It’s the final few weeks before the deadline of this year’s British Wildlife Photography Awards. I’ve been busy compiling my selections ready for entry and have found around 15 possibles, although probably only four or five have any real chance and I only have high hopes for maybe two or three. I had hoped to supplement it with a couple more, based on some plans I’ve had for a couple of years, but the weather hasn’t played ball. It’s a little early in the summer really, but I need warm weather (not necessarily sunny) with light or very light winds. It’s been very dry since the beginning of April, but the subject bird only arrives in May in large numbers and it’s been pretty windy, which affects the flight of its prey. Most of my best shots in the past have been in June, so any entries will probably need to wait until at least next year.
It’s now one week since the 2011 British Wildlife Photography Awards opened for entries. I was lucky enough to have a number of photographs shortlisted for the inaugral competition in 2009. However, I wasn’t so lucky last year, not that I felt my images were as strong as the previous year.
Last year, the winners and many commended images were featured in a new book published by the publishing arm of the AA, as they looked to expand their portfolio of nature titles. While it would of course be nice to win a category, my aim is to have a photograph commended, so that it features in the book.
Like many competitions, it is rare that everyone agrees with the choices of the judges and as usual, I found myself thinking that some of the runners-up were actually better than the winners. This is probably an example of taste and how everyone has a different view of what is good and what is a winning image. It also emphasises how difficult it is to “get into” the judges’ minds to try to predict what they are looking for. You could spend hours analysing a photo to see if it is right for the competition, only for the judges to choose something completely diferent to what you imagined they would pick. It is therefore a fruitless exercise and it is better to check your images for creativity and technical quality, making the most of your chances, then hoping for the best.
Of course, that is where the difficulty lies. More than almost any other genre, it is often almost impossible to achieve the vision you have precisely, with an element of luck involved. You can spend a long time planning and hours of waiting to maximise you chances, but even then, the sun might go behind the cloud at the crucial moment or the target animal might appear suddenly without warning, throwing your planning out the window. Or sometimes your luck is in and a totally different animal to your target appears and you get the winning shot. You just can’t tell what is going to happen and that is probably what makes wildlife photography so interesting and challenging. Just occasionally, you are able to spend some time exploring a subject and that is where fieldcraft and knowledge of the subject comes in.