Those of you who’ve picked up D-Photo no. 61 have already been exposed to the wonderful work of Edin Whitehead, gracing the cover as this year’s New Zealand Amateur Photographer of the Year.
Whitehead came out on top of a truly staggering pool of 5783 entries, the most we have ever received in the competition’s history, with her beautifully tranquil image of a Western Cattle Egret, taken during a trip to South Africa.
We caught up with the 20-year-old Auckland University student, originally from Rotorua, to ask her how she felt about winning the top spot in the 2014 Sigma D-Photo Amateur Photographer of the Year competition:
“I think excited is probably the best word, once I got past the initial disbelief! I’m excited because for me, it means that I’m going in the right direction with my photography, which is really rewarding to know.”
She says that while she has been taking photos since childhood, inspired by her father’s passion for the craft, it wasn’t until 2010 when she started taking photography more seriously, after inheriting her grandfather’s Nikon D200.
This isn’t the first time Edin has been on D-Photo‘s radar; in 2012 we named her our Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and her abilities in that area have only grown from there.
Discussing Whitehead’s champion photo, competition judge Mike Hollman says the image reminds him of the sort of beautiful illustrations found in Victorian botanical books.
“A striking image; it stood out because of its simplicity, capturing the essence of the bird,” he explains. “The subtle colours and graphic quality are enhanced by the high key background.”
Judge Harry Janssen was immediately struck by the way the image evokes the detailed illustrations of the great ornithological painter, John James Audubon.
“To me, it has that type of quality. Not just an image of a flying bird, the author has captured the true grace and colours of this animal in a beautiful way.”
Judge Emma Bass particularly enjoyed the way Whitehead managed to evoke the feeling of flight in such a painterly and graceful way with the image.
“This image sung out to me with its pure simplicity. It made me yearn to fly. Sleek and stunning!”
Though her enticing image looks as though it is the work of long, meticulous planning, Whitehead says it was more a case of reacting quickly to a spontaneous opportunity.
“We were on holiday in South Africa, in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands earlier this year, and Dad and I went out every morning to a dam to photograph birds. It was quite a fleeting moment when I saw the egret flying directly overhead.”
On this trip Whitehead had begun to use manual mode, previously shooting in Aperture Priority and using exposure compensation.
“I had my settings ready for darker birds against a white sky, so I had to push the shutter speed up a little as it flew over so it wasn’t overexposed. I just got the one shot, and it looked down at me just as I pressed the shutter release.”
Whitehead’s passion for wildlife does not end at photography, she is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biological Sciences and Psychology. She hopes to go on to study animal behaviour at a post-graduate level, while continuing to work on her photography in tandem.
“I just want to keep learning and improving my skills. I’ve managed to infect a few of my friends with the photography bug, and I enjoy helping them learn too. It would be a dream to be able to make a living from photography, but I really enjoy my studies and I’d like to study the birds I love to photograph.
“Perhaps I can combine the two!”
If you would like to see more from this year’s champion amateur photographer, head over to her website. And be sure to get your hands on D-Photo no. 61 to check out all the successful photographers in this year’s Sigma D-Photo Amateur Photographer of the Year competition.