A few months ago Olympus asked me to act as judge and mentor on a very exciting project. In brief, the Olympus Protege 2014 competition sought to identify the most promising amateur photographers in four genres – Animal Photography, Fashion Portraiture, Music Photography, and Landscape Photography. Heading up the Animals category is hugely exciting but not without its challenges. Unlike other areas of photography, animals can be immensely difficult subjects. Rarely can we tell them what to do, or ask them to pose. We may have no control over their movements, or the environment in which they live. We may be subject to their moods, the weather, the quality of the light we find on a given day. With that in mind, producing a good portfolio of animal images can take a very long time. Without a doubt animal photography will stretch your patience, your energy, and your ability to quickly change tack. But it is also absorbing and ultimately so very satisfying. Our dedicated pet and animal photography site can be found here: Animal and Pet Photography West Sussex
Now that the selection process and voting has closed I am delighted to reveal the winner in the Animals category. We have had hundreds of entries to go through and picking our protege was no easy task. Entrants were required to submit an image which best represents their style along with a brief biography. Given that each mentor will be investing quite a lot of time in their protege, it’s natural that we would do our research in order to learn a little more about the personalities involved. This was quite revealing as you can imagine and it did result in a number of shortlisted candidates ending up in the ‘rejected’ pile! Why? Because the prize (a stunning Olympus OMD EM10, and lenses, several weeks of mentoring, and a weekend of dedicated photography tuition on location) is a valuable one and we want it to be appreciated, and used. In this regard the best candidates are those who can demonstrate a genuine engagement with animal photography and a desire to move their work forward, perhaps with a view to undertaking commercial assignments in the future. I wasn’t looking for someone who has taken a random pleasing photograph on holiday, only to see no evidence anywhere that photography is a genuine part of their life.
The winner of the Olympus Proteges 2014, in the Animals category, is Mike Shaw and he heralds from a small industrial town called Widnes in Cheshire. I think Mike’s enthusiasm and passion for photography shines through and I have no doubt that he will be a pleasure to work with. Here is a copy of Mike’s personal statement:
“I am fortunate in that I am surrounded by great landscape location and by large cities including Liverpool and Manchester. I am a passionate photographer.
I picked up a camera back in 2006 after being thwarted in many artistic pursuits due a huge lack of patience. Digital photography was my saviour; I was hooked from day one. Since that day there is not a week goes by where I try and get out with the camera.
I became known as a landscape photographer but it was a genre that chose me rather me it. I need more of a challenge so went on to street portraits and for an even bigger challenge I decided to try animal portraits. So in 2011 I joined my local zoo and set out with my camera. I knew taking images of animals was never going to be easy, they don’t sit and pose, you have their own environment to deal with and there are so many obstructions in your way to getting the right shot. When you do get the right shot in this genre it is all the more rewarding.
What I would like to get from this journey with Lindsay and Olympus is a greater understanding of the technical side of things. Plus I will be using whole new kit coming from DSLR’s into mirrorless cameras. Also to be able to work alongside a professional and see how they set things up, how they work the shot and the subject to get that right image. To get a better understanding of light as I only ever shoot in natural light even though I have a flash gun and studio kit, both of which are seldom used. Even though I have an understanding on composition I would like to have a more deeper understanding. It’s a journey I am very much looking forward to.”