Our announcement is finally here! Our Wildlife Portraits winner is Ifham Raji from Sri Lanka. He shares some insights and advice with us for future contestants. Ifham enters the draw for the grand prize of being crowned Africa’s Photographer of the Year along with the previous category winners and our yet-to-be-announced Africa off the Beaten Track winner. The winning photograph is below!
Congratulations on being the Africa’s Photographer of the Year Wildlife Portraits winner. We are stunned by your photograph! Good job!
Thank you very much for your compliments and awarding me as the winner in the [Wildlife] Portraits Category.
Please introduce yourself and let us know more about your travels/life in Africa?
I am a passionate wildlife photographer based in Sri Lanka. I have been taking pictures of my country’s wildlife for the past 35 years. Within the last 5 years though, I felt the need to change my style and bring variety to my images- by challenging myself in visiting foreign locations in search of wildlife. I selected Africa as my prime destination in photographing wildlife due to its diverse and amazing wildlife. I have been to the Masai Mara in Kenya, and South Africa several times and I prefer South Africa due to its unique wildlife in more various habitats.
How did you find out about Africa’s Photographer of the Year?
I found out about Africa Photographer of the Year through Instagram.
We would like to know more about the story behind your winning photo. Could you please elaborate on where and how it was taken?
This image was taken in South Africa at Zimanga Private Game Reserve. We came across a kill late in the evening and found vultures scavenging it. I knew if we returned, perhaps early the next morning, we could get some action in good light. Trusting my instincts, we left to the same location early the next day and found Tawny Eagles eating the flesh off the kill. In the midst of this, a jackal came to the kill, while we were watching, and attempted to chase away the Eagles to start feeding on it. as it tried to drag the The kill it was too large for it to move it to someplace else so it started tearing pieces of flesh, while the eagles also started doing the same from the other side . The jackal took large chunks away and went to a corner to eat it. It kept coming back for more.
I wanted to capture an image with the jackal approaching, carrying parts of the remains of the kill to continue eating it -except I had to make sure my camera was facing the approaching jackal to get a head on view shot. It did prove to be a difficult job, but after several attempts, I managed to capture a few images. This image was the best out of all of them, I felt, mainly because the jackal was not only walking right into the camera, but also with direct eye contact that was coupled with a strong sense of movement showing this unusual behaviour of carrying parts of the carcass.
Why did you select that image for the contest? According to you, what makes an award-winning shot?
I chose this image because it contained direct eye contact and movement with the Jackal approaching the camera with remains of the kill. My impression of an award-winning shot is the perfect moment [when] rare behavior [is] combined with perfect light, good composition and background that can tell an inspiring story.
What do you like most about Africa’s wilderness?
I think Africa’s wilderness is unique with so much variety. Not only animals but habitats where animals roam, in landscapes that vary from big plains, thick and shrub jungles, deserts, rainforests, to mountains, rivers, oceans, lakes, volcanoes, etc. Different types of wildlife adapting from hot to cool climates. It is a wildlife and nature photographers paradise in every way and there is no place on earth to beat it any day or time.
When did you first get involved in photography? Is it a hobby or are you a professional photographer?
I have been photographing wildlife since my childhood more than 35 years ago. Most of my time was spent in learning photography through trial and error. With the advent of digital, during the past 15 years, I became very passionate and took photography as a more serious hobby. While my photography is mostly a passionate pastime, I made use of my knowledge and experience in perfecting this skill and ventured into writing pictorials for magazines, exhibiting my work and publishing a coffee table book on my work. It is now like a 2nd profession for me.
Do you have any advice on how to capture the perfect moment as the Wildlife Portraits winner?
Yes, my advice for the perfect photographic moment is an image with unusual or rare behaviour combined with perfect light, good composition and background and an image that can tell a story. To get that moment one must travel to different locations as much as one can and [take] as many pictures as one can, because this will make you a better photographer.
According to you, what is the most beautiful thing about Africa?
The most beautiful thing about Africa is how they manage/treat their wildlife and attract passionate wildlife and nature lovers through organised tourism especially in private game reserves. They protect their most treasured wildlife and contribute to its welfare.
What should those travelling to Africa add to their bucket lists?
I think that Africa is a vast continent with so much of variety, and the bucket list is so huge, but for me I would say a visit to Okavango in Botswana, Masai Mara in Kenya, Serengeti in Tanzania, South Luangwa in Zambia, The Namib desert and South Africa is a must for any wildlife photographer and enthusiast.
What animal would you most like to capture that you haven’t already?
If I can I would really like to capture [images of] mountain gorillas to add to my collection.
For more advice on how to take the best wildlife portraits, have a look at 5 Things to Pack on a Safari Shoot. Keep a look out for more photographs from our current category and don’t hesitate to enter your submissions before our competition closes at the end of the year. You can also read our interview with the previous category (Roaring Lions & Big Cats) winner.