Benjamin Mkapa Photography Awards
After a few attempts to write this blog, I am finally feeling like I have a better handle on the over whelming emotional impact that winning such an award can have. Although I have had the blessing and been fortunate enough to win several photographic awards over the last few years, this one was certainly one of the most important and meaningful to me. The amount of time and effort we as wildlife and nature photographers put into our much loved craft is simply a statement of the love and passion for wildlife and photography that most of us have. Indeed some winning images in any photography competition can be of luck. Of course being in the right place at the right time and having your camera settings set to capture the image can easily happen every once in while. However in most cases a winning image in such a prestigious photographic competition will be made up of a lot of skill, patience, hard work, and talent. I find this to be particularly true for those photographers who can consistently do well in photographic competitions and win in more than one category or with multiple images. This is when it goes way beyond getting lucky and the true skills involved in constantly creating great wildlife images becomes evident. Indeed many hours , hard work, great joy, a love of wildlife and nature, a love of photography, and dedication and the will to never give up, make up the workings of most winning wildlife photographs. There are so many factors that impact wildlife photography, and I think this is such a good thing. I have been a professional photographer that has made a living only from photography for over forty years. Mostly wedding, commercial, and portrait photography have been my main source of income. Wildlife photography has also been a part of that, however that is not my main reason for continuing in this journey and adventure. The simple fact that wildlife photography consistently offers so many challenges and the knowledge of most likely never fulfilling my dream list of desired images keeps my passion alive and never ending. So many factors come into play when creating wildlife photography. Subjects that do whatever they like, weather conditions that can be unpredictable and sometimes very uncomfortable. Traveling to remote places in hopes of finding subjects that may or may not be there. Dealing with government officials, border crossings, and traveling conditions that you may not be comfortable or familiar with. The ever changing lighting conditions and of course guides that may or may not understand the excitement and desire to obtain great photographs. In fact in many cases we as wildlife and nature photographers are up against so many odds that it is amazing that we are so successful in obtaining the images we manage to get. It takes a very special breed of person to constantly pursue images that are on the edges of impossible to get. Indeed I do believe this is the very reason why so many of us dedicated wildlife photographers are so addicted to the challenge.
All images by NBP, Kevin Dooley, and Eric Maripane
Entering Photography Contests
I personally believe it takes a lot of guts to enter your wildlife photographs into photography competitions where you will be competing against photographers world wide. Given todays high quality cameras and lenses, it is a very competitive world out there and winning photography competitions require very good images. To be brave enough to present your photographs to a panel of judges is no easy task. However it is a very positive and fun opportunity to be a part of a community that concentrates on both nature conservation and the betterment of the art of photography. I can not express the importance in entering photographic competitions to both build your confidence and to help you grow your skills as a photographer. Maybe even more important is that photographic competitions are a vital part of sharing the beauty of our wildlife and the importance of taking care of it. So many people in todays society will never venture out of the cities and see the world that exists in the wild places. Many people have no idea what it is like to watch a wild baby elephant play in the mud, to witness a grizzly bear in the wilds of Alaska fishing the winding rivers. So many people will never see a wild tiger or float the rivers of Brazil in search of the elusive Jaguar. With no reference to these amazing and life changing experiences, an understanding of keeping our wildlife and wild places strong and flourishing is unknown. It is the photographs that are shared throughout the world that bring these realities to the people who will never see them. The importance of wildlife photographic competitions that share the photographs with the world go way beyond prizes and the honors of having a winning image. These photographic competitions play a major role in the conservation of our wildlife. Every single person who enters these competitions is a winner in so many ways. One brave decision to enter a wildlife photographic competition is one brave decision to make the world more aware of our natural and beautiful world. When I hear a person say that I am not a good enough photographer or that I don’t believe in competitions, I am saddened that there is one less person out there to help save our planet. It is through the amazing photographs and the economic benefits that travel and awareness provide for our wild places that keeps up the interest and the desire to preserve these treasures.
What Images To Select For Photography Contests
It is never easy to know what photographs to select, I personally have difficulty picking out what images I think might do well in a photographic competition. I will often ask others to help me make my selections. I am often influenced by the difficulties that may have been involved in getting the photograph. Forgetting that the judges were not there and they have no idea what I went through to get it. I also find that I have to be careful not to pass up photographs because I have seen them several times and they have lost some of the impact to me personally. Therefore its good to get others opinions as we are often distracted by the details and story of an image. Remember that you need to get the attention of a judge and hold it immediately. The judges will often see thousands of images and you want your photograph to stop them in their tracks. Your image needs to have impact.
Most importantly do it for fun and do not take it to seriously, what one judge enjoys or likes could be completely different from one competition to another.
What Wildlife Photography Means To Me
One of the reasons I wrote my book Wild Faces in Wild places, inspirations and stories of a wildlife photographer, was to share what wildlife photography means to me. There is no doubt that I love photography. I love being creative and I certainly enjoy all the fun gear. However my love of wildlife photography is really more about the experience of being in the outdoors. Basically wildlife photography is a great and enjoyable reason for me to spend time with nature. I am most happy being in the wild places where my mind finds true peace and happiness. As my finger touches the shutter release of my camera body, my mind becomes free and my concentration is narrowed down to what I am photographing. It is a very happy and peaceful place for me. Wildlife photography has been one of the best and most inspiring parts of my life. Spending time in nature, observing, learning, loving, and taking care of our wild critters and places is what its all about for me.
The Images And The Prizes.
I was fortunate enough to have a winning image and five highly honored images in this photographic competition. What an honor it is for me to have done this well in such a highly recognized photographic competition. To have six of my photographs selected to hang in a museum of world renown status is beyond my wildest dreams. In addition to a beautiful Shona sculpture I received a cash prize and five award certificates. My images will also be published in a special edition of Nature’s Best Photography magazine.
My Winning Image
My Highly Honored Images
The Awards Ceremony
There was nothing more that I personally wanted than to attend this once in a lifetime Awards ceremony. However, I was on safari and could not make it up to Kenya for the couple of days required. I decided to ask someone to go in my place. The question was who I should ask? I discussed the idea with my good friend and safari guide Eric Maripane of Mashatu Game Reserve, since he was with me when I made three of the winning images. I decided he would be the perfect person to be at the awards ceremony. Eric has spent hours upon hours with me out on safari. He is my top choice of guides when we are in Botswana and he is also an avid photographer. Eric will go beyond the call of duty to make sure I am able to spend as much time as I need in the bush. Eric knows me and my personality well. He understands my passion of wildlife photography and he knows that I work extra hard to get our safari guests into fantastic wildlife sightings. He is very aware of the wildlife and always puts wildlife conservation first. Eric and I will often wait hours for an amazing photograph. He is from Botswana and I truly wanted him to experience the opportunity to meet the amazing people involved in the Mkapa Wildlife Awards. It was magic for me to watch Eric as he received my awards. In fact in many ways it meant more to me to see Eric at the ceremony than to have won the awards. Often the guides, lodges, and other folks involved are forgotten once an image makes it to this level. Without these amazing people and their efforts we could not reach these levels of photographic excellence.