Biodiversity photography exhibit launches to celebrate Irish nature and wildlife

Published by Niall Sargent on

July 25th, 2018

Ireland’s leading amateur nature and wildlife photographers were celebrated at the launch of Ireland’s Biodiversity Photographer of the Year exhibition yesterday.

The exhibition of winners and shortlisted finalists were chosen by the former picture editor at The Irish Times, Frank Miller and will now go on display at the Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun until the end of August.

Over 400 entries were received for the annual photo competition organised by the Irish Environmental Network as part of National Biodiversity Week (NBW) which took place in May.

Short-Beaked Common Dolphin breaking the surface off West Cork Photo: John Holden

This year’s winning entry was a shot of a short-beaked common dolphin breaking the surface off West Cork taken by John Holden, who took top prize for the second year in a row.

Mr Holden told The Green News that finding and observing Ireland’s wildlife hold great importance to him. “These animals aren’t just exciting curiosities – they are vital links in the chain of life – their survival is so closely linked with our survival, and yet we, as a society pay them no heed, except to try our best to harvest them to near extinction,” he said.

The winning shot took great effort to get right, said the Wexford native, who travelled to Cork eight or nine times before he got the shot with “the right weather, the right light, [and] the right access to a willing subject.

“Another major factor in getting this shot was in learning how to spot the animals underwater and better predicting when they were about to leap,” he said. “This is all happening at ridiculous speed – on a boat that’s bobbing about in an Atlantic swell while jostling for viewing space with 11 other photographers. It’s challenging but incredibly fun.”

Mr Holden added that it was a “dream come true” to see his photo on the cover of The Irish Times in mid-June. “I’m immensely proud of this achievement and it’s great to get my work validated by Ireland’s paper of record.

“Many is the time, driving through fog or rain at three or four in the morning, I have questioned my sanity in pursuing this project. While my sanity remains in question, I feel that an Irish Times front page makes all my efforts worthwhile,” he said.

Beauty in Flight: Photo: Chris Howes

Beauty in Flight: Photo: Chris Howes

Second place was awarded to Christopher Howes for his patient photo of a kingfisher in flight, while Karen Taylor took third place for her image of a curious Hare on a beach on Achill Island in Co Mayo.

The competition was also open to secondary school students, with Iga Manulak scooping first place for her close-up abstract image of a swan. Second place was taken by Stephan Bolas for his macro shot of a dragonfly and spider in combat, and third place went to Magdalena Ramis for her silhouette shot of two cows at sunset.

The People’s Choice Awards -voted for online by members of the public – went to Suzanne Behan for her photo of a juvenile pine marten, one of Ireland’s rarest and most elusive wildlife species. Cristofer Scanlon’s photo overlooking Glendalough was the public’s favourite in the school’s category.

Schools contest winner Iga Manulak

Speaking at the event, competition judge Frank Miller said that nature photography holds great value in keeping us in touch with the natural world, and helping us to “keep our heads outward looking, rather than down into smartphones”.

“Photography is all about noticing things… and recording and celebrating life and there’s no better focus for our efforts than the beauty in the natural environment.”

National Biodiversity Week is organised by the Irish Environmental Network (IEN) and is supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The full gallery of shortlisted photos is available at The Irish Times website here.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London