Photo Feedback

Christian Vizl, Revealing Nature Category Winner
2019 Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year Awards

We may best describe Christian Vizl as a professional environmental crusader who uses photography to support his conservation interests. A keen photographer, he directs the medium as part of his message to inform, to sway and to persuade public opinion. 

What attracted the judges to this image was the perfect timing and gesture. If you're like me, when photographing wildlife I tend to take a lot of frames. I take a shot when I first see my subject, just in case it moves away. Then as I get closer, I keep taking what I believe are better and better photos, and even when I'm in the best position, I keep shooting every different gesture and pose, just in case it is the best one. If the action is fast, then I'll use a high frame rate to shoot a burst of frames and pick the best one.

I have no idea how Christian took this shot. No doubt his knowledge of the ocean was of great assistance, but whether he took one frame or hundreds doesn't really matter to you or me as we view his image. What makes it work is the perfect position of the striped marlin as it circles a school of mackerel. Imagine if the marlin were looking the other way - the image wouldn't have the same strength. Or if the mackerel school wasn't such a perfect shape? It's the pose, the gesture, the expression that make this such a strong composition. And notice how there's nothing else in the frame to distract us - it's just the marlin and its prey. 

Next, let's applaud the light and how it uses the reflectivity of the fish. It's a great formula, but I don't think the image would be as strong without the background gradient. In portraiture, we'll often put the light side of the face against a dark part of the background, and the shadows of the head against a lighter part of the background - the background is the opposite of the subject in front so the subject stands out. Christian has done exactly this, using the deeper, darker ocean as a backdrop for the striped marlin, while the hundreds of mackerel are darker and backed by lighter, shallower water. Of course, it's very unlikely Christian orchestrated this situation, but he certainly recognised it and he was probably looking for it as well.

This is a great photograph we should all commit to memory for the lesson it provides in lighting.

Said Christian, "I believe photography is capable of real service to humanity, promoting empathy and initiating change, so my main purpose as a photographer is to create poetic images showing the incredible beauty of these animals, knowing they carry the power of changing our perception and spark the love and empathy that we all have inside. If we want to have a future on this planet, we need to understand that our lives are interconnected to all living animals and our own well being is directly linked to the well being of these animals. As Dr. Sylvia Earl stated, 'No blue, no green, if the oceans die, we die'."

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