I have not competed in a wildlife photo contest since 2008 as I’ve simply been too busy pursuing my doctoral studies. This year, my two children and one of my nieces have decided to participate in the 2011 Valley Land Fund Youth Photo Contest. I’m excited and more nervous for them than I have ever been for myself in any competition.
Both of my children have been in front of, or behind the camera since their toddler years and with this competition they have received more fundamental instructions about things like composition. My niece has always expressed an interest in photography and since she’s older, she’s able to take in the instructions quickly. She’s pretty motivated and I think her portfolio will be a tough one when she is done. A great thing about the digital format is that they can immediately see the results of any in-field instructions and this is helping them capture some very special images.
The contest, which runs from June 6 to August 1, consists of a portfolio of up to 8 images in any single or combination of categories listed below
- Other Wildlife (reptiles, insects, spiders, etc)
- Connecting People to Nature
- Landscapes & Plant Life
- Water Features for Wildlife
- Digital Art
There is a lot of walking, sweating, waiting, and hoping that our subjects will give us a shot when the light is just right. There’s also a lot of laughing, learning, and complaining (dad it’s hot, I’m tired, I’m thirsty, are we there yet, are we almost done?), and finally some praying going on in search of that special image. Then suddenly, something unusual, or simply “cool” as they like to say, will happen before us and their little fingers quickly reach for the shutter, firing away in rapid succession…with me behind them reminding them to press the focus button.
When the action stops we quickly start viewing their images and I can detect a little extra excitement in their tone of voice when I hear them say, “I think I got a good one.” Then as I scroll through their images, I have to try and contain my excitement when I see that the photo was not good but great. I don’t know how the judges will see it, but some of their images are simply fantastic. Win, lose, or draw, I’m very proud of their efforts.
The whole experience reminds me of Trace Adkins’ song “She Thinks We’re Just Fishing”. They may think we’re just out taking pictures, but I know we are doing so much more than that. The time spent in the field enjoying photography and the great outdoors together…these are memories that will last a lifetime.