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 Aerial category, at the competition overall, Mark Waddington, about what he's been working on since his win last year.
D-Photo: What made you decide to enter the 2016 D-Photo Amateur Photographer of the Year competition?
Mark Waddington: I was encouraged to submit some photos into the competition by my partner, and without this I probably wouldn’t have entered. At the time I wasn’t aware of the D-Photo Amateur Photographer of the Year competition, but once I got started it was a great opportunity to review all my photos.
What was it like to have such a positive outcome in winning your category of the competition — and the overall competition?
It was a lot of fun picking out which of my photos I thought were worthwhile submitting, and great to see everyone’s entries. It was amazing to have one of my aerial photos acknowledged by the judges — the aerial perspective continues to be one of my great photographic passions. It was a huge surprise (and honour) to win the competition overall!
Can you tell us the story behind your winning image?
One Saturday, early in the morning, I was flying my drone near Hagley Park to take some pictures of the new hospital development. As I usually do, I did a quick 360 look-around while the drone was up, and [I] saw the rose garden in the distance. Having walked through it many times before, I’d never have guessed it looked like it did from the air. It was very ornate and beautiful. Next morning, with batteries recharged, I went and did the bird’s-eye view.
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 the DJI Inspire 1 pro to capture this image. Drone technology has progressed at a fantastic pace, both in terms of how easy they are to fly and the capabilities of the cameras they have. The X5 camera has amazing dynamic range.
The only drawback with this medium-sized drone is that it is quite bulky to transport. I took to London and France last year but it was a hassle! I have now purchased the newish DJI Mavic Pro. Its camera is a little less capable, but it is tiny (it folds down to about the size of a one-litre Just Juice packet). It’s brilliant for travel or when you are on the go.
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?
I’ve become interested in taking more ‘people’ photographs — both candid shots and portraits. It’s a new challenge and I’m currently learning some off-camera flash, natural-light techniques and having fun with that.
What inspired you to pick up a camera for the first time, and how long have you been shooting?
I first picked up my father’s Ricoh SLR for some school projects as a teenager. With the emergence of digital photography, and the birth of our first child, I started taking photos regularly again as an adult, but have only become seriously interested in photography in the last six (or so) years.
What would you say to someone considering entering the competition, but who are a little hesitant in clicking the ‘submit’ button?
Definitely have a go. We often give the harshest critique to our own work so don’t hesitate — this is a fun way to share your work with like-minded people. You never know what might catch the judges' eyes! It’s also a great opportunity to blow the cobwebs off your digital archive and refresh your memories with your old work.