Sunday Times Lifestyle/Green Life Photographer of the Year Awards

17 February 2013 - 02:02 By Tiara Walters
Green Life
LIGHT PLAY: Dolphins swimming near the surface at Sodwana Bay by Darryl Hammond
LIGHT PLAY: Dolphins swimming near the surface at Sodwana Bay by Darryl Hammond

Image: Lifestyle Magazine

We've begun the brand-new search for SA's best wildlife and nature photographers, with R230000 in prizes to be won. The winner and runners-up will receive camera equipment worth R185000, courtesy of Canon. Lifestyle will also be giving away R5000 cash to each monthly winner

Entries will be judged for their impact and technical skill, but the judges will be on a special lookout for authentic work of less-common wildlife and fascinating landscapes. The subject can be anything environmental: an image that highlights the planet's natural beauty, or portrays threats to nature.

Green Life asked Sunday Times photo editor Darryl Hammond what he hopes to see in this year's competition:

What's your top tip for producing an award-winning image?

It has to catch your eye immediately. When it comes to wildlife, or any subject , it helps to know your subject. You need to be able to anticipate what it will do and capture the moment. This will enable you to get a natural image without it being static.

Last year's winners each represented an original take on the natural world. In other words, originality matters. Are there any clichés entrants should avoid in their work?

Being original and showing initiative are perhaps more important than clichés, but, as an example, traditionalists often refer to the "golden hour" - dawn or dusk - when light is soft and golden. It is true that soft, even lighting is great for photography, but break the mould. Use flash and spotlights, even a torch.

One of my favourite photographers, Frans Lanting, did some amazing work in the Okavango, lighting with a flash to create awesome and original images of some otherwise overshot subjects.

The planet is under siege, yet most wildlife photographs still seem to reflect the world as an unspoilt paradise. Would you like to see fewer utopian and more warts-and-all images in 2013?

A lot of entries last year were Big Five images. It would be great to see more of the less- common animals. I'd also like to see more images of environmental issues.

The world is rapidly changing and it is important that photographers document this to create awareness turtles mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish; owls and other birds dying from ingesting pesticides. Need I mention rhino poaching and acid mine drainage? What about fracking? The sky is the limit if you apply your mind.

Are there new trends you'd love to see among this year's entries?

Technology makes photography accessible to everyone. As the old saying goes: "It isn't what you have, but what you do with it." You don't necessarily need the best equipment to achieve the best results. Don't photograph a bird at the top of a tree if all you have is a small zoom lens.

Rather try a landscape or macro shot. Great images are always achievable if you stay within the limits of your gear. Excellent images taken on cellphones, for instance, or even camera traps, would be very encouraging.

Some NGOs have extraordinary images of rare wildlife taken on camera traps and we'd love to see those too, provided the image is interesting and technically proficient.