Images of a gosling in the Falklands and some Gentoo penguins taken by a youngster from Pembrokeshire have all won top prizes in the prestigious RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2021.
Every year, the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards invites youngsters aged 18 years and under to capture the animal kingdom on a camera or a mobile device.
The striking photo of a Kelp Gosling, entitled ‘Ferdiebird’’, taken by ten-year-old Michael Johnson-Brown from Haverfordwest, was awarded Runner Up in the competition’s Under 12 Mobile Phone and Devices category after being singled out from more than 6,500 entries this year.
Michael also won a Commended in the competition’s Under 12s category with his picture of Gentoo Penguins.
Commenting on his Ferdiebird image, Michael said: “Whilst living in the Falklands last year we were asked to look after a rescued kelp gosling.
“We had Ferdinand from very young and he followed us everywhere. Kelp geese have quite a specific diet so he needed taking to the beach several times a day to let him forage for seaweed.
“Ferdie always stayed right next to you and followed anywhere you went. He was also an excellent subject for photos.
“This photo was taken when he was still very young on one of the first trips to the beach when he was still a little scared of water!
“I knew when he was tired as he would come and sit on my boot. I never thought I would be walking a goose on a beach but it was excellent.
And about his image of the Gentoo Penguins, Michael added: “I visited this island whilst we were living in the Falklands and it is one of the most beautiful places I have seen.
“This photo was taken on North Beach- there is a sea lion there who regularly attacks the penguins as they return in the late afternoon.
“On this occasion the weather was amazing and we counted five sea lions who appeared to be working together hunting.
“I had been trying to get a picture of the Gentoos as they land on the beach and had found it hard as they come in so quick, but this day huge groups were coming in together then running up the beach to get away.
“It was quite exciting watching all this but also a little sad. I was really pleased with how this picture turned out.”
This year’s awards were blind-judged online by a panel of experts in wildlife photography, including photographer and TV presenter and RSPCA Vice President Chris Packham.
Also on the panel were wildlife photographer and former competition winner Catriona Parfitt, professional wildlife photographer and photographic guide Ellie Rothnie, wildlife photographer, filmmaker and previous winner Dani Connor and the RSPCA’s multimedia manager Andrew Forsyth and senior photographer Emma Jacobs.
Sponsors of the competition are Nature’s Images (wildlife photography holidays), Camtraptions (camera traps for wildlife photography) and Wildlifephoto.com (resources for nature photographers).
Judge and awards host Chris Packham said: “The high quality and range of animal photos received this year has been astounding, particularly given the restrictions of the pandemic.
“We do know that several of this year’s finalists took up photography when the first covid lockdown happened in 2020, which just shows how rewarding taking eye-catching pictures can be even during the most difficult of times.
“The RSPCA Young Photographer Awards is a true celebration of the animal kingdom and one I feel honoured to be involved with.
“Every person shortlisted should be proud of their contribution to a world that’s kinder to animals.”
There are ten categories; under 12 (taken with a camera), 12 - 15 years (taken with a camera), 16 - 18 years (taken with a camera), under 12 (taken on a mobile/device), 12 - 15 years(taken on a mobile/device), 16 - 18 y(taken on a mobile/device), Picture Perfect Pets, Small World, Portfolio and Instagram.
The winning images across the ten categories were announced during an online awards ceremony hosted by Chris Packham on December 16.
The ‘Overall Winner’ was chosen from the ten category winners by the judges. Earlier this year, a special social media ‘Instagram’ RSPCA Young Photographer Awards category took place online and in addition, a selection of photos from this year’s Mobile Phone & Devices and Picture Perfect Pets will be put to the public vote in the spring of 2022 to decide the ‘People’s Choice Award.
Reflecting on the strength of the competition this year, Chris Packham added: “I like looking at the work of young photographers as they are able to make pictures which are really, really exciting.
“Very often they haven’t learned the perceived rules that as adults we impose on ourselves when we’re making things like photographs. As a consequence, young people see with fresh eyes and they break the silly rules which don’t really exist anyway.
“We’re especially pleased that the Mobile Phone and Devices category is now firmly established, because as no specialist camera is required, it really opens up the competition to almost anyone.
“We hope that seeing some of the wonderful images which have been submitted this year will inspire other young people to enter the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards next year.”
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