I was fortunate to be able to spend a few days in London in October, attending the BBC/NHM Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. It’s such an honour to have an image of mine awarded in the final 100 out of 42,000 entries, and to have it grace the cover of the annual coffee table book! But enough about my photo – I want to tell you about the overall experience of the “Oscars of Wildlife Photography“, and some impressions I had of the other awarded images on the night.
The whole thing was a bit surreal. My story with attending this big night actually goes back to 2010.
You see, I was awarded a “Highly Commended” in the Black & White category back in 2010 for this image…
I had just been taking my photography seriously for 9 months when I captured this image, and I’d had my first DSLR for a year by the time I entered the competition. I surely didn’t realise what placing in this competition meant. When I was informed of placing in the competition, I was overwhelmed – but hearing that I would have to pay my own way to get to London and attend the awards put some water on my battery. The organisers do pay for travel for the category winners and runners up, but alas. Seeing that I had already planned a trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park for that specific October, and given the state of my finances at the time, I decided to rather stick with what I have.
To cut to the chase – I would regret that decision. Whatever my reasons and wisdom (or lack of it) was for not going, I promised myself that if I am ever lucky enough to place in the competition again, I would go to London without hesitation.
Fast forward to 2015.
I had entered again every year since 2010, and gotten images into the final round of judging every year, without cracking the nod of being one of the last 100 photos out of the 40,000+ entries every year. Seeing the calibre of photographers that were awarded, and also the calibre of photographers that entered and didn’t place, made me realise how “lucky” I was in 2010.
(for a good read on how to approach photographic competitions, read THIS POST by Gerry)
It’s easy to get despondent when you have an image that you really believe in that doesn’t make it – but I agree with Gerry – the reward is in the process and the journey. Being able to sift through your body of work with a critical eye and make that selection – that is really rewarding. And getting a placement in a competition like this surely does not mean you have arrived and that you are better than anyone else. Art is subjective after all, but there’s no denying that when it comes to wildlife and nature photography competitions, this one is the big cahuna.
When I received word that one of my photos was chosen for the 2015 WPY awards, I was obviously delighted. I think even more than 2010, because now I know how hard it is to do that. I resolved to visit London and attend the awards.
So – I got to London. The first event was a photographer’s reception at the museum where I met some of the people I’d only known online up to then. The gala event was the following evening. Hosted by my friend, ecological thriller fiction writer and one of our Wild Eye safari guests Wayne Marinovich, we headed out to the Natural History Museum in full black tie attire.
I won’t go into too much detail – it’s the kind of evening that has to be experienced in the moment…I will say this though:
As the results of this competition gets announced every year, there is quite a hubbub of discussion on the merits of each image awarded. I’ve taken part in many such discussions – obviously every wildlife photographer is going to have an opinion on the selected images, and arguably there have been choices in most years that elicit a unanimous gasp of appreciation from the worldwide nature photography community, and some that elicit furrowed brows with many people. What I can say is this – on the night, as the winners of each category got announced – I honestly did not for one second with one image displayed feel that it didn’t deserve to be there. On the one hand I think it was a very strong year of images, but on the other as well I think that being there just heightened the experience for me and the appreciation of the hard work, creativity and dedication that all of the awarded photographers put in to obtain the images that were on display. I am honoured to have been featured twice now in this competition, and feel very strongly about the credibility of this competition as a promoter of wildlife photography as an artform and conservation issues affecting our natural heritage. The winners this year are more than worthy in my opinion.
Here are some moments from the gala evening and the press unveiling the next moring…
The food was top notch and the ceremony was entertaining and to-the-point. When the overall winner had been announced, they opened the exhibit for us…
The next morning I headed back for the press unveiling…and to take some better photos with my exhibition photo since Wayne’s iPhoneography skills left much to be desired (LOL, sorry my friend) 🙂
You can view the entire collection of awarded images HERE. Make sure you pop into the exhibit if you are in London or if it happens to come to your city (it’s scheduled to tour the world, even hitting South Africa from 1 December 2015).
This is my awarded image for 2015 – again in the Black & White category…the cherry on the cake is that it was chosen to be the cover of the annual coffee table book accompanying the competition!
I think photographers from around the world can take inspiration from the fact that this year’s overall winners of the single image and the portfolio categories of the adult competition are not full-time wildlife photographers (in that it’s their main profession and source of income).
What are you waiting for?
Entries for the 52nd competition open early in January 2016!
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