Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010
By Steve Aves, November 2010
A chance encounter
I found myself in Ipswich last week, a nice town that I don’t visit often. Finding myself early for a meeting, I went into the town centre in search of a strong coffee. As I entered the town hall square I noticed an advert for an exhibition of photography on show inside the town hall. So I forgot the coffee and headed inside. The exhibition, now halfway through its duration was entitled ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’.
The advert read “The very best images of nature taken by the world’s top professional and amateur photographers from the 2010 Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine competition.”
The town hall is the perfect place to show an exhibition of photography with it huge rooms and high ceilings. The exhibition is on two floors and each room is very well laid out and lit, with plenty of space between each image. Another thing that I liked about the images was that each one had the shooting details included with the photographers name and where the shot was taken. Maybe it’s me, but I do like to know what camera, lens and exposure was used to capture an image, I find it really helpful.
The pictures in this category can be graphic or symbolic but must be thought-provoking and memorable and encourage respect or concern for the natural world and our dependence on it.
It’s an image that communicates in one emotive hit the damage being done to the world’s oceans. Jordi came across this desperate scene when sailing between Barcelona and the Balearic Islands, hoping to photograph dolphins. ‘I spotted the abandoned net drifting along the surface,’ says Jordi. As he dived down to investigate, he could see the loggerhead turtle tangled up in the netting. ‘The poor creature must have been trapped for some days, it was so badly knotted up.’ Though it could just reach the surface to breathe by extending its neck, it was still sentenced to a long, cruel death. ‘I felt as though it were looking at me for help as it tried to bite through the netting.’ Jordi released it, allowing one individual a second chance. Given that all species of sea turtles are endangered, they need all the help they can get.
Now I’m no expert on wildlife images, but I do know a good composition when I see it and believe me, there some very fine photographs on show. As the advert said, the photographs are drawn from photographers from all over the world and it’s refreshing to see some images taken by younger photographers and by young I do mean young.
There are groups of images in categories taken by the under 10’s, 11to 14’s, 15’s to 17’s and adults. I have to say that are few differences between each group, which shows the amazing quality of work on show. By the way, our old chum Andy Rouse has a very fine image of a tiger included in the exhibition.
The subjects featured here are species officially listed as critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable or at risk, and the purpose of the award is to highlight, through photographic excellence, the plight of wildlife under threat.
Tiger portraits are common enough (though tigers are most definitely not), but to photograph head-on the mesmerizing gaze of an intensely focused hunter is rare. This young tigress also gave Andy the chance to see a hunt from start to finish, on the very last drive of a recent trip to India. The young tigress stalked a herd of chital deer for a couple of hours through the long grass in Ranthambore National Park, while Andy stalked her. She followed the herd for more than a kilometre, constantly surveying for any sign of weakness or injury among the deer, before finally selecting her victim. Moments before she charged, Andy took his winning shot.
Another interesting thing about the exhibition is that it doesn’t just show wildlife shots of creatures, it also featured other groups of fine images in groups titled, ‘Wild Places’ and ‘In Praise of Plants’, adding another dimension to the exhibition. So if you are a wildlife photographer yourself and need some inspiration the exhibition is definitely for you but it’s also for people like me. Although it’s not my main interest and I don’t shoot wildlife myself, I always enjoy looking at fine images no matter what the genre and this exhibition certainly entertained me.
This is a category for landscape photographs but ones that convey a true feeling of wildness and create a sense of awe.
After two days of torrential rain, Maurizio’s luck changed. He was on assignment in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, a small but beautiful World Heritage Site – ‘a real wild wonder of Europe’ – with the goal of photographing the Veliki Prstvaci waterfalls. On the third day, arriving well before dawn, Maurizio saw for the first time the sun rise. ‘Everything came together in the most serendipitous way,’ he says. Gloriously soft light played through the mist and highlighted the lush tapestry of woodland colour. ‘I especially like the dream-like quality of this image,’ he adds. ‘It’s easy to forget that it was taken in Europe – a reminder of what a powerful tool photography can be.’
I have to say that Ipswich, like a lot of towns that are in the process of refurbishment, offers some great photo opportunities. The dock area in particular has been transformed over the past few years and mixes old and new architecture very well indeed. So if you decide to visit the exhibition, take your camera and walk over to the docks, I’m sure that you’ll find some very interesting things to shoot
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Town Hall Ipswich runs from now until the 26th February. Entrance is completely free. For more information go to www.ipswich.gov.uk/museums.
The Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is also touring other locations around the UK and is in residence at the Natural History Museum in London until 11th March 2011. For more information along with the complete collection of all the winners visit www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/wpy/exhibition/index.jsp.
When Bence first tried to photograph leaf-cutter ants in action, he thought it was going to be easy. It wasn’t, but relishing the challenge, he found out as much as he could about their complex society and spent hours watching and following them in the Costa Rican rainforest. ‘They proved to be wonderful subjects,’ says Bence, who discovered that they were most active at night. He would follow a column as it fanned out into the forest. Each line terminated at a tree, shrub or bush. ‘The variation in the size of the pieces they cut was fascinating – sometimes small ants seemed to carry huge bits, bigger ones just small pieces.’ Of his winning shot, he says, ‘I love the contrast between the simplicity of the shot itself and the complexity of the behaviour.’ Lying on the ground to take the shot, he also discovered the behaviour of chiggers (skin-digesting mite larvae), which covered him in bites.