2014 – Amazingly another year has flown past and as always far too quickly. If you’re anything like me then the past can become a bit of a blur. Some say it’s my age, but I like to think that as a wildlife photographer, creating new ideas (for images as well as for the business) takes over and as soon as I’ve ticked off one thing there seems to be something else to take its place – the washing up is often mentioned, but that’s another story. I love this lifestyle, but because of it, I often forget what I have achieved and only look at what I haven’t – I’m sure many of you are the same.

Photography Highlights of 2013

When the Yellow-eyed penguins return to their nest sites, at Curio Bay in New Zealand's South Island. It's their torpedo like approach, just below the surface I was after, as they swim through the rock pools.

When the Yellow-eyed penguins return to their nest sites, at Curio Bay in New Zealand’s South Island. It’s their torpedo like approach, just below the surface I was after, as they swim through the rock pools. Wildlife Photographer of the Year (Natural History Museum (NHM) and BBC Worldwide) – Finalist in Behaviour – Birds.

One of the highlights of 2013 for me was the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, run by the British Natural History Museum, along with BBC Worldwide. It was the first time I had entered this prestigious competition that attracted nearly 43,000 entries and I’m very pleased to say that two of my images were picked to go through to the finals. Although I didn’t get awarded a prize, to have got to the final stage of such a competition was encouraging, as it felt like I was moving in the right direction with my photography.

Reef starfish often gather together to form a mass of tentacles, like these ones on the west coast of the North Island in New Zealand. A more creative, black and white approach helps bring out the texture and shape of the animals.

Reef starfish often gather together to form a mass of tentacles, like these ones on the west coast of the North Island in New Zealand. A more creative, black and white approach helps bring out the texture and shape of the animals. 2013 – Wildlife Photographer of the Year (Natural History Museum (NHM) and BBC Worldwide) – Finalist in Nature in Black and White.

Also, for the second year on the trot I had another one of my images picked for the final of the ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year competition.

At night, a Strawberry Land Hermit Crab, scurries across one of Lady Elliot Island's white beaches. It's a terrestrial hermit crab, probably on its way to the ocean to refresh its supply of water.

At night, a Strawberry Land Hermit Crab, scurries across one of Lady Elliot Island’s white beaches. It’s a terrestrial hermit crab, probably on its way to the ocean to refresh its supply of water. 2013- ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year – Finalist – Animal Portrait Category.

Enter a competition

I mentioned these achievements, not to say “hey, look at how good I am”, but to encourage others to enter these and other photography competitions. Why? Because one of the great things about entering competitions is that it focuses your attention on a specific theme or subject. It pushes you, challenging both your technique and your creativity. All these elements will help improve your photography skills and the images you create. It doesn’t matter if you don’t win: I will enter these two competitions every year, for as long as I can, even though I’m sure most of the time I will not get through to the finals. The important thing is the process you go through and how much you learn from it. I’ve already started listing my ideas for the images I would like to create this year, both for competitions and other projects – why don’t you do the same and see where it takes you?

Create a list

I often create lists of images and themes to help focus my photography – which is how I was able to publish my second book, ‘Wild Behaviour – A New Zealand Perspective’,  in February of 2013; a book that focuses on species that are native and endemic to New Zealand. Listing the names of the species and visualising how I wanted to capture them helped me focus on the task at hand, so when I was out shooting I knew what I was after, and it meant I didn’t get distracted by other subjects – most of the time!

2013 also launched the Hamilton Zoo Photography Group (HZPG) which has been received with great enthusiasm (Note: this is now The PhotoHub). I will be announcing the winner of the HZPG Photographer of the Year in a few weeks’ time – a competition I arranged for the group that would help them to focus on specific themes, with the bonus of some great prizes up for grabs. I’m pleased to announce the group will continue on in 2014, as its first year has proved so successful.

I wish you all the best for 2014, now go and get started on that list and capture some great images.

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