Photo of the Month August 2020 – Finland Grey Wolf

Finland has rapidly become one of my favourite destinations in the world for wildlife photography. In fact, if I could only choose one place on earth to photograph wildlife for the rest of my days it would certainly be Finland (Greenland for landscapes). It’s not just the sheer variety of  incredible wildlife on offer, but its also the wonderful seasons that form the perfect backdrop. Winter presents a snow and ice covered landscape that forms the perfect clean white canvas for wildlife, whilst Autumn is a combination of fiery yellows and oranges, soft grasses and gentle light. The differing seasons and transitions in between provide a dynamic, fresh and constantly changing environment for photography that provides limitless opportunities.

This photograph of a Grey Wolf in no mans land between Finland and Russia was taken late last year from a private hide I had set up in an area the wolf pack was frequenting. Shot on the very cusp of winters arrival, the Autumn colours have faded and we are presented with a soft pastel forest beginning the inevitable transition into to its winter coat. The muted colour pallet really speaks to me, along with those wonderfully piercing eyes of the wild Wolf.

Photo of the Month July 2020 – Pallas Cat in Reeds

This isn’t the first time I am late with the photograph of the month; although this time it does seem a little embarrassing as I am in COVID lockdown here in Melbourne, Victoria at the moment and there really isn’t a good excuse for not being up to date! With that said, I have been up to my arm pits in both home renovations and AIPP Board work and I am sticking to those excuses….

The photograph of the month for July 2020 comes from my Mongolia expedition to photograph the Pallas cat in November of 2019 (Read the trip Report). This photograph, my favourite from my Pallas cat portfolio, also recently took out second place in the 2020 AIPP Silver Lining Awards Wild Category. It is perhaps not widely known, but Pallas Cat are preyed on by large birds of prey such as the Golden Eagle and as such they tend to hide themselves in rocky outcrops and tall grasses. The challenge with this particular image was in positioning myself in such a way that I could clearly see the cat through the grasses. I wanted to achieve symmetry by placing the cat dead centre of frame, but I also wanted to use the grasses to help frame the cat and add environmental context.

AIPP Silver Lining Awards 2020 2nd & 3rd Place Wild Category

Last night saw the running of the awards presentation for the inaugural 2020 AIPP Australian Institute of Professional Photography Silver Lining Awards. Held via Zoom due to the ongoing COVID crisis the awards were a wonderful showcase of fantastic photography across the different categories. With four photographs in the finals of the Wild category I was hopeful that one of my photographs might get up for an award and was thrilled to receive both 2nd and 3rd place in the category. Congratulations to all the participants for a truly wonderful event.

AIPP Silver Lining Awards 2020 Finalist Wild Category

A few days ago I received notification and blogged that the five photographs I entered into the inaugural 2020 AIPP Silver Lining Awards had all made the Semi-Finals.  I am delighted to announce this evening that four of the five images I chose to enter have now moved onto the final round of judging. All the finalist photographs can be seen online HERE. With almost 3000 entries into the Silver Lining Awards, the Finalists represent the very top few percent of entries into the competition. The winners will be announced Thursday evening next week.

 

Nature Photography is about Capturing the Extraordinary in Nature

Earlier today, fellow photographer and editor of Better Photography magazine, Peter Eastway sent out an email blast to his subscriber base titled “Nature Photography with No Limits.” The short op ed. opinion piece is really a call to arms to enter the Better Photography competition, but it had me at odds with its very first sentence. The piece demonstrates a lack of understanding of the genre of Nature photography and reads as follows:

There are many wonderful nature photography competitions around the world, but I suggest they are more about nature and less about photography. And that’s fine! I realise this is a controversial statement, but look at it this way: the only photos that can be entered into these nature competitions are those with minimal post-production, and so the expressive photographer with a love for nature can be left out. 

Yes, there are many great Nature photography competitions around the world, but the suggestion that they are more about Nature and less about photography is a nonsense.  This statement demonstrates a lack of understanding of what Nature photography is about and what Nature photographers strive to achieve. Nature photography is about representing Nature as it truly exists on our planet through the vehicle of photography. Nature photography competitions are about recognising and rewarding the skill of the photographer in the field to capture something extraordinary that exists in Nature. Nature photography at its best is about capturing the so-called decisive moment, the perfect frame when subject, light and gesture all come together in the perfect image in the real world (not created in a computer). The very best Nature photographs show the viewer a side of Nature we either see infrequently, or did not know existed. Nature photography competitions are about highlighting these photographs and recognising the skill, time and patience of the photographer to capture such an image in the field. As a Nature photographer myself, I express myself through the photographs I choose to share that I captured in the field (out in Nature). I do not choose to express myself through creativity on the computer (that would be a different genre of photography). I do not want to misrepresent Nature and I do not want to have to be a Photoshop technician. Photographers who wish to be more liberal and creative with their post production are of course free to do whatever they wish. However, we must be clear that such creations are not Nature photographs. They may consist of elements found and captured in Nature, but they are most certainly an artificial construct of something that did not exist in Nature and are therefore by definition not a Nature photograph. All we need do is look up the definition for Nature:

Nature – The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.

Perhaps I can sum up my thoughts on Nature photography with one simple image. The photograph below was captured at Gould Bay in Antarctica in November of 2018. It is of an Emperor Penguin family. Two adults and a chick. There was gentle snowfall and the light was soft and ethereal. I watched this family through the 400mm lens on my camera as I lay on the frozen sea ice waiting for the perfect moment. I wanted just the right sense of gesture from the two parents. I was searching for a sense of family intimacy and in a split second the stars aligned and the penguins were to my mind and eye, perfectly positioned and I took the photograph. How hard, how long I waited and how cold I was at the time are irrelevant. The camera and lens I used to take the photograph are irrelevant; as is the computer on which I processed the RAW file (which is also included below so you can see how little was done). What is relevant is that this Nature photograph is a real scene from Nature. And when the viewer looks at this or any one of my Nature photographs they can rest comfortably that what they are looking at is a slice of life from Mother Nature and not a computer creation.

In summary, with the myriad of options out there for all photographers to pick and choose their photographic competition of choice; do we really have to corrupt the genre of Nature photography with artificial creations that don’t even fit the definition of Nature? Food for Thought….