Wildlife Photographer of the Year - Doug Perrine

Congratulations to Doug Perrine for winning the British Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year award!

Mr. Perrine's win is especially interesting for Wetpixel readers because the winning photos were taken digitally with a Canon D60, the first 6 megapixel digital SLR, in a UK-Germany housing.

Other award-winning photographs in the contest that were taken digitally include Charles Hood's photo of a great hammerhead shark (Nikon D100), Douglas David Seifert's photo of a white shark in Guadalupe (Canon D60/Sea & Sea), Jan Vermeer's photo of a great reed warbler (Canon 10D), and others. I am especially excited about these wins because I was with both Charles and Douglas when they snapped their respective winning shots. :)

Doug Perrine, winner the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award

To capture his winning shot, entitled "Bronze whalers charging a baitball," Mr. Perrine used a Canon EOS D60 in a UK-Germany housing with a Sigma 14mm f2.8 lens, exposing for 1/800 seconds at f5.6 at ISO 200. Lighting was accomplished with a Canon 550EX strobe in a UK-Germany underwater housing. Another photo, entitled "Bronze whaler at a sardine feast," was also shot with a Canon EOS D60 in a UK-Germany housing, but was lit with two INON Z220 underwater strobes.

The winning photo: "Bronze whalers charging a baitball"

I asked Mr. Perrine to share some of his thoughts about the digital aspects of this year's competition, which was the first year that digital entries were allowed. Original files from the camera were required to be included in digital submissions.

Doug Perrine shares: "This year was a difficult one for the organizers and judges of the WPY competition, grappling for the first time with the various issues involved in judging digital entries in a competition where the validity/ honesty of the image is a prime concern. The rules for digital entries were posted late and went through a series of refinements, which is likely to continue as the competition evolves and other voices weigh in. I suspect that some potential entrants may have been put off by the original rules which were quite restrictive, including one that specified that entries had to be submitted in RAW format. After some discussion, it was clarified that photographs shot in-camera in JPEG or TIFF format could be entered as long as a copy of the original file direct from the camera was included with the entry.

"While 'manipulation' was expressly prohibited, it was not specified in the posted rules whether this included "darkroom techniques" (e.g. cropping, exposure correction, and color correction) which it has always been possible to use in duplicating slides for submission. Hopefully the rules for this and other major photo contests which admitted digital entries for the first time this year (such as the Nature's Best competition in the U.S.A.) will be refined further to specifically state which Photoshop tools may be used and which may not, at least to the extent of formally leveling the playing field between film and digital. In any case, the awards given to several digital entries in this year's WPY contest should be taken as a green light for digital photographers to submit to these competitions, with a fair chance of winning, and a notice to the nature photography community that digital has arrived and it's not going away!

"It was gratifying to me that I was able to enter and win with my digital shots, because, given the restraints of using film underwater it is likely I would not have achieved those images with a film camera. In the chaotic fast-moving situation in which I was working it was simply not possible to carefully compose an image, meter the light, etc. Instead I had to just keep shooting as fast as I could, while checking the feedback from the camera's LCD. I shot hundreds of images to get those two winning exposures, whereas with film I would have been limited to 72 opportunities (36 in each of my two cameras)."

Perrine's images are available for viewing/ licensing at www.SeaPics.com.