Telling stories from the natural world

The winners from Wildlife Photographer of the Year were recently announced.

Featuring photographs that capture nature at its best – in all its beauty and fragility – the competition aims to raise awareness of the natural world and in part the issues affecting it. It helps to unlock the secrets of nature.

 

In the moment

Thinking about the bigger picture is important in photography, with certain scenes holding many untold stories. As some of the entries from the competition highlight, and the winners especially, the most remarkable of photographs documenting the natural world are those that capture a moment within a larger story.

The award for this prestigious annual competition is judged based on the story-telling power of six images together, as well as consideration for the individual quality of each of these. The most evocative of these images manage to freeze a moment in time that suggests there is more behind the action. Revealing parts of the world that are unfamiliar, featuring wildlife that is endangered or capturing distinctive motions and instances are the portals to a much bigger story.

 

Anticipating the moment

Living in the moment often means throwing caution to the wind and allowing events to unfold with minimal planning. Whereas this can and has worked with spectacular results in many photographic situations, being knowledgeable of your subject and the natural environment it inhabits can also render jaw-dropping results.

Working with live creatures in particular requires a certain amount of skill and precision from the photographer. Knowledge of certain movements and behavioural patterns in your natural subject can allow you to plan your positioning so as to better anticipate the action.

This will sometimes require studying your subject and building up a sense of familiarity with its habits and patterns of living. Often longer periods of observation mean that you can be prepared for the particular moment in time you wish to capture.

 

Colour and lighting

Colour is perhaps one of the most important elements to consider when working with any visual medium, particularly in the natural world where it can enhance many shots. Lighting is of particular importance as it can determine the kind of emotions you wish to evoke from a certain scene, heightening the intensity of the atmosphere contained within it.

Of course, the same intensity can be achieved through the use of black and white photography. Sometimes the brightness and contrast of an image can be transformed through the natural lighting from the sun or the moon, illuminating animals in their natural outdoor habitats.

 

Posture and the portrait

The early days of photography meant that everything was shot in monochrome, and even now lots of professional photographers opt to shoot portraits in black and white as opposed to colour.

Paying attention to lines, shadows and the particular shapes of your subject area can help photographers to pre-visualise the black and white image even though we are living in a colour saturated world.

This can be helpful when thinking in terms of capturing animals, in particular, within their natural environment. The movement (or lack of), posture and positioning of the animal can also determine what feelings you want to conjure up. Framing your subjects within coral reefs, among branches, amidst rainfall, means that they appear as alive in the photograph as the moment you captured it.

 

The images collected as part of this competition are now on display at the Natural History Museum in London and will be touring internationally. Take a look at these before perhaps trying it for yourself.

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