FOR EACH END OF YEAR REVIEW as in 2011, 2012 and 2013, my own revisiting them twelve months hence is just as important as writing them to begin with. It’s one more yardstick to measure where I was then to where I am now. One’s own photography needs to evolve (just as anything else does) otherwise you become in danger of being stuck in your own past.
As with previous years there were objectives to achieve, and much of this year was taken up with my new book, AS LONG AS THERE ARE ANIMALS, along with its accompanying exhibition. Then if I could manage to sell a few pictures or win a award or two along the way, then so much the better.
AS LONG AS THERE ARE ANIMALS
AS LONG AS THERE ARE ANIMALS is a book I long wanted to make. I had little interest in producing a book containing anonymous animal pictures – I wanted to present each subject as a unique entity, mainly because they are, but also because that is what we would expect for ourselves.
I’d kept the title to myself for some five years without daring to breathe a word to anybody, because no other title was going to do. The basic premise of the book was laid out in my mind at the end of 2013, then in early 2014 I met Keith Wilson and Eddie Ephraums and I decided that these gentlemen would be great assets to have with me in helping to produce the book.
The book is deliberately photo heavy with little text, the objective being to make a book of such quality that if one so desired, a page could be removed from the book and treated as a high quality print. The book was produced in Verona in Italy by the same house that made Sebastião Salgado’s magnificent Genesis.
The foreword was written by Virginia McKenna, of Born Free fame, and to those who believe editors tinker everything, let it be said that not a single word was altered from her pen to the final print. Keith Wilson contributed an introductory essay, and I filled two pages of text myself.
From the off I very much knew that I had one chance with the pictures I had assembled, and I did not want to make any compromises with them, so quality and production was all important. As it turned out at the end of October I took delivery of the first run of books and there was no doubt that all my objectives had been met.
Included in the run was a second edition, a deluxe limited edition run of 100, signed and numbered, cloth bound with a matching portfolio box, replete with a set of prints chosen by the buyer. Both editions have performed better than expected for me, the response has been wonderful, and the deluxe edition is running close to selling out with a price tag to match. All in all, a thorough success.
WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
The Wildlife Photographer Of The Year is unanimously dubbed the Oscars of wildlife photography, it is the most prestigious of all wildlife photographic competitions, hosted jointly by the BBC and the Natural History Museum in London. It becomes a given that any kind of accolade can bring a few career benefits, just as A Flick of the Tail did for me in 2011.
This year I saw eight images qualify to the final round, with The Enchanted Woodland emerging with a commended award in the Mammals category. This image almost did not eventuate as I was on my untried second camera, my first one having expired some thirty minutes earlier. There was a wonderful show of late afternoon light on the trees to the left of the scene as I took the picture, but as it would not fit into the frame due to my focal length, I took a picture of that too with the idea of stitching it on later. I won’t repeat too much of what the image’s caption says, but suffice to say it was absolutely the correct decision and I successfully caught an image of the scene just as it was before me.
There was a little noise from some quarters about this aspect of the image though, which struck me as a little odd as there have been many stitched images in the competition in recent years, most notably Michael Nichol’s The President’s Crown, without so much as ruffling a single feather.
It transpires that there are some people who cannot differentiate between a stitched and composited image, and a composited image this one certainly is not. Anyway it’s all being reciprocated more than enough with luminaries including Marsel van Oosten nominating it as their favourite image of the year.
NATURE’S BEST PHOTOGRAPHY WINDLAND SMITH RICE AWARDS
The last act of 2014 was to read the email that confirmed the winners and highly honored award recipients of the annual Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice Awards, a wildlife photography awards program held in conjunction with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History located in Washington DC. This year I was delighted to learn I was awarded three highly honored placings.
50 YEARS OF WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
A Flick of the Tail made an appearance in this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s 50th anniversary celebration book 50 Years of Wildlife Photographer of the Year: How Wildlife Photography Became Art.
This volume is a collection of some of the most memorable and beautiful pictures from 50 years of the world’s most prestigious wildlife photography competition, and it was an absolute privilege to have Flick chosen alongside seven others to represent the black and white imagery of the competition’s history.
What is especially poignant for me is that I find myself sharing the pages of a book with three of my biggest influencers in wildlife photography, Frans Lanting, Michael Nichols, and Jim Brandenburg.
EXHIBITING AT THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY
To coincide with this year’s WildPhotos in October (and it was a coincidence, really) I held a two week exhibition of my pictures at London’s Royal Geographic Society to formally launch my book. This was a show of about twenty-four of my pictures, and it very much required some sweat and no shortage of faith to launch it. It soon transpired that the efforts were very much worth it, selling a healthy complement of books and framed prints as well.
There is nothing quite like seeing your own pictures printed and framed large, and to me this represents the ultimate destination for any image. Fine art is a funny thing and that singular term represents so many ideas and opinions. (I don’t even like the term, but it will have to do for now until something else comes along.) The definition is still unresolved in my own mind but I think I’m getting closer with uniqueness, provenance and scalability.
There are many talented photographers and many talented marketers, but the piece that joins the two fields together in terms of exhibition art (if I don’t like the term fine art) is the hardest piece to find. However there are things I have found that are certainly needed (as with anything else that demands quality) and that is patience, perseverence and faith.
In 2014, our two seasons of photo safaris to Kenya’s Maasai Mara filled, 24 in March’s Big Cat safaris, 30 in August’s Great Migration safaris with an additional 18 in collaboration with Nature’s Images. 2014 marked my eighth year photographing the Maasai Mara and 2015 will see in my fortieth trip there since 2007. Since 2011 I’ve been leading photo safaris there in small groups of six each, and I’m delighted to say we’ve been growing ever since. We have simply one objective, and that is to bring creativity and wildlife photography together, and we always strive to have our guests take home more than they had hoped for. Here is a selection from ten weeks of hosting photographic safaris in the Maasai Mara in 2014.
BRITISH WILDLIFE CENTRE PHOTO DAYS
In 2014 our British Wildlife Centre Photo Days kept us busy too, holding four full days in May at their popular venue in Surrey here in the UK. A wide range of photographers attended, from fairly seasoned amateurs (bordering on semi-pro even) to first year novices.
The British Wildlife Centre Photo Days have shown to be some kind of stepping stone to our photo safaris, not insomuch in terms of skill levels but in terms of an indication of what to expect on a photo safari, and several attendees have gone on to book a safari in the wake of a photo day.
Past years have seen various icons leave us, such Olive and Notch in 2013, and this year we bade a sad farewell to Karanja, the legendary black rhino of the Maasai Mara. Karanja was nearly unique for his kind, around 44 years old, a relic of an era when rhinos were common, and the possessor of possibly the longest live rhino horn in Africa, that of some 34 inches in length. In fact his second horn would rival most rhinos’ first horn, and he was one of a few rhinos who actually possessed a third one.
I have often said I’ve been very fortunate to have had a number of rewarding encounters with Karanja, and now that he has passed, those encounters are now even more privileged because it is highly unlikely I will ever meet such a rhino again.
Karanja died on Christmas Eve of old age, and while we can celebrate the fact that his life completed naturally, it is tragic in itself that that very fact became a talking point of his death.
AS LONG AS THERE ARE ANIMALS
Both standard and deluxe editions of As Long as There Are Animals are available to order here.
The Enchanted Woodland and Karanja and other prints will be available to order shortly.
If you wish to order or to simply enquire, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO SAFARIS AND PHOTO DAYS
For information about photographic safaris to the Maasai Mara,
refer to the links below or email me at email@example.com