Exhibition Review: Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-46-06-pmLuke Tscharke, ‘Shadow of Pegasus’, Western Arthur Range, Southwest National Park, Tasmania. Sony A7R, 16-35 mm, 1/60, f/11, ISO 100, tripod

What: Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Exhibition

Where: South Australian Museum

When: 10am-5pm daily until 3rd October 2016

How much: $9 for adults, $7 concession, free for Museum members, kids free when accompanied by a paying adult

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-45-16-pmPhoto credit: Matilda Handsley-Davis

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” – Vincent van Gogh

This quote on a wall at the centre of the exhibition space perfectly sums up the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Exhibition. For a reminder of the beauty and diversity of nature, look no further than this exhibition hosted on the ground floor of the SA Museum.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-45-08-pmBret Charman, ‘Palm Grove Dingo’, Fraser Island, Queensland. Canon EOS 5D Mk III, Canon EF 300 mm f2.8 IS II USM, 1/500, f/3.5, ISO 2500, handheld

The purpose of the photography competition, organised by Australian Geographic, is to “celebrate the natural heritage of the Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea bioregions”. Photographers can submit works in a range of categories, including ‘animal portrait’, ‘botanical’, ‘monochrome’, and a ‘junior’ category for entrants under the age of eighteen. The exhibition is on the smaller side, but each photograph is exquisite.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-45-37-pmDetail of Johnny Gaskell, ‘Reflection’, Daydream Island, Queensland. Nikon D7100, Sigma 17-70 macro, 1/160, f/14, ISO 160, 2x Sea & Sea strobes, Sea & Sea underwater housing, handheld on snorkel

Exhibitions like this one allow us to experience places and scenes we might never see otherwise. The vast blue and white landscape of Antarctica; a precious moment captured between a baby whale and its mother; or bizarre and beautiful creatures such as Glaucus atlanticus, the blue sea slug: I leave feeling grateful to the photographers who took the time to share these moments with a wider audience.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-45-27-pmJames Stone, ‘The spine of Antarctica: Antarctic Aerial’, Ross Dependency, Antarctica. Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 17-50 mm f2.8 lens, 1/320, f/8.0, ISO 100, CPL, handheld from the window of an LC130 Hercules

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-46-22-pm

Vanessa Mignon, ‘Breath’, Kingdom of Tonga. Canon 5 D Mk III, Canon 16-35 mm f2.8, 1/160, f/6.3, ISO 320

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-46-13-pm

Detail of Matthew Smith, ‘Glaucus atlanticus’, Port Kembla, New South Wales. Nikon D810, Nikkor 105 mm F2.8 micro, 1/320, f/32, ISO 64, 1x Inon Z220 strobes full power and fibre optic snoot, Aquatica Digital AD810 with low profile macro lens port

As someone inexperienced in photography, it can be easy to get caught up in the pure aesthetic pleasure of images that seem like a window into the natural world. But it’s important to remember the considerable effort and talent that goes into these photos. An impressive amount of preparation and patience as well as skill is required for some of the shots on display. A good example is Julie Fletcher’s category-winning botanical piece, Aligning planets. This stunning image required effective use of off-camera flash and still weather conditions in order to capture the details of the desert and the night sky.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-45-47-pm

Julie Fletcher, ‘Aligning planets’, Flinders Ranges, South Australia. Nikon D800, Nikon Lens 14-24 mm, 30, f/2.8, ISO 3200, flash off camera, tripod

Another entrant who showed remarkable dedication to getting a great photograph was Warren Keelan, who had to dive into a wave at exactly the right moment to capture the extraordinary Silver Helix.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-46-31-pmWarren Keelan, ‘Silver Helix’, North Beach, Wollongong, New South Wales. Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 15 mm fisheye 2.8, 1/1000, f/5.0, ISO 800, Aquatech sport housing

In addition, the competition includes a specific ‘interpretive’ category for those who enjoy using special lenses, digital effects and composite images to create their art.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-44-57-pm

Andrew Davoll, ‘Cockatoos’, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania. Nikon D300, Nikon18-200 mm, 1/125, f/8.0, ISO 400, seven multiple exposures within camera, moving in a circle while pointing the camera skyward

Not all of the images rely on visual beauty alone to capture the viewer’s attention. Some of the more sobering entries remind us of the fragility of the natural world and the need to be mindful of human impact. This year’s selection seems to give particular attention to marine ecosystems, from salt pans to the devastation wrought by commercial whaling.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-44-47-pmAndrew Peacock, ‘Not biodegradable’, Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island, Antarctica. Canon EOS 7D Mk II, Canon EF100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 200, handheld]

The Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Exhibition is well worth a visit. As a relatively small exhibition, it would be suitable for children or those short on time, but there is also plenty to see that is worth lingering on. You can also vote for your favourite entry in the People’s Choice category. And if you have a little extra time, why not check out the SA Museum’s other collections, and cast your vote for South Australia’s fossil emblem?

4 out of 5 stars

Matilda Handsley-Davis

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