Sépaq nature ambassador
By Karine Husson
His photos are so poignant it’s impossible not to be moved by them. Beyond the magnificent landscapes and animals themselves, his images convey a powerful sense of emotion, a universal language—the language of nature—that Éric Deschamps strives to reconnect us with. What follows is a profile of an inspired and inspiring man who, several years ago, took an about turn and decided to reinvent a new life for himself in the heart of the Gaspésie region.
Rewind to Fall 2015. Éric Deschamps was still living in his native region, the South Shore of Montréal. Between his university classes in actuarial science and his job at the Apple Store, there were never enough hours in the days for the performance-oriented, anxiety-ridden young man. “One day, on a whim, I decided to buy a kayak. But the only time I could ever get out in it was after work, around 9:30 at night. I would grab my headlamp and paddle out on the river near my home. I could still hear the noise of the highway and see the light of the streetlamps, but compared to my hectic life, it was a real escape. I started noticing the clouds. I was 25, and I’d never taken the time to look at the clouds before! It was a real wake-up call...”
A wake-up call loud enough to shift the life trajectory of the usually deliberate young man. In June 2016, with no firm plan in mind other than to live “for real,” Deschamps dropped everything and set out for Cap-Chat, on the Gaspé Peninsula. “It was the only other region I knew. My brother had moved there when he met his girlfriend. I figured it was as good a place as any…”
Taking the time to take time
To prove to his friends and family that Gaspésie is not just about fishing and logging, Éric bought himself a camera. Nothing fancy—$500, including case and lens, plus a tripod he received as a gift. He also discovered the joys of hiking and a fascination for moose. “They got me out of my comfort zone because, to observe them, I had to venture into the unknown: head into the woods, at night, all alone… In the beginning, I was really nervous. But my curiosity got the better of me. I was amazed by their calm temperament. For example, after they eat, they take the time to relax. It opened my eyes to my own lifestyle. I’ve become a completely different person: I walk slower, I eat slower, I sleep better… Moose have reconnected me to life.”
It was the beginning of a real passion. For four months, seven days a week, Éric goes out to observe these gentle giants. One day in early November, after climbing to the summit of Mont Ernest-Laforce in Parc national de la Gaspésie, he suddenly found himself surrounded by eight moose, including a large dominant male and a curious female who made off with his tripod. Despite the emotion of the moment, Deschamps kept his cool and filmed the scene, commenting in a whisper what was happening. The vidéo he posted on Facebook got over a million views. “I did interviews on the radio, there were articles in the papers… It was crazy! And that’s when I realized the power of social media and, more importantly, how interested people are in nature. I realized that that was my mission: to make people fall in love with nature and want to take care of it.”
When authenticity trumps technique
Five years later, Éric Deschamps is fully devoted to that mission. He has set up a small business, Nature en vue, that’s funded by proceeds from the sale of his photos. Over time, as his photographic skills have grown, so has his professional gear, but his goal hasn’t changed. When he brings his camera along on expeditions, it’s so he can share his discoveries and touch people’s hearts. “I don’t approach photography from a technical angle; I just go with the flow. It’s totally different from my old life. Nature has helped me discover an artistic side I never knew I had.”
And that spontaneous approach works! Many of the thousands of people who follow his expeditions on social media describe how rewarding they find that authentic contact with nature. Even Éric’s parents have fallen for his lifestyle. “They recently bought a cottage only 15 minutes from my place, and they spend more and more time there. Now they understand my life choice. For them, it’s so much better to see their son fulfilled and energetic than stressed out. Even my mom, who’s always been a real go-getter, has slowed down and taken up birdwatching…”
It’s all about give and take
The pandemic has highlighted the benefits of nature on our physical and mental wellbeing. But if we’re to enjoy nature for years to come, we must respect and protect it by adopting certain behaviors. For example, staying on the trails (to avoid damaging fragile flora) and not feeding wild animals or getting too close to them. This is something Éric practices on a daily basis. “It’s not just the moment when I snap the photo that counts; the before and after are even more important. Before, I prepare, I read, I observe. I try to understand the animals’ behavior, so I can observe them without disturbing them. And after, I don’t rush off. I can spend several hours without moving, waiting for the right moment to quietly slip away unnoticed. Nature is so generous with us. We can’t just take what we want and turn our backs; we must take care of it in return.”
This is exactly why Éric Deschamps agreed to become a Sépaq nature ambassador. Through his photos and videos, he shares touching stories that reconnect us to what really matters: our deepest inner nature.
Wildlife photographer Éric Deschamps is also a Sépaq nature ambassador. In the coming months, he will visit different areas to promote the key aspects of their mission: conservation and public access. His stories and magnificent images will be posted on our platforms. Check out our blog and follow us on Facebook and Instagram so you don’t miss a thing!
Three iconic photos
1. Winter Wonderland
“This is one of the first photos I took, back in 2016. That moment was amazing! I didn’t think about the composition, I just went with the feeling. Later, when I started to learn more about photography, I looked back at this image and noticed things I hadn’t seen at the time. That’s when I realized that I had an artistic sense in me that was just waiting to be tapped. Ever since, this photo has continued to win over the hearts of new nature lovers.”
2. Vive la Différence!
“Last winter, I was wandering around the dunes on the Magdalen Islands one late afternoon when I spotted a red fox vixen in the distance. At first I thought she was standing near a rock, but when I looked through my binoculars, I saw she was actually wooing a silver fox. It was the first time I’d ever seen a silver fox! I scrambled back down the dune, hurried over to the other side, and crawled up to figure out how far away they were. I watched them, trying to picture the shot in my mind, all the while keeping an eye on the sun as it dipped down towards the horizon, knowing my window of opportunity was about to close.
On my last peek over the crest, I flattened myself against the dune, my face camouflaged by the sand, but as I raised my camera, the lens caught their attention, and the two foxes looked straight up at me, eyeing me for several seconds. The angle of the sun was perfect, so I just went click, click, click! They soon lost interest in me, but since I didn’t want to disturb them by getting up to leave, I lay there motionless for a long time. Eventually they wandered away from the dune and down towards the beach. Only then did I get to my feet and go on my way. What a truly magical moment!”
3. Family Moment
“I discovered this heronry with a friend of mine. The first time, it was still early in the nesting season, and the eggs hadn’t yet hatched. I spotted one particular nest and, judging by the light, I knew it would be a perfect place to shoot some photos at sunset. I didn’t want to disturb the birds, so I’d have to arrive while it was still dark out, a couple of hours before sunrise, and stay immobile for the entire day, until dusk. I decided to test my plan about a month later, but the babies were already too big, so I tried again the following year. I had set up a little platform in the trees ahead of time, and I arrived at night, in camouflage from head to toe, with just a slit to see out of. There were nearly 300 birds in the colony. I couldn’t move a muscle, not even to take a sip of water or nibble on a granola bar. After hours of observing the birds, it was getting harder and harder to stay motionless, but I was determined to wait it out. I tried to remain positive: the adult birds from the nearby nests had all come back to feed their young, but in the nest I was watching, the chicks were still waiting for the parents to bring home dinner. I refused to give up hope and then, to my great delight, just as the blue hour arrived, an adult heron flew down and settled on the nest I had been waiting to photograph since dawn and began feeding its fledglings. Fourteen hours of waiting for two minutes of glory, but what glorious minutes they were! As night fell, I scanned the scene through my binoculars one last time, climbed down from my perch, and quietly slipped away unnoticed.”