Cross-disciplinary Inspiration

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017

Despite not being a photographer by any stretch of the imagination, I have always enjoyed the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.  I went last weekend to the M-Shed in Bristol to check it out.


The winning photos are available on the Natural History Museum’s site, along with information about the photographer, the wildlife and the technical specs of the photo. I’ve linked to all the images I’ve referred to at the bottom of this post.

I took my sketch book and watercolours to try to record some of my impressions.  Obviously I was never going to capture the exquisiteness of the photographs. These are more like notes to remind me of some of my favorites and give me ideas for my mixed media work.

Boxing haresSometimes I was attracted to a particular composition, as with the boxing mountain hares, part of the black and white section. The hares were taken in silhouette and backlit, a white halo around them, and a beautiful swirl of snow kicked up by one paw. I tried to capture the interesting negative space between them.

Sometimes it was a texture, such as the wrinkled crevasses of an elephant’s trunk, or the pattern of a fractured ice cap.

The quetzal had such beautiful curves, as well as intense colour, and the eye of the artic fox reflecting the snowy environment stood out from the rest of the portrait, the colours contrasting with the monochrome of the rest of the picture.

Black kitesThe children’s section had entries every bit as good as some of the adults’. I was taken by the colour and contrast in the silhouettes of black kites, beautifully composed and crisp against the sunset.  Black shapes against a coloured background is definitely something I can use as inspiration – in my case it will probably involve Brusho and an ink pen.

TeaselsSome things were very hard to capture, such as the use of depth of field in a photograph of teasels with the middle distance in focus and a veil of fuzzy teasels in the foreground. The autumn colours were also beautiful. Slow shutter speed to capture movement was present in a fantastic photo of wild dogs which I didn’t even attempt to recreate.  Nevertheless, it may provide inspiration for a future piece.

As always, this was a stunning exhibition.  Environments and plant life, as well as animals, were present as usual. Some images had a strong design element, others told a story (often heartbreaking, with a conservation message).   The exhibition is still on in London and a few other places; I recommend going if you can.

So what will I do with this source material? It will probably simmer away in the back of my mind until I have an idea for a project. The important thing is that it’s all good practice – in looking, noticing, appreciating and representing. Keep using your artist’s eye and open the path for inspiration to flood in, from whatever source you can find.

Original photos:


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