As the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 reults are announced Lee Wheatley, our Art Director with specialist knowledge of Science and Natural World imagery casts an eye over the trends in this year’s show
As October starts the process of seguing into November, so we have the annual Wildlife Photographer of the year competition results, an event that I’ve been involved in some capacity since 2005, and the dominant trend of the last few years continues – the exhibition is increasingly democratic, it’s no longer the domain of a handful of established (and excellent) wildlife photographers.
It’s partly due to the proliferation of DLSR’s available to every level, from beginner to professional. I’m sure some of the images at the exhibition are one-offs, taken by people that wouldn’t categorise themselves as anything other than ‘photographer’.
However, some anecdotal research among attendees suggests that for some contributors to the show, the driver is a passion to be creative outside of the day job. These non-professional shooters save their money to attend workshops and trips in the Rainforest, polar regions, underwater. They read books on the best way to getting the trust of a duck (sit in a pond for a week; or every night for a month after work), they study a spot on a path to get the right light to backlight an idea they have regarding a pair of red kites.
Such shooters may not fit into the idealised view of their established contemporaries, but this is the new reality – access for all, if you want it. In truth, the exhibition is as much a celebration of this photographic reality as it is a celebration of the images.
And so on to the photos, being photography, there’s a large slice of personal taste and each viewer may well differ in opinion as to what the best images are. But that’s half the fun.
This year’s overall winner, by Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols (see featured photo), is a black and white image of resting lionesses, with cubs in the Serengeti. Shot in infrared, Nick gained their trust by following them for nearly six months. See what I mean about photographers suffering for their art!
However, that’s not this writer’s favourite image, or indeed selection of images. My overall winner is David Lloyd’s enchanted woodland – the dappled light, the limited colour palette, the serenity, the yawning leopard! This image looks truly cinematic, epic in a Cecil B DeMille kind of way. The leopard, though majestic, and showing great profile, is almost incidental to the wood and the trees. In fact this picture would still be fantastic if it was completely devoid of an animal.
Next consider A Marvel of Lava, by Bryan Lowry. Though he fired the shot from a remote, Lowry still had to get to within a foot of the lava flow, burning at more than 1000C. The camera was still too hot to touch several minutes after taking the shot. I love the graphic and abstract nature of this shot, the incredible detail. It has a real second-look quality. The multi-coloured pools on top taking on the same colour and shape as petrol floating on top of the water. The deep orange, its sluggish nature, the image has a real visceral quality.
Among many images of humankind’s impact on the environment and wildlife, Rodrigo Friscione’s image entitled Longline Lottery stood out. Longlines are baited and left out to catch blue, and Mako sharks, but the reality is they are indiscriminate, killing thousands of animals every year. Here, a young great white has battled so hard against the hook, its jaw has been pulled out of socket, before the shark eventually suffocated. Rendered in black and white the image is stark, almost shocking, showing the indifferent cruelty meted out.
Lastly, take a look at Apocalypse, by Francisco Negroni. Taken at the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano in Southern Chile. The image contains the rare phenomenon of volcanic lightning. An electrical storm created by positive charged particles spewing from the volcano colliding with cold air above. The resultant lightning is a rebalancing of the positive particles. This image has everything, the billowing ash cloud, the lightning, the purple sky. It looks like a physics lab played out on a grand scale. It’s dangerous, yet it is stunningly beautiful, nature in harness.
The exhibition on at the Natural History Museum in London, is on for months before going on its global road show. If you are lucky enough to live in or near London, this is a show that must be seen, where you can make up your own mind on what are your winners. Feel free to post here your thoughts, we’re interested to know.