Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Category Winner: 15-17 Years
Matthew Burrard-Lucas won the 15-17 year old category of the 2005 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition with his photograph Chimpanzee Meditation.
The competition, run by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, is the most prestigious in its field and this year received 17,000 entries from 57 countries. Matthew, a PhotoGalaxy member since February 2004, answers some of our questions...
Talk us through how you ended up winning this award.
I have been going to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition for many years and I have always dreamed of having a photo in it. When I first saw my Chimpanzee photo on the computer screen I knew it had a chance of winning so I entered it a few days before the deadline in March. A few months later I was shocked to find an email in my inbox telling me that I had won my category! I was incredibly elated but I could not tell anyone until the winners were officially announced on 19th October.
Can you describe the whole experience of winning for us?
The experience has been really incredible. I was a bit apprehensive at first as I didnít really know what to expect. The first event was the evening before the awards ceremony. It was an informal social for the winning photographers in a bar near the Natural History Museum. I met many photographers whose names I recognised from past competitions. I also met the other young wildlife photographers from different age groups and the runners up in my age group. It was hard to know what to say as none of us had seen each others photos yet.
The awards ceremony was on Wednesday night. Everyone got to see the winning photos for the first time and the overall winner of the competition was announced. There were some really amazing photos and I felt very proud when my photo came up on the projector in front of the assembled audience. Afterwards we were able to look around the exhibition and talk to the photographers. All of the photographers I spoke to had amazing stories about how they obtained their images. I found it very educational and I really enjoyed talking to people who share my passion for wildlife photography.
My favourite part of the whole experience was the press launch on Thursday. I managed to talk to many more of the winning photographers but also I had the opportunity to talk about my photograph to the press. I got interviewed by several big magazines and I also gave a televised interview for the BBC!
The final event was the preview evening on Thursday night, when my family and friends could come and see the exhibition for the first time. It was a nice way to end an unbelievable couple of days.
Why did you take this picture?
When my family and I decided to travel to Tanzania at Christmas, as part of the trip, we wanted to see the chimpanzees living in the Mahale National Park. I am extremely interested in Chimpanzees and other great apes. I also knew that they would make a stunning subject for my photography. When we decided to go there, I had the goal of submitting a potential image for the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Every year there are such amazing images on display and it has always been a dream for mine to be one of them. One of the aims of the competition is to raise awareness and interest for the environment around us, and I knew that if I got a really nice photograph of a chimpanzee that it might help people empathise with their situation.
Were there any special preparations you needed to make?
Before the trip, I had to think about exactly what I needed and what I didnít. Part of the journey to Mahale involved a small light aircraft and so I decided to make sacrifices on clothing, and used more of my 10 kilo weight limit on my far more important photography equipment. Even so, I had to restrict myself to two lenses, one wide angle, the other a 200mm zoom lens. I had about 2 GB of memory cards but also a portable hard-drive for mass storage. Battery life was a major concern whilst at Mahale, I had two batteries for my camera and made sure that the spare was always fully charged.
How many photos did you take to get this photograph?
I saw this chimpanzee sitting on the ground staring seemingly into space. He was the alpha male of the troupe. I noticed his striking pose and managed to take four photographs of him whilst edging closer on my front. This was the third image and turned out to be the best portrait of him. It captured his moment of thought and the small white flower in front of his gaze.
What is it for you that makes a great picture Ė what is the extra something that makes you pick that frame?
My favourite photographs are usually either close up animal portraits that allow you to connect with the subject, or ones that show action or movement making the image dramatic. I also like original pictures and ones that make you look at things in a new way. Generally, when I choose my favourite photos, they are simple and bold, without distractions or a cluttered background.
Why do you use digital?
I started photography fairly recently and have always shot in the digital format. I think it has more versatility than a film camera, allowing you to control every aspect of the photograph. Also, having a screen on the back of the camera is extremely useful for quick reference and adjustments. I also like the fact that digital cameras make photography more accessible for people. It allows me and everyone else to review and print images from home.
What is your favourite image of yours or anyone else's?
Last yearís winning photographs of Chimpanzees also from Mahale taken by Anup Shah, partly inspired me to try and get equally good pictures of the Chimps. I hoped to capture their behaviour and character in the same way as his images do. But there is no way I could choose one photograph as my favourite because there are so many amazing pictures around the world.
How did you start in wildlife photography?
I started photography only a few years ago and only seriously began to take wildlife photos when I was 14. At the beginning I just took photos abroad whilst on holiday, but I now take photos in the UK, mostly around where I live. My brother was a photographer before me and taught me most of what I know now. He and my mum inspired me to start in the first place. However I started wildlife photography in particular because I find photographing animals is so interesting. It is always a challenge because in most cases, you have only a very short space of time to take the photo.
Do you have any tips for budding wildlife photographers?
I believe that with every wildlife photograph, there is always an element of both preparation and luck. In terms of preparation, you can choose a subject to photograph beforehand and therefore prepare suitably for the situation. For example, which lens to use, camera settings, and other equipment such as tripods etc. There are so many things that if you think about it, you can have ready so that you can concentrate on composing and actually taking the exposure. However most times, especially with wildlife photography you have to make quick, unexpected adjustments to the camera, always involving luck with the best results.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year