See wildlife up close in photography exhibit

By Dorothy Shinn
Beacon Journal art 
and architecture critic

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� Charlie Hamilton James (UK) Treading Water Commended Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife While making a film about giant otters in Cocha Salvador, Peru, Charlie grew to know this four-month-old cub well. He was full of personality, says Charlie. This portrait was taken lying down in a boat, and the cub was as curious about Charlie as Charlie was about it, craning its neck while treading water. These highly social animals are the largest of all the otters, and live within slow-moving rivers and lakes in the Amazon. But this habitat is being rapidly destroyed and degraded by logging, mining, pollution and overfishing, and the number of giant otters left in the wild is declining fast. They are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Location: Cocha Salvador, Man� National Park, Peru. Technical details: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + 800mm lens; 1/1600 sec at f5.6; ISO 1000.
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It used to be that if you wanted to see wild animals, you had to either subscribe to National Geographic or visit a zoo.

Now with the convenience of the Internet, you can have incredible wildlife images delivered to your digital mailbox.

Nothing beats the presence of the physical image, however, and through Sept. 15 the Cleveland Museum of Natural History is exhibiting Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012, 100 of the best photos of wildlife submitted to the British Natural History Museum, London, and BBC Wildlife magazine.

Chosen from among more than 48,000 photos submitted, the images were selected by an international jury chaired by Jim Brandenburg, a highly respected nature photographer and a past winner of the competition.

Now in its 48th year, the competition has drawn entries from 98 countries over its history, both amateur and professional photographers. Judges choose the best based on creativity, artistry and technical complexity.

BBC Wildlife Magazine founded Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 1965. The Natural History Museum joined forces in 1984 to create the competition as it is today.

This year’s winning photos were chosen from a record number of entries representing 28 countries. Age is no limit; categories range from photographers 10 years old and younger to mature professionals.

“It amazes me to discover new and startling moments that have never been seen before,” said Brandenburg. “Secret moments in nature combined with a talented eye have given us rare photographs that will truly be enjoyed forever.”

Actually, Brandenburg’s statement is only partially true, and this may be good or bad, according to your relationship to the convenience of the digital age.

There is in this exhibit a photo of a Japanese macaque soaking itself in one of the hot springs that pepper the Jigokudani Valley of central Japan.

Images of these macaques in the steamy waters have been the subject of innumerable images shared around the Internet. If you Google “Japanese snow monkeys hot springs” you will get tens of thousands of hits.

There’s also Snow Pounce, which shows a fox jumping in hot pursuit of his prey, which has dived into the snow. Googling “fox jump” results in millions of hits.

So not all of these images are utterly rare and dissimilar to what’s already available. Nevertheless, they are beautiful, breathtaking, beguiling and, thanks to the thoroughness of those who put this exhibit together, incredibly informative.

The stated aim of the competition is to select images not only for their aesthetic qualities, but also for their “extraordinary, often technically amazing and sometimes shocking reflections of events in the natural world.”

Below the description of each image is a line or two of information on the technical aspects of the image: camera used; lens settings; whether flash and tripod was used; type of film, if any; and the digital programs used to bring the image to print.

I mention this because there are still artists who refuse to divulge such information for fear of losing their “secret” methods. One look at the disclosures published in this exhibit should clue them in that people who use the technology can figure it out.

As to the “shocking” images, be forewarned, there are images of rhino horn poaching that are disturbing, as are images of wild animals in pursuit of prey, such as a pride of cheetah cubs learning to kill.

One of the most beguiling images in the exhibit is Caught in the Act, a photograph by Hannah Bedford of the UK, whose photograph, taken with a Canon PowerShot A11100 IS, was “commended” in the Young Wildlife Photographers 10 years and under category.

“There was a commotion in the garden” said Hannah, “and this was what was causing it.” The fox had killed all four of the Bedfords’ hens in the chicken run and was in the act of eating one. Hannah ran to get her camera and caught the fox on top of the hen house, mouth full of feathers, a deer-in-the-headlights expression on its face.

“I loved seeing a fox so close up,” added Hannah, “but we don’t keep chickens any more.”

The winner in that category was Bartek Kosinski of Poland for Dawn Flight, his ghostly, hand-focused image taken with a Nikon D300 of common cranes preparing to take flight one misty morning at Milicz Fishponds Nature Reserve in western Poland.

Dorothy Shinn writes about art and architecture for the Akron Beacon Journal. Send information to her at the Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640 or dtgshinn@att.net.


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