Natural talent: Edin Whitehead's glorious nature photography

Combining two passions — nature and photography — to educate people about conservation is Edin Whitehead’s goal for her work. Lara Wyatt talks to the up-and-comer about these dreams and more

Photography is in Edin Whitehead’s blood. Her arrival in the photography sphere did not come about via a sudden inspiration to pick up a camera, but because she grew up surrounded by the family trait, carrying a camera in hand. Her grandfather was a photographer, and her father is a photographer, so it was a natural progression for Whitehead to also pick up a camera of her own and start experimenting.

Edin Whitehead

And experimentation has paid off so far, as she’s been recognized for her work three years in a row in the Sigma D-Photo Amateur Photographer of the Year competition. In 2014, she was awarded the top spot of Amateur Photographer of the Year, in 2015 she received second place in the Junior category, and in 2016 she was awarded second place in the Nature category.

“That was very surprising — quite amazing. It has made me want to work a lot harder. I had forgotten about entering, and then I got the call and it was just ridiculous. I thought, well, maybe this is something I should look at and try harder to improve. It’s always been a big focus for me, but now it’s even more,” Whitehead says.

At the time of this interview, Whitehead was 21, and was in her last year of studying for a bachelor of science majoring in biology and psychology at The University of Auckland, but her main focus was conservation and ecology, with an interest in animal physiology. This curiosity about nature has paved the way for the direction Whitehead has taken with her photography and where she journeys to.

Edin Whitehead

“I’ve always watched birds, I’ve always been obsessed with nature and wildlife, and it just sort of turned into my main focus, because I watch it so much,” Whitehead tells me. “In February, we went to Antarctica, which was amazing. I’ve wanted to go my whole life. It’s just amazing, it’s like another world. You’re not meant to get close to the penguins, but penguins don’t really pay attention to the rules … If you sit down, they’re going to come and walk up to you and peck your boots and stare at you, and go ‘You’re an awfully big penguin.’”

Edin Whitehead

The untouched environment of Antarctica is in stark contrast to her surroundings back here in New Zealand. Whitehead has a career goal of getting into scientific research, but she really wants to work in conservation to connect people with animals and ecosystems that need help. And she thinks her photography, and the blog that she posts to twice a week, will be able to create this connection and educate people: “You’ve got to see something to know about it to care about it … I just want to show people things that they otherwise wouldn’t get to see, or wouldn’t notice otherwise. I want to inspire the same passions that I have for the natural world and get them excited about it.”

Edin Whitehead

And now she’s the one getting excited, as she has finally got her hands on her dad’s Fujifilm X100. But she has had to work her way up the ranks, her first camera being a “dinky little film camera” that was being handed out to passers-by by a drug rep. 

“It wasn’t a great camera,” she says, “but I had fun with it. I loved that you had to take film to be developed, that was so cool — I still have a couple of film cameras.”

However, she adores her dad’s X100, which she has now become the proud owner of — partly due to her incessant ‘borrowing’ of it. 

Edin Whitehead

Whitehead explains: “It was around my birthday, and Dad had been using his new camera [a Fujifilm X100S], and I hadn’t noticed as he’d been covering up the little ‘S’. He was taking pictures of me on my birthday unwrapping presents, and I unwrapped this, and I was so confused — he’s got this picture of my look of realization on my face when I’m holding a camera I think he’s using.”

There is an abundance of examples of Whitehead’s work on her blog, in which she covers what she’s doing and what she’s shooting, but she also dips into information about where she’s travelled; a bit of history about places she’s been, such as the bases in Antarctica; and discusses animal behaviour. 

Edin Whitehead

To check in on Whitehead and what she’s up to, visit her blog at edinz.com/blog, where you can keep up-to-date with what she’s doing and what she’s shooting, as well as get some great nature photography tips, including why fungi make wonderful photo subjects.

This article originally featured in the October–November 2015 issue of D-Photo magazine. You can add a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine to your collection now: