Wildlife Photographer of the Year Opens at Royal BC Museum

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Opens at Royal BC Museum

By Robert Hawkes

What happens when wildlife photographers from 75 different countries submit their best work, a total of about 45,000 photos, and then skilled judges pick the best 100 images for display? The result is an awe-inspiring close up view of incredible wildlife. And you can view it all without even leaving James Bay.

Again this year the Royal BC Museum is one of only two Canadian stops of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year touring exhibition. It is open now and runs through March 24. You can get more information at https://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/visit/exhibitions/wpy2019.

British Columbia wildlife photographer Jess Findlay discusses his photograph titled Fitting the Bill during the opening of the exhibition at the Royal BC Museum. Photo by Robert Hawkes.

British Columbia wildlife photographer Jess Findlay discusses his photograph titled Fitting the Bill during the opening of the exhibition at the Royal BC Museum. Photo by Robert Hawkes.

Burnaby based wildlife photographer Jess Findlay was one of the finalists in this year's contest. He was present to discuss his award-winning image titled Fitting the Bill during a press event the day before the public opening of the display. The photograph shows a parent common loon (great northern diver) holding a damselfly nymph in its beak ready for feeding to newly hatched young loons.

The most compelling aspect of the photo is that it was shot from behind a young loon approaching its mother, so you literally see the mother loon as seen by its offspring. To create this perspective Jess Findlay waited patiently many hours in a small boat and held the camera just inches above the water. As he described it he likes to photograph “at their level to create an image that is both engaging and authentic”. The photograph was shot in the Cariboo region of British Columbia during the spring of 2017.

Two other Canadians, Liron Gertsman and Shane Gross, had entries selected for display in the youth categories, although the photographs were taken while they were travelling outside Canada.

Copyright Isak Pretorius provided by the Royal BC Museum.

Copyright Isak Pretorius provided by the Royal BC Museum.

In introducing the exhibit Joanne Orr, Deputy CEO and VP Collections, Research and International Programs at the Royal BC Museum, stressed the role of the exhibit in helping us “understand the beauty and fragility of nature, and our role and responsibility in protecting it.”

The exhibition displays the full range of types of wildlife and photographic techniques. Some images have vibrant colours, while others are subtle hues. Some images use short exposures to capture rapid movement, while others paint with time exposures. The wildlife is on the ground, in the air and under water. Some was photographed in urban settings, while the majority are from some of the least traversed areas of the globe.

What I like best is that each image comes with a short caption. That both places you in the place and mind of the photographer, and teaches you a bit about the wildlife in the photograph.

The competition and display is organized by the Natural History Museum in London, UK, and this is the fifty-fourth year of competition. The selection of the winning images was based on “artistic composition, technical innovation and truthful interpretation of the natural world”.

As well as single images there is also a photo documentary category. For example, the caption for one entry starts “Meet Bob. Bob is no ordinary flamingo.” You will have to visit the display yourself to learn why!

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