South African wildlife photographers have again shown that they are amongst the best in the world at the 50th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. The annual global competition for the world’s top nature and wildlife images is fierce, with over 42 000 entries submitted from around the world. The competition culminates in an exhibition of 100 of the judge’s favorites, chosen for a combination of technical skill, creative vision and narrative excellence. In this context the 6 South Africans finalists and one category winner mark a huge achievement for the country.
The exhibition, which is co-owned by the Natural History Museum of London and BBC Worldwide is organised in South Africa by NHU Africa, will be on display at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town from the 5 December 2014 to 5 March 2015 and is sponsored by National Geographic Channels for the third time running.
With a small but exceptionally talented and hardworking community of photographers in South Africa, there are some familiar names selected for this year’s exhibition. Last year’s grand title winner Greg du Toit had two images placed and last year’s animal portraits winner Hannes Lochner, has again been chosen for his Spikes and stars image, a finalist in the Amphibians and Reptiles category.
With a growing pool of world-class talent, new faces have emerged this year, like 11 year old Skye Meaker, whose image Vanishing lions was chosen as a finalist for the 11-14 years category. His image is a slightly blurry image of a lion, intentionally shot in that style; ‘It was tricky to move the lens at precisely the right moment and just enough to get the blurred effect, but not so much as to lose the lion’s face,’ he says. His vision was eventually realized, giving him the effect and image he wanted, ‘I want the picture to raise awareness that lions are a vulnerable species,’ he says. ‘To me, this picture conveys the feeling that lions are fading from Africa.’ In the past 20 years it is thought that lion populations have decreased by a third across Africa.
Another first timer is Geo Cloete with his image entitled Jelly Fireworks earning him a finalist position in the Underwater Species category. His arresting photograph of a swarm of box jellyfish was taken off Cape Town’s Hout Bay.
Ian Johnson’s evocative image entitled Where’s my forest also placed him as a finalist in the World in our Hands category. Ian’s photo shows a silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda, looking out at farmlands that now separate him and his family from the surrounding forest. The future of these animals is threatened by conflict over habitat, oil and gas exploration, hunting and war. World-renowned photo journalist Brent Stirton once again took top honors in the Wildlife Photojournalist category, solidifying his place as arguably the most prolific and talented photo journalists of this generation. His winning collection of images this year was entitled What future for Lions? and according to the description of the portfolio on the natural History Museums website “highlights some of the ways in which humans regard lions and utilize them.”
The portfolio depicts the extremes of human relationships with lions, from ‘canned-lion’ hunting, (where lions are bred on farms specifically to be killed by wealthy hunters) to communities that live alongside these predators. Stirton’s work brings lion conservation to front of mind for many who may not have known the big cat numbers are falling at an alarming rate and that they face the risk of extinction in the wild.
Enter the next Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition from 5 January 2015 – 26 February 2015. It’s open to all professional, amateur and young photographers. For details see www.wildlifephotographeroftheyear.com