I found myself having a number of ‘firsts’ last week which I wanted to share with you.
The first ‘first’ was that I took my children to London during half-term, something that I had only previously reserved for mad people who had nothing else better to do with their time. I work in London so maybe that is where my bias comes from, or maybe it is my extreme dislike of queueing for extended periods. Either way I had managed to avoid ‘London’ trips for many years, having obliging Grandparents who seem to be much more hardened to these kind of endurance tests than me.
The second ‘first’ was that I visited the Natural History Museum which I had never done before. It was a huge overpowering building with great presence and many snaking paths encircling it, (ideal for people to queue on). Although it was awe-inspiring to stand in the Hintze Hall with its grand staircase, viewing galleries overlooking the bones of a Diplodocus dinosaur this was not the reason for our trip.
It was to the Waterhouse Gallery that we were heading where I would be experiencing my third ‘first’ of the day, visiting a photography exhibition. Yes, the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition. It was a little overwhelming at first but helped to have the exhibition guide and maps provided, as this made navigating the exhibition a lot easier.
A bit before this exhibition was open the grand title winner, Don Gutoski’s photograph had been given a lot of press on the BBC and elsewhere, so I was very familiar with his ‘A tale of two foxes’ but was pleased to see it up close and personal. There are some who question whether it was staged but photographers will go to great lengths to get ‘that’ shot, under conditions other people wouldn’t even consider. It is a very compelling image with a serious message behind it that due to the changes in temperature in the Canadian tundra, the red fox had extended its range northwards into the arctic foxes territory. I thought it was a worthy winner.
Tech specs: Canon EOS-1D X + 200-400mm f4 lens + 1.4x extender at 784mm; 1/1000 sec at f8; ISO 640.
Equally worthy of a win was the young (11 to 14 years old) wildlife photographer grand title winner, Ondrej Pelanek’s ‘Ruffs on display’ . A great use of depth of field to capture these male ruffs leaping, strutting and puffing up their feathery collars which they get their name for.
Tech specs: Nikon D800 + 300/2,8VR2 + TC20EIII; 1/500 sec at f/7.1 (-1ev); ISO 4000.
Across the whole of the exhibition I think my favourite photographs were:
- ‘Battle of the bee-eaters‘ – 15-17 years old Finalist: Juan van den Heever
I liked how the two birds had been captured suspended in the air. Also the colours of the birds again the backdrop of the blue sky was appealing.
Tech specs: Nikon D4 + 200-400mm f4 lens; 1/4000 sec at f7.1; ISO 1000.
- ‘Beetle beauty and the spiral of love‘ – Invertebrates Finalist: Javier Aznar González de Rueda
I particularly like the colours of the beetles, and the clarity to which they have been photographed. The spiralled plant also adds a bit of humour to the serious subject or reproduction. I was pleased to see the Canon 70D had made an appearance.
Tech specs: Canon EOS 70D + Sigma 180mm f3.5 lens; 1 sec at f16; ISO 100; x2 Yongnuo flashes; cable shutter release; Manfrotto tripod + ball-head.
- ‘The blizzard of birth and death‘ – Urban Finalist: José Antonio Martinez
Initially I thought this was a snow storm but wondered what that had to do with Wildlife, then I read the description and realised that it was a swarm of mayflies. Apart from making me itch, when I read that the reflection of the street lamps cause the female mayflies to deposit their eggs in vain on the road, I couldn’t help feeling sad about the impact us humans are having on this species.
Tech specs: Canon EOS 5D Mark II + 70-200 mm f4 lens at 200mm; 1/50 sec at f4; ISO 1600.
There were a lot of really good photographs at the exhibition and maybe it is unfair of me to single out the above photographs, however, one thing that did strike me was that there was a lack of UK photographers in the list of finalists and runners-up. I’m not sure why that is. I will continue to ponder this….
Good news, the exhibition has been extended until the 2nd May 2016, so you still have time to visit if the above has inspired you to get up close and personal.