Current Issue #488

Capturing nature’s wonder

Capturing nature’s wonder

The ANZANG (Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea) Nature Photography Competition at the South Australian Museum offers one of the most exceptional platforms available for photographers to extend themselves beyond their wildest imaginings.

Now in its ninth year, the competition invites adult and child photographers to best capture the spirit of this bioregion, with the intention of encouraging conservation. The awe-inspiring finalist photographs of animals, plants, birds and landscapes will be on display at the South Australian Museum in October and November. Often visitors to the gallery are not aware that the images stem from hours of research, travels through freezing or tropical locations and enormous amounts of patience and skill.

Of the 1364 photographs submitted this year, judges have narrowed down their list to 99 images from 69 photographers. Entries came from eight different countries. While South Australia can be proud to host an exhibition of international significance, we at the Museum are continually exploring means to expand the prize and develop its scope, to ensure it continues to maintain worldwide credibility and encourage excellence in photography.

The first ever ANZANG was developed in 2004 by Perth surgeon Dr Stuart Miller. A few hundred entries were submitted at the West Australian Museum. The prize came to the South Australian Museum in 2009, when we saw a significant spike in submissions to more than 1000 a year. Photographers have the excellent opportunity to have their works shown in South Australia. The gallery then tours to West Australian and Tasmanian venues, offering national exposure. The Museum is actively seeking to grow ANZANG and is intensifying marketing efforts to ensure nature photographers the world over are aware of this unique competition. We are working on new partnerships that will further boost the global presence of ANZANG, inviting even more entries and therefore stunning images for the exhibition.

We also have had to keep up with the development of photographic techniques. Since digital photography overtook film in our entry pool, the Museum decided in 2010 to take online submissions only. Film photographers can still enter, but they need to submit their work via the internet. The efficient entry system has opened the doors for far more entries, cementing the reputation of ANZANG as a truly international competition. The online process is also more affordable as photographers no longer need to print images or send us CDs. The South Australian Museum still keeps the price of entry low to allow as many photographers to enter as possible. Despite the strong numbers of entries, we want to encourage more photographers to enter. The standard of the exhibition can only benefit from increased competition.

There are also discussions about entry requirements. As it stands ANZANG accepts digital and film photographs that are produced with methods that can be applied in a traditional darkroom situation, from a single exposure. This excludes the Interpretive category, when photographers are invited to manipulate their images in any way they like to create the best possible effects. With rapidly-advancing technology however, the ANZANG competition must decide whether to accept entries created using features such as in-camera HDR (high dynamic range). HDR works by layering images together: a breach of ANZANG’s single exposure rule. We would have to alter requirements to allow photographers to work with this feature. In addition, the quality of mobile phone cameras is now astonishingly high. We need to look at whether the popularity of applications such as Instagram may, in the future, be a catalyst for an offshoot nature photography competition for phone cameras only.

At present, the ANZANG competition includes 10 different categories – Animal Behaviour, Animal Portrait, Botanical, Black and White, Underwater, Wilderness, Threatened Species, Our Impact, Junior and Interpretive – as well as a special Portfolio Prize for a collection of six photographs or more. We are looking at whether it may be worth expanding these categories to cover the bioregion more fully. One possibility may be to include an urban category, which would stray slightly from the traditional scenes of beaches or forests, and look at nature in urban settings. The exciting possibilities for this competition are endless and we are open to new ideas to showcase the best of nature photography.

ANZANG is yet another opportunity that the Museum offers to link children with science. With some of our entrants as young as 11 years old, ANZANG shows young people what is possible and motivates them to participate. As part of Biodiversity Month, the coming school holiday program has aimed to embrace social media and encourage young visitors to submit their photographs of nature, which will be shown at the South Australian Museum. We want to see children relish in the discovery of their environment and take pride in their efforts to capture the essence of biodiversity.

The 2012 ANZANG Photography Prize is sure to be a popular event that celebrates the beauty and wonder of this incredibly diverse region.

Professor Suzanne Miller is the Director of the South Australia Museum ANZANG Nature Photography Exhibition SA Museum Friday, October 5 to Sunday, November 25 The 2013 competition opens in January

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