Graham Morgan is also no stranger to winning photography awards and once again, his stunning work has risen to the top of the judges' estimation.
Talking about his winning photography, Graham explained, "The image was taken at Chitake Springs in the Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe. The spring is the only available water and runs through a sandy, steep sided gorge which is ideal ambush country for predators.
"The Cape Buffalo stampede down the side of the gorge kicks up chokingly thick clouds of dust to minimise their risk. You can see the dust settling in the background of the image. A large herd will drink the spring dry, but within an hour it’s up and flowing again, waiting for the next group of punters. Being the only source of water means all the wildlife is concentrated in a small area.
Chitake Springs is a truly wild place with very few human visitors. The animals are in an extra tight tussle for resources and their senses and temperaments are balanced on a knife's edge. The lions roar all night and the elephants, harassed by the lions, are constantly trumpeting. The baboons and impala are regularly making alarm calls.
"The local wildlife wandered right through our camp day and night. Two hyenas joined us one evening whilst we were seated on camp stools, eating dinner in the dark. The only available light was from our headlamps. They lay down like family dogs, paws outstretched two metres from our feet. The fact that lions were roaring close by probably had something to do with it.
"The sand is so hot and Tse Tse fly so prolific that the lions climb Kalahari Apple Leaf Trees and make a resting place similar to a cat basket, so as to escape the menace. That’s right! At Chitake the lions climb trees! Every roar, trumpet and screech means something and affects the behaviour of everything else. It’s such an intimately entwined, confined system that we do our clumsy best to tap into it. You can constantly feel the tension, everything is nervous.
Graham photographed his Cape Buffalo with a Canon EOS-1 Dx with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8. "Yep, it’s close", he laughed. The shot was hand held at 1/250 second at f8, ISO 800 and the shutter set to silent mode. "The last setting is the most important."
"Little post processing is required as the morning light filtering through the dust is nothing less than ethereal. The file was processed with Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop Creative Cloud.
"With ACR, it’s contrast slightly to the right, highlights to the left, shadows to the right and no other changes. With Photoshop CC, only global changes using levels, curves and a slight vignette. That’s it.
"I use Photoshop because that’s the way I’ve always done it, but of course you could have done exactly the same with Lightroom. All the heavy lifting in terms of the image was created naturally by the effects of the dust on the light.
"I’m guessing everyone who enters photo competitions has a hope of winning and I’m absolutely no different. The recognition that comes with a winning entry is wonderful and it’s hard not to be happy when you’re a winner.
"However, no matter how good your work is, you can’t always win, but this doesn’t make me any less keen to enter next time. I don’t feel disappointment if I’m not in the winners' circle, but I do take close note of the images that were and try and learn from them.
"I find the judges comments particularly helpful in this regard. I’ve often entered images that I thought were fabulous, but the judges didn’t agree. However, by following their simple suggestions I’ve been astounded by the difference. Gold awards gone begging, but a great learning experience!
"If you aren’t a winner, it doesn’t mean your work isn’t good, just that the judges thought someone else’s was slightly better and I do mean slightly. I think in any photographic competition, the top 10% of entries are all potential winners.
"Still, it’s not a science and I realise that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you get a prince, so win or lose I’ll keep at it."