Students for sustainability… wildlife photographer Vinz Pascua

Fledgling shutterbug and biodiversity advocate Vinz Pascua has amassed a notable following documenting some of the Philippines’ most vibrant and rare bird species.

A pint-sized Magnificent Sunbird, endemic to the western Philippines, captured by young wildlife photographer Vinz Pascua's lens. Image: Vinz Pascua

Twenty year-old budding wildlife photographer Vinz Pascua shares that he still feels a “child-like sense of wonder” every time he clicks the shutter of his camera and captures vibrant birds midflight or perched gracefully on a tree branch or swooping to catch prey.

Currently a second-year architecture student at the University of Sydney, Vinz was born in the Philippines and grew up joining his father professional wildlife photographer Alain Pascua’s many excursions around the country to document some of the archipelago’s vanishing avian species. Vinz’s dad would go on to found the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines, which the fledgling shutterbug would join as one of its youngest members in 2020.

With approximately 700 bird species documented, the Philippines is one of the most biodiverse nations in the world and is regarded as a global biodiversity hotspot. The majority of the fauna is indigenous to the nation, which means that it cannot be found anywhere else.

The young lensman recalls tagging along with his father to explore birding sites like Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park in Negros, and Bangkong Kahoy Valley in Quezon province as young as 11 years old. However, the forests on the outskirts of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone close to his family home remain his favourite stomping grounds.

Just last year, Vinz contributed to a book entitled Endangered Bird Species of the Philippines — published by Haring Ibon and Birds in Focus, Inc — alongside his dad. Part of the proceeds from the sales of the book have gone to conservation organisations Katala Foundation Inc, Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc, the Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc and Buhay Ilang Research, Education and Conservation group.


A Green Racket-tail, an endemic Philippine parrot species with distinct paddle-like tail feathers, perches on a branch in its natural habitat. Image: Vinz Pascua

In this interview with Eco-Business, Vinz shares the virtues of being a birder and milestones he’s proud of as one of the youngest wildlife photographers in the Philippines.

How did you get into wildlife photography at such a young age? Did you realise at that time that birding would become an important part of your life?

I was introduced to birding and wildlife photography by my dad at a very young age, but I only truly started developing a genuine interest and passion for it at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

I was cooped up in our home on the outskirts of Subic during my last two years of my high school at the Philippine Science High School main campus and found it to be a gloomy and uncertain time.

I hope by sharing my work, I can help in spreading awareness of how we should give more value to the endemic birds of the Philippines. Reaching more people with this advocacy trumps all monetary return.

During the lockdown, our village in Subic encouraged outdoor walks as a way to relieve stress during the pandemic I thought to myself: what if I revisit wildlife photography, take the gear that I have, go out and see what I can find in the forested areas near our home, and snap some pics.

Subic has rich woodlands full of life, and seeing them firsthand ignited my passion for birding and wildlife photography.

I loved the thrill and excitement of going out early morning every day, seeing these wickedly beautiful birds like Luzon Hornbills, Philippine Green Pigeons, and Green Racket-tails– some right at our doorstep – in their natural habitat and flying freely.

It’s something that really lifted up my spirits, during this especially difficult time. I was grateful to discover this passion during what could have otherwise been an unhappy part of my life.


Vinz snaps a Rufous-crowned Bee-eater taking a steep dive in pursuit of prey in this evocative image entitled “The Fall”. Image: Vinz Pascua

Tell us how you’ve grown as a wildlife photographer. Were there any mentors or inspirations who influenced you along the way?

I feel I’ve come a long way from being the 11-year-old kid that used to tag along with his dad during his birding sorties. It’s definitely been a journey of constant learning, from honing my technical prowess when it comes to operating the camera and getting to know the gear, to the nitty-gritty of technique, composition, creativity and post-processing.

A lot of what I’ve learned in the field wouldn’t be possible without my dad and I truly look up to him. I’m incredibly fortunate that the best photography teacher I could have is at home.

Tell us about some of the work you’re proud of. What are some of the milestones in your photography and creative work that you celebrate the most?

I recently had the wonderful opportunity of being one of the youngest to join the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines for their gallery exhibit during Photoworld Asia 2023, one of the biggest photography expos in the country. I was so proud to have my photographs displayed for a lot to see.

I’m also incredibly proud of having reached more people through social media with my wildlife photography, with an audience that’s not only here in the Philippines but abroad as well, encouraging everyone to get to know our country’s rich flora and fauna. 

I hope by sharing my work, I can help in spreading awareness of how we should give more value to the endemic birds of the Philippines.


The Green Racket-tail in the wild is a rare parrot species that is critically endangered in the Philippines. It has, as of late, only been documented in scattered populations in Western Luzon. Image: Vinz Pascua

Another recent milestone for me was the publication of my first photo book, The Endangered Bird Species of the Philippines. It’s a book I co-authored with my dad, alongside Don Geoff Tabaranza and Maia Tañedo alongside Marie Jocelle Mina, Marr Darwin Antonio, John Matthew Clemente, and Carl Ivan Yap, students from the Far Eastern University Institute of Technology with the goal of showcasing 30 vividly colourful endemic and endangered Philippine birds with an integrated AR application.

Publishing a book is a big achievement for anyone. But the best part of it is finally having your photos out there for people to see.

What are some of the difficulties of taking bird photography and how do you overcome them? I imagine it requires some patience, could you talk about some other important virtues or values photography has taught you?

Straight up, bird photography is hard. It is one of the most difficult fields of photography to get into because it requires the most amount of patience. A large chunk of the craft is waiting for something to happen, and sometimes you are rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime photo, but most times you will not. Wildlife photography has taught me not to stress about everything and to stay calm out there in the field.

Another lesson to take to heart in this field is to “expect the unexpected.” Dealing with being rained on in the middle of a mountain with no shelter, being stranded in the woodlands for hours on end, and being at the mercy of nature and the elements.

What strengthens you in these tough times, however, is a sense of community with your peers. I’ve interacted with hobbyists and photographers from all walks of life and all ages, during these birding sorties. The fellowship you’ll foster with these people who share your passion for nature and wildlife pulls you together.


A Southern Silvery Kingfisher with its vibrant plummage. Image: Vinz Pascua

What are some of your favourite bird subjects? Is there a specific photo that you are most proud of?

That’s kind of a tricky question to answer because I’ve taken lots of photos. With some of them, I still can’t even believe I’m the person who took it. However, as far as a specific local species is concerned, I’m always gonna be proud of photographing the Green Racket-tail in the wild. It’s a rare parrot species that is critically endangered in the Philippines. It used to be found all over the islands of Luzon and Marinduque, and has, as of late, only been documented in scattered populations in Western Luzon.

I managed to snap the Green Racket-tail in Subic with its colourful features and weird distinct spatula-like tails. It’s extremely rare for birders to even get a decent photo of the species, so to have been able to document it still thrills me to this day.

Another photo that comes to mind is a snap I’ve titled “The Fall” which shows a Rufous-crowned Bee-eater taking a steep dive in pursuit of prey. A small bee-eater swooping down in a graceful manoeuvre and me being in the right place at the right time to take its photo, still gives me chills to this day. It was as if all my learnings as a photographer culminated in me being able to document that bird’s elegant form. I will always cherish that moment.


Vinz shares that the forests on the outskirts of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone close to his family home remain his favourite stomping grounds. Image: Vinz Pascua

What’s in the near future for Vinz Pascua? What projects are you planning to pursue?

I’m currently working on a coffee table book with the retail brand and publisher Birds in Focus, Inc. and Haring Ibon. It feels like a long time coming but I’ve worked extremely hard on it. The book’s working title is Birds of Subic Bay Rainforest.

This would be my first time as a lead author of a book and an opportunity for me as a photographer to highlight the wonderful birds found around my home in the Subic area, one of the biggest hotspots in the Philippines for bird biodiversity. I hope it will bring greater people awareness to other major birding sites in the country and how important it is to maintain and conserve them. Can’t wait to share the new book with everybody.

I hope that in the future, I will have more opportunities to photograph birds around the Philippines, photographing a lot more species. 

As a design student, I hope to see more projects on Philippine birds to be featured in artworks and designs, not just to showcase their beauty and colours, but also to remind people of their vanishing nature, and to inspire everybody to appreciate our avian treasures and conserve them for the future.

Above all else, on the future, I would like to see more people get into this field that we are passionate about. I want my impact as a wildlife photographer to serve as an inspiration for a new generation of photographers, artists, and Filipinos who would gain an appreciation for the Philippines’ vanishing avian treasures.

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