Africa’s Photographer of the Year is well underway and into our third category, “Mighty & Miniscule”. Before we enter the closing stages of that category, we thought we’d share some inspiration and photography tips from John Mullineux, the winner of our “Colourful Africa” category. John’s breathtaking image of a European bee-eater emerging from a bath took top honours, and we asked him a few questions to learn more.
John Mullineux is a chemical engineer from the Mpumalanga province in South Africa. He’s been interested in photography from a young age and bought his first film camera at age 12, pointing it at all animals and landscapes.
He now typically spends most of his vacation days travelling, capturing everything along the way. Travelling within South Africa is John’s usual choice as it’s more accessible for the amount of gear he carries. His wife partners him on self-drive safaris, where she assists by positioning the car for him to capture moments. While he enjoys looking at landscape images and photographing all wildlife, John finds that there’s nothing like the thrill of capturing images of birds.
John tends to stick to visiting the SANParks reserves, with the Kruger being his most frequently visited destination. However, he admits to having a soft spot for the Kgalagadi (where he “officially” decided to take his photography more seriously some eight years ago). As he and his wife are avid birders, they tend to move around the country to find the next species to tick off their list. John has also been to Botswana twice.
Where was the winning image taken?
Describe how you planned or anticipated the shot?
I watched about five European bee-eaters bathing while in the hide. I tried tracking them, waiting for them to come within range but found myself unable to keep up with their erratic, rapid movements. After just watching them for a while, I noticed that they regularly splashed down in a specific spot. I decided to pre-focus on this spot and shot away whenever one came close. Even with this preparation, I only got two images in focus. And this was the only one with a good pose and lighting. Repositioning myself in the hide helped to get a cleaner, darker background.
What makes this photograph unique and special to you?
There are many images of bee-eaters flying, eating or perched in great light, but not many bathing. However, to me, the combination of the pose, light, angle, bird’s colour against the dark background, and the action of the water droplets all come together. This makes it one of my all-time favourite images.
What advice would you give a photographer entering Africa’s Photographer of the Year?
You never know what the judges will like. Check your library for high-quality and interesting images that fit the brief. And when a competition like this one has inventive categories, try to stick to the theme.
What’s your favourite part of photography in Africa?
Wow, it must be the variety of subject matter. From glimmering Milky Way skies to waterfalls to birds to a large variety of animals, there’s just always something to shoot wherever you are. South Africa remains my favourite as it’s accessible, affordable and fun. Kruger National Park is probably at the top of my list as there’s constant excitement of the next big sighting awaiting you around the corner!
Try Your Luck by Entering Africa’s Photographer of the Year
Well, there you have it. We hope you enjoyed some expertise and insight into what goes into an Africa’s Photographer of the Year category-winning photograph! Now that you’ve got the inside scoop from a champion, get out and about taking some photographs of your own. Enter the results into Africa’s Photographer of the Year, and you could be dishing out some photography tips too! Better yet, you and a partner could be off on a 14-day African safari worth over $40 000!
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