Monday, January 20, 2014

Success with Time

Success with Time

Sigma Wildlife Photo Competition Winner

Entering photographic competitions can be a very intimidating matter, to say the least. The failure to place or get awarded, far outnumber the accomplishments of receiving praise and accolades of competition success.

Too many times we tend to judge our own abilities by the outcome of a competition, and this leads to despondency, and often anger and disappointment when comparing our own obvious “winning” image with that of the true victor.

I have been fortunate enough to have placed well in a few competitions, ranging from getting to the final stages of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year a few times, being awarded as a Highly Honoured Recipient in Natures Best Wildlife Photographer of the Year, reaching the finals of the Mazda Wildlife Photographer competition numerous times, and getting highly commended certificates in the Getaway Fujifilm Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

I never managed to win a competition though, but perseverance and sheer will and self-belief allows a person to brush off the disappointments, and continue bumping your head in the hope that one day your vision with a particular image may be interpreted in a similar manner by the judges.

This morning my luck and fortune changed, and I eventually managed to secure a much needed, and morale boosting WIN, in the Sigma South Africa Wildlife Photography Competition.

After many disappointments, a photograph that I had earmarked as a possible winner in some form, just never seemed to make the cut. The lesson I learnt, was that; as much patience as was needed to get the eventual shot, in the same way, patience is needed when entering those images into competitions. I persevered, and eventually got the reward.

My first reaction when told I had won, was actually one of guilt, a strange sensation to experience when it should be one of unbridled joy. My heart goes out to all of the entrants that are left dejected and disappointed, that they did not win. This is a feeling we all know too well, and I really do feel that at any stage, any image can be judged a winner over another. With a different judge, I may not have been so lucky, and may have yet again been faced with a rant at the useless judges.

My only advice to everyone planning to enter competitions is that you really do need to keep believing in your photography, and continue trying. At some point your luck will change, and you will get the reward for all the hard work put in over the years. Gary Player said it best: “The Harder I Practice, the Luckier I Get”

Thank You to all fans and friends for always believing in me, it is the motivation and appreciation from you all that help keep me focused on the end goal.

Below is a short description of how and where the winning photo was taken, with a few more images from the same sighting.

I was conducting a guided safari one morning in the Western Section of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park with an Australian group.

We had heard about 2 female leopards fighting in the area, and started heading in that direction. Soon thereafter a male was found close by, and it became obvious that the females were fighting for the male’s attention.

Resting Between Mating

Once the fighting subsided, which I unfortunately missed, the victorious female linked up with the male, and the process of mating was initiated.

Action from behind

Dismount from behind

We observed them mating over a period of about 45 minutes, but they were always facing away, or were side on. Moving the vehicle into a more suitable position was not an option, as the female was very nervous, and would move away whenever an engine started.

Nervous female in the background

Just before Winning Image was taken
After a long wait, the female initiated mating, by seducing the male, presenting herself to him, and eventually this time they were facing us, at which point I got excited for the possible shot to be captured. Understanding the behaviour I waited while the mating was taking place, and prepared to fire off some images as the male dismounted the female. I was resting the camera and lens on a bean bag on the edge of my land rover door, and took continuous shots hoping to capture the action depicted in the frame.

Side on Aggression

Side on Dismount

Who is the Boss?

Needless to say I was overjoyed with the resulting image.

I pushed the ISO up to 400, so that the shutter speed could be fast enough to freeze the action, at the biggest aperture that I had available – f5.6, at 400mm zoom. This aperture was chosen to try and have defined subjects ( Leopards ) against a background that was as blurred as possible, trying my hardest to have a shallow Depth of Field view. I was fortunate that I had time to adjust the settings of the camera, predicting the action to come beforehand, and then even luckier having the leopards oblige by moving into a position suitable for the image I had hoped to get.

Resting before next bout of copulation

Happy Mommy to be!

Please remember to click on the image to see a larger version!