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Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Star shooters

In this series, we interview some of the finalists from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year about their winning shot and more... 

Danger Man
In this interview, Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalist Alexandre Hec talks about his globe-trotting adventures to capture volcanoes in their fiery glory.
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Danger Man

Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalist Alexandre Hec has a penchant for photographing volcanoes in action. In this interview, he talks about his globe\-trotting adventures to capture them in their fiery glory.

KickerThis is a kicker.

"Since I was young I have always been interested in photography, images of nature and landscapes. One of my strongest memories as a kid was borrowing my parents Kodacolor camera and returning it when the film was finished!"

 

 

 

Is this the first time that you have entered the Wildlife Photographer of the Year? Why did you decide to enter?

 

 

I started sending my pictures into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition about 3 years ago. I wanted to show my work and see the result. While remaining humble and modest, being a part of this exhibition showed me that it was absolutely necessary for me to continue on this path :-)

 

 

My work has been rewarded several times as part of international competitions, but being selected for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year remains a unique experience. From the 50,000 pictures received, only a hundred are selected, so this recognition has touched me incredibly, since wildlife photography is something that I am really passionate about. This recognition has put me in contact with nature enthusiasts from around the world and drives me to continue my work.

 

 

 

"I love the silence...getting out of our urban world and finding myself in the middle of nature, in the quiet,listening and observing. And if you can take beautiful pictures, well thats absolute bliss for me!"

 

Can you tell us about your photo in the exhibition?

 

 

This photo of Mount Klauea was taken in Hawaii, I absolutely wanted to take pictures of the fight between the molten lava and the ocean. I went to the site several times and despite taking hundreds of photos, I wasnt happy with the result, so I decided to go back one last time. Everything had changed, instead of flowing below the level of the sea, the lava flowed directly out of a small crater. The boat pilot said that he had never seen anything like it. My small inflatable boat was being tossed around on the waves though I managed to hold tight and I finally got the right shot! Photo right: Alexandre Hec/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

 

 

 

 

Volcanoes are nature in its raw state. It is colored, it moves. They change form and mood at each visit. They will never be tamed...

 

How do you think your pictures can alter peoples view of the world?

 

 

We must remain modest but I am convinced that photographers can sensitize people to respect and preserve our planet. Our planet is unique, it is beautiful, without it we would not exist, and yet we treat it so badly ...

 

 

What qualities do you think a wildlife photographer needs?

 

 

 

Patience, sense of observation, knowledge of ones environment, photography is more the result of a quest than an end in itself.

 

 

What advice would you give to any budding photographers out there?

 

 

Make the photos you like, work hard, make progress, and if your pictures please you, they will certainly end up pleasing to others!

 

 

Alexandre's work is featured in our Wildlife Photographer of the Exhibition which showcases 100 stunning wildlife images from across the globe. To see more of Alexandre's work, see here:www.alexandrehec.com

 

 

 

 

Wild Beauty
New-Zealand born Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalist, Lance Van de Vyver travelled to South Africa to follow his passion for photography and guiding. In this Q & A, he talks cameras, conservation and more ...
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Wild Beauty

New Zealand\-born Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalist, Lance Van de Vyver travelled to South Africa to follow his passion for photography and guiding. In this interview, he talks cameras, conservation and more ...

KickerThis is a kicker.

 

How long have you been a photographer? How did you first get into photography?

 

 

I first started taking photos eight years ago during my zoology degree at Massey University - I was trying to find a better way of photographing insects down a telescope. My first lens was a specialised macro lens which only worked at distances between 4 and 10cm from the front of the lens!

 

 

What do you love about wildlife photography?

 

 

 

I love the fact that you have very little control. Nature moves to its own rhythm, and although you can predict animal behaviour and movements, in the end you have no real say in what you will witness and capture. Each photo that you take is a moment that will never happen again, so if you miss it - bad luck!

 

 

 

Is this the first time that you have entered the Wildlife Photographer of the Year? Why did you decide to enter?

 

 

I had entered once before a few years ago, but entering this time I know the standard of my image was so much stronger due to having more photographic experience. I decided to enter as a way to get my name out there in the photography world, and as wildlife photography is my passion - nothing ventured, nothing gained.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you tell us about your photo in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition?

 

 

This image was all over in seconds. We were watching the lions playing with the pangolin through thick vegetation. I noticed the cubs were getting more rambunctious with the pangolin and slowly pushing it towards an opening in the branches and up the side of a termite mound. We all readied our cameras and waited. We had about three seconds of shooting before the pangolin was rolled past the opening and the photographic opportunities were over. Most DSLR cameras shoot anywhere up to 16 frames a second these days and I managed to get 20 images in the sequence, which tells me it was very quick!

We were lucky to watch the scene unfold over an hour or so, but the poor pangolin had to put up with the lions for over 14 hours and eventually succumbed to heatstroke. It was mid-January when the poor guy was captured and temperatures in the Kalahari can reach well over 50C. This image was taken just after 7am and we had already reached the mid 40s. Research is suggesting that pangolins cannot regulate their body temperature due to their scales.

During these months they are deep underground during daylight hours where it is much cooler. With the stress of capture and the heat this poor animal really didnt stand much of a chance. I knew I had witnessed something very special that day, but didnt know if I had captured it perfectly on film. It was only the next day reviewing the images that I realised I had got the shot.

 

 

 

"Nature moves to its own rhythm, and although you can predict animal behaviour and movements, in the end you have no real say in what you will witness and capture."

 

 

 

Looking back on your career, what is your most prized photo? Why?

 

 

Of all my images, this has to be my most prized picture. The subjects are some of my favourites (pangolin sightings are rare), it was a once in a lifetime kind of shot and because of the publicity is has brought me. I am in the photographic guiding business, so getting my name out into the public eye with my images is a dream come true.

 

 

How do you think your pictures can alter peoples view of the world?

 

 

I am a conservationist at heart. I hate what we are doing to the planet and how animals are the first to suffer because of human greed and overpopulation. Photography is an amazing way to bring conservation messages to the public. Almost everybody has some form of social media these days, so to add images to a conservation story is a great way to get the message across.

At present I am working as a photographic guide. I take clients from all over the world on safaris to the wildest places in the world, with the goal of teaching photography in the field and ensuring they take the best images possible. There is nothing that beats seeing wildlife in person, however for my clients to be able to re-live the moment over and over again by looking through their images is a very special thing for me.

 

 

What qualities do you think a wildlife photographer needs?

 

 

Patience. Some images can be chanced upon, others can take months of sitting in confined spaces without making any noise before you get your one shot.

Knowledge. There is no point having the best gear in the world if you dont know how to use it. The same can be said about knowing your subject. To improve your success rate you need to know about your subject - at the very minimum where and when it is most likely to be seen.

 

 

 

What advice would you give to any budding photographers out there?

 

 

Learn about your gear. Read your manual, then read it again. You need to know exactly what each setting does, when to use it and why. Without knowing these things you cannot properly prepare yourself when a fast-paced situation arises. Once you have this down, practice makes perfect. If its a partner, a pet or a cake it doesnt matter take lots of images and try lots of settings and effects. This is the best way to learn.

 

 

 

 

Lastly if at all possible try to get to Africa. Africa is an incredible place which I genuinely believe should be on everyones bucket list. It is incredible to go back to the birth place of humanity, where the wildlife still roams free and nature can touch you in the deepest part of your soul. You will be forever richer for the experience.

 

 

Lance's work is featured in our Wildlife Photographer of the Exhibition which showcases 100 stunning wildlife images from across the globe. To see more of Lance's work, see here: www.lancevandevyver.com

All images are copyright to Lance Van de Vyer and may not be reproduced without permission.

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Quest
Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalist Jennifer Guyton has spent seven years in Africa studying animals from behind and beyond the lens to raise awareness around conservation. In this interview, she talks about some of her most prized pictures and moments behind the camera...
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Animal Quest

Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalist Jennifer Guyton has spent seven years in Africa studying animals from behind and beyond the lens to raise awareness around conservation. In this interview, she talks about some of her most prized pictures and moments behind the camera...

KickerThis is a kicker.

 

"Photography, in its capacity to tell stories simple and complex, is an incredibly powerful tool for conservation."

 

 

How long have you been a photographer? What do you love about wildlife photography?

 

 

 

 

Ive carried a camera as long as I can remember. At first it was just disposable film cameras, but I got my first real film camera at around 12. From an early age, I have been a wildlife-lover and conservationist and I have come to realize that when youre trying to influence a person, stories are often more important than facts. For better or worse, people often make decisions based on how something makes them feel. For that reason, I think that photography, in its capacity to tell stories simple and complex, is an incredibly powerful tool for conservation.

On a more visceral level, I just love the act of shooting photos its one of the very few activities that gives me flow. I think its the combination of using full brainpower on in-the-moment planning and creativity, and of (often) being in the stillness of nature.

 

 

 

 

**"Theres often a certain intimacy that arises with your subject that makes you feel like theres nothing else in the world. Its a magical feeling of connectedness with whatever is in front of your lens & a beautiful, fleeting disconnectedness with the troubles of the world."**

 

Can you tell us about your photo in the exhibition?

 

 

I was fresh out of college and had just started a job as a research intern at the Kalahari Meerkat Project in the Kalahari Desert, northern South Africa. I took this photo on my very first day on the job, when my new boss Jamie (the man in the photo) took me out to show me the ropes. I had just bought my first wide-angle lens (a Sigma 10-20mm) and was seeing wild meerkats for the first time. Everything felt fresh. After wed talked about the work for a while, Jamie started weighing the meerkats, as the interns did every evening. The sun was just setting and the light was beautiful. I pulled out my camera and started shooting, astonished that these wild creatures would let me get so close without so much as a flinch. I didnt notice this photo until I was going back through those shots many months later and it caught my eye. Though I was shooting meerkats every day after that for the next year, and I left the project with tens of thousands of images, I never took another photo quite like this one. Theres something to be said for the inspiration that comes with true wonder and awe at something totally new.

 

 

 

 

Is this the first time that you have entered the Wildlife Photographer of the Year? Why did you decide to enter?

 

 

It was the first time! I decided to enter because of the mentor who helped me to strip away my fear. He kept on saying What on earth do you have to lose? Id always thought, No way am I good enough to enter Wildlife Photographer of the Year! Thats for professionals. Ill just wait until Im better. But putting those things off, I know now, is just a manifestation of fear and insecurity. There is never a time when youll stop getting better. In the end, Im so glad that I put my work out there; it really paid off. That first time, I had the advantage of being able to select my entries from tens of thousands of photos from my almost 10 years of shooting with a DSLR; now, Ill only have a year each time to take award-worthy photos! The Collaborators was taken five years before I entered it, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed at first that this photo that Id taken so long ago with entry-level equipment had won out over more recent and more fancy photos that Id taken after more practice and training. But it taught me something about the agelessness of a great photo, the value of creative intuition even without training, and that equipment doesnt really matter all that much.

 

 

 

 

Looking back on your career, what is your most prized photo? Why?

 

 

Certainly the photo that has gained the most recognition so far is the photo in this Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition! It recently was also named a finalist in the Big Picture competition at the California Academy of Sciences. But to me personally, my all-time favorite photo is this portrait I took last year of some of Gorongosas rangers with an African ground pangolin, Smutsia temmincki. Theyd just rescued this pangolin from poachers and were re-releasing it into the wild at the core of the park. The reason I love this photo is that it shows the real heroes of the park at work. These guys have their boots on the ground every single day and night, fighting poaching in the most remote and challenging conditions. Pangolins are in need of particular help these days as the rates of poaching for their meat and scales soar; if it continues like this, we wont have any of these strange and beautiful creatures left in a decade or two. We owe everything to these men and women that are fighting to stop the trade.

 

 

 

"Thats the power of a photograph it can make us love, it can make us hate, it can make us know. Not many other things offer such influence in such a simple package."

 

How do you think your pictures can alter peoples view of the world?

 

 

I think images in general are among the most powerful forms of art because of their universality. The greatest images resonate to almost anyone who looks at them; they lack the contextual and linguistic barriers that are present in, say, literature. Photographs are a universal language.That language has the power to transform the viewer a photograph can inform, of course, introducing the viewer to a scene that they may never encounter in their real lives. But photographs can also be emotionally instructive, connecting the viewer to a subject that they may never have had the opportunity to connect with previously, or to show a side of something that the viewer may never have considered.

 

 

 

 

 

What advice would you give to any budding photographers out there?

 

Dont be afraid to put yourself out there. I think a lot of young people young women especially, for social reasons I wont get into here are reluctant to present work that theyre not sure is perfect. Until a couple of years ago, I had only ever entered one competition and never dreamed of pitching to a magazine. I recently found a totally fearless mentor with a whats the worst that could happen attitude who has completely turned that around for me. Since then, Ive started entering more competitions and approaching more editors with my work, and Ive had a few exciting successes among a sea of rejections. The rejections were hard at first, but once youve experienced enough of them they start to roll right off; its just a matter of pushing past those first few rejections and sticking it out. Its like jumping into the ocean: uncomfortably cold for the first few minutes, but then you stop feeling it and just enjoy the water.

 

 

Jennifer's work is featured in our Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which showcases 100 stunning wildlife images from across the globe. To see more of Jennifer's work, see here:www.jenguyton.com/photography

All images are copyright to Jennifer Guyton and may not be reproduced without permission.

 

 

 

 

 

Bird Man
At eleven, Wild Photographer of the Year winner Gideon Knight started snapping pictures of birds out of his window and then moved into his local streets and parks to capture them in more detail. In this interview he talks about the art of stalking birds and the importance of taking the time to stop, look, and listen.
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Bird Man

At eleven, Wild Photographer of the Year winner Gideon Knight started snapping pictures of birds out of his window and then moved into his local streets and parks to capture them in more detail. In this interview he talks about the art of stalking birds and the importance of taking the time to stop, look, and listen.

KickerThis is a kicker.

**"My image was taken in a London park, so I hope it shows people that the beauty of the natural world can still be found, if people just take the time to look."**

 

How did you get into wildlife photography? What do you love about it?

 

I first started six years ago when I started taking photos to record the bird species that I would see from my window. I love its unpredictable nature you never know what's going to happen. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad... that's what keeps you coming back. And of course, the animals!

 

Is this the first time that you have entered the Wildlife Photographer of the Year? Why did you decide to enter?

 

Wildlife Photographer of the Year showcases some of the best nature photos in the world, and so making it into the competition is a dream for most wildlife photographers. I've been entering since I started taking photographs but this is the first year I've been a part of this amazing event.

 

 

Can you tell us about your photo in the exhibition?

 

At the start of 2016 I was visiting my local park several evenings a week to photograph in the beautiful light that occurs on winter evenings. This particular trip had not been hugely successful and I was returning home when I noticed the moon sitting low in the sky. I began searching for a subject to compose alongside the moon when I came upon this crow sitting in a sycamore. I was taken aback by the beauty of the scene; a Carrion Crow silhouetted in a spindly tree, back\-lit by the moon in the soft blue light of dusk. It had a fairytale\-like quality and at once I began trying to capture the image before me. Due to the low light getting the photo sharp was difficult and the crow often looked away to give an incomplete silhouette.After a little while, I managed to get the picture I was after before the light was gone completely. Photo: The Moon and the Crow Gideon Knight

 

 

What are your top tips for capturing birds?

 

As with almost all wildlife, it's important to know as much about the bird and its habits as you can before going out to photograph it. Knowledge of the species allows you to plan how to photograph it; whether you'll take cover and wait for it to come to you, or keep low to the ground and slowly approach it. Different species require different approaches. Birds are generally quite small, fast and slightly wary of humans, so you will generally \(but not always!\) need a telephoto lens to photograph them. A good way to practice photographing them is to set up a bird feeder in your back garden or visit your local park, where they may well be more acclimatised to people.

 

What qualities do you think a wildlife photographer needs?

 

Patience, perseverance and most importantly passion! That's the only thing that will keep you going back again and again to get an image.

 

What advice would you give to any budding photographers out there?

 

Make sure you get lots of practice and experiment. In a world where mobile phones mean anyone can take pictures, to get something to stand out you need to be creative with your work.

 

 

Gideon's work is featured in our Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which showcases 100 stunning wildlife images from across the globe. To see more of Gideon's work, see here: Gideonknightphotography.zenfolio.com

 

 

All images are copyright to [Gideon Knight](http://Gideonknightphotography.zenfolio.com) and may not be reproduced without permission.

 

All images are copyright to Alexandre Hec, Lance Van de Vyver, Jennifer Guyton and Gideon Knight and may not be reproduced without permission.