The 2017 Sigma D-Photo Amateur Photographer of the Year competition is now open for entries, and we'll be catching up with our final category winners from the 2016 competition during this year's event. In this instalment, we talk to the winner of the 2016 Nature category, Rob Lynch, about what he's been working on since his win last year.
D-Photo: What made you decide to enter the 2016 Sigma D-Photo Amateur Photographer of the Year competition?
Rob Lynch: I have been entering the competition over the last few years without success, but I am aware that judging can be a very subjective exercise, and that my images could theoretically have as much chance of being selected as any other. However, with the large number of entries, competition is pretty stiff!
What was it like to have such a positive outcome in winning your category of the competition?
Absolutely delighted. I was quietly hopeful of a placing, but coming first was an unexpected bonus.
Can you tell us the story behind your winning image?
Bird photography can be both serendipitous and rewarding for hard work. My wife and I enjoy many walks through the Abel Tasman National Park, which is on our doorstep, but I hesitate to take my camera gear on every trip because it can be a lot to lug around if you end up not using it. Invariably you see the birds on the days you leave the camera at home. I knew the New Zealand falcon was in the area this day, so I packed the camera and lens. We never saw the falcon, but during our lunch stop on the beach I noticed a few swallows hawking about and coming back to a perch that was sticking up in the sand nearby. I rolled on my stomach and fired off a few shots between bites of my apple. I had quite a few nice images by the time my lunch was finished!
What gear did you use to capture your image? Are you using the same gear now or have you changed your preferred equipment?
I used a Canon 7DII (a family gift for a significant birthday), with a Canon 400 f/5.6. I have since acquired a Sigma Contemporary 150–600mm zoom, which has been excellent value and a versatile option for bird photography.
What projects are you currently working on at the moment? Can you provide a bit of an explanation about what inspired you to work on this or these?
Being a ‘birder’ of sorts, I enjoy the challenge of locating and photographing various species, particularly the rarer or less well-known birds. I recently spent time in the Kahurangi National Park looking for rifleman, New Zealand’s smallest endemic bird. These wee fellows become quite confiding if you take the time to spend in their presence, allowing good photographic opportunities. The bush environment can be difficult if dark and contrasty, so results can be a bit hit and miss — fortunately the Canon 7DII has good ISO performance. Another bird that is hard to photograph is the banded rail — often only visible at distance in poor or failing light. There is something about the colour and pattern of their plumage that can make for some disappointing dull and flat images.
What inspired you to pick up a camera for the first time, and how long have you been shooting?
I was gifted a Kodak Brownie for my 10th birthday — that was in the ’60s! I recall lying on my back in the hen house, getting down and dirty then with the birds in search of a unique perspective. I bought my next camera in my early 20s to take on the ‘big OE’ — a Nikkormat FT2. This trusty camera lasted me throughout my working years and went on many overseas travels, resulting in a large slide collection of travel images, which I have since scanned and digitized. I still enjoy travel and landscape photography, but since leaving work my focus has been on birds.
What would you say to someone considering entering the competition, but who are a little hesitant in clicking the ‘submit’ button?
If you feel you have a good image that gives you pleasure to look at, then you should back your feelings and enter it. This competition is free to enter and you have nothing to lose. The more photos you take and competitions you enter, the better your skills and images get.