portfolio of nature images and approached agencies that specialised in wildlife. In 1999 he got his first contract from the well-established German agency, Okapia, followed by a contract with Mauritius Images.

Canon Ambassador Thorsten Milse with his Canon kit.
Location: Germany

Specialist areas: Nature, wildlife

Favourite Kit:

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x

About four years later, Thorsten began to travel the world to photograph polar bear cubs. The captivating moments he shot caught the eye of major publications: Germany's GEO magazine initially picked up the story, followed by BBC Wildlife magazine in the UK and Nature's Best Photography in the US. The pictures went on to attract a number of high-profile awards, including Best Reportage Photographer from Danish magazine Illustreret Videnskab (Illustrated Science). A compilation of Thorsten's memorable images taken in Canada's Wapusk National Park subsequently formed the basis of a book, Little Polar Bears, which was published in 2006.

A giant otter swims through the water with a large fish gripped between its teeth.

Thorsten came across this giant otter while in South America's Pantanal region, the world's largest tropical wetland. "Giant otters are excellent hunters," he says. "They hunt fish very successfully in a group but always eat alone." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM lens and a Canon Extender EF 1.4x III at 840mm, 1/1300 sec, f/7.1 and ISO640. © Thorsten Milse

Today, Thorsten is recognised as one of the leading wildlife and nature photographers in the world. He has a particular interest in conservation and has worked on countless projects capturing the unusual, the rare and the fascinating.

Thorsten has photographed big cats across the globe, kangaroos and koalas in Australia and the unique wildlife of the Arctic and Antarctic. He has also collaborated with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on various projects, including tiger protection, snow leopard conservation and WWF's Arctic Programme. At the same time as pursuing his photography, Thorsten also works on 4K film productions, which have seen him document the Amazon rainforest and the coastline of South America.

His work has been published in over 25 countries and won numerous awards, including a prize in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition 2005 and the Grand Prize in Nature's Best Photo competition in the same year. He has exhibited worldwide, including at the Smithsonian in Washington, Moscow's GUM on Red Square, various French and German photography festivals and in eight German cities with the Polar World exhibition. In 2014, Thorsten, in collaboration with WWF, took over central Hamburg for an open-air exhibition called Facing The Storm, highlighting the threat of global warming.

Icebergs floating in still waters, the tallest of which is bathed in a pinkish glow from the sun.

The Ilulissat Icefjord, 250km north of the Arctic Circle. "In Greenland, you can see very clearly how global warming is progressing," says Thorsten. "The large glaciers are melting." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 70mm, 1/100 sec, f/11 and ISO800. © Thorsten Milse

Recently, Thorsten has started to work more with moving images and uses them in his campaigning work with WWF and in his commercial work. The latter has seen him developing and executing concepts and designs for advertising campaigns using photography and 4K film in the Amazon jungle, the coastline of South America, Africa, the Alps and Madagascar for clients such as Toshiba, Sachtler and Canon.

He lectures and runs workshops and is the official Ambassador for the Sachtler/Vitec Group, Peli Products and Toshiba Pro Team, as well as working on Adobe's advocacy programme. In March 2021, his book, Survivor, was published in conjunction with WWF. To coincide with the launch, more than 50 images went on display at an open-air exhibition at the Überseeboulevard in Hamburg, Germany.

How has your previous career as a graphic designer helped inform your approach to photography?

"It was a long time ago that I made the transition, but my graphic design background has helped me, mainly in designing my books."

What is your favourite wildlife subject and why does it interest you so much?

"Mostly the predators. They're powerful, cool, majestic and their lives are full of action."

To what extent do you plan your images before you reach a location? Do you have specific techniques and pictures in mind?

"Although it's possible to see examples of a location or species in photos from colleagues, on the internet or in documentary films, I always have my own images in mind and I know the best equipment I can use to realise those images."

In what ways has wildlife photography evolved in recent years?

"Since the digital revolution, everybody is a photographer on social media. But there you only get to see small images and it's generally focused on single images, rather than a story."

Which developments in camera technology have made it easier for you to realise pictures that would have been much harder or impossible to shoot before?

"The Image Stabiliser in the long telephoto lenses. The way in which it enabled sharper handheld shots allowed me to work in a totally different way and bring more creativity to my photos. Now we have the flexible arrangement of cross-type AF points in the viewfinder that allow for faster and better framing, as well as the high ISO range, which extends the possibility for taking photos early and late in the day. These are big advantages for me as a wildlife photographer."

One thing I know

Thorsten Milse

"Don't be disheartened if it appears that the wildlife of Africa, Antarctica and the Arctic has been photographed extensively – it's just not true. Until recently, the poles have been so big and cold that only a few photographs exist from the winter months and there are some areas that have not yet been photographed. Even in Africa there are many areas that haven't been shot, such as in the Congo. Every year, biologists discover new species, while the landscape, light, climate, seasons and points of view around the world are constantly changing. If you need proof, check out photos of the limestone stacks known as the Twelve Apostles in Australia from 1995 to now."

Thorsten Milse's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Thorsten Milse's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Excellent low-light performance, deep learning AF and 5.5K RAW video in a compact package that delivers class-leading performance. A favourite camera of many professionals.

Canon EOS R5

This camera sets the standard for pushing your storytelling further with its full-frame 30.3MP sensor and advanced ISO performance.


Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM

A fast, ultra wide-angle zoom lens offering excellent optical performance throughout the zoom range. A constant f/2.8 maximum aperture make this an ideal lens for low-light photography.


Canon Extension Tubes

Thorsten uses a 12mm and 25mm extender for close-up work.

Canon Angle Finder C

Designed for waist-level and low-angle picture taking, as well as copy work and macro photography. It features a rubber eyecup and a built-in adjustable diopter and its roof prism keeps the image correctly oriented for easy viewing.

Related articles

Canon Ambassador Jaime de Diego

Canon Europe Ambassador Programme

Find out how the ambassador programme works, and meet the phenomenal photographers chosen to represent Canon.

Canon Professional Services

Members get access to CPS Priority Support, both locally and at major events; a priority Fast Track repair service; and — depending on your level of membership — free back-up equipment loans plus return shipping and discounts on maintenance. They can also enjoy exclusive members’ offers.