British Columbia

Burnaby's Connor Stefanison wins 2 international wildlife photography awards

Connor Stefanison of Burnaby climbs steep mountains and braves swarms of mosquitoes to get the perfect shot of birds, mountain goats and a curious bear.

Burnaby photographer won for his extreme close-up of a bear, and shot of a mountain goat under a starry sky

Setting up a camera on a steep cliffside and standing in a boat in a marsh trying to keep still with clouds of mosquitoes buzzing around — those are just some of the lengths wildlife photographer Connor Stefanison will go to get the perfect image.

"You have to really want the shots," said the 24-year-old from Burnaby.

"I think often about why I'm standing out in these places and getting them, but if you're obsessed with what you're doing enough, you'll stay out to get the shot."

International recognition

Those efforts have recently won the 24-year-old Stefanison two prestigious international photography awards — the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award in the Rising Star category from the Natural History Museum in Britain, and the Fritz Polking Junior Prize from the Society of German Wildlife Photographers.  

Stefanison captured this image of a mountain goat under a starry sky using a 25-second exposure, and controlling the lighting with a handheld flash set off at different angles around the scene. (Connor Stefanison)

Stefanison, who won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award for the second time, will have his winning images displayed at the Royal B.C. Museum Dec. 4 to April 4, 2016.

One of Stefanison's winning images is a serene photograph of a mountain goat lying on its side under a starry sky.

Stefanison told North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay said that picture was taken in southeast B.C., during a backpacking trip with a friend.

Stefanison, who wanted to capture a shot of the goats under the stars, said it took some time for the goats to get accustomed to their presence, and also for him to find out where they went at night.

You have to really want the shots.-  Connor Stefanison, award-winning wildlife photographer.

Composing the actual shot was a challenge, because it was so dark at night, and shining continuous light on the goats would cause them to move.

"It's a 25-second exposure, so if the goat moves then your shot is often ruined," he said.

After the camera went off he fired the flash he was holding to light up the foreground goat, then walked to the left and flashed the goats in the background a few times.

"That's my favourite shot in the portfolio this year," he said.

"It was a lot of fun, that was probably the most fun I've had taking pictures was spending all the time with those goats, especially just being with them at night it was really cool just having them comfortable around you."

Battling mosquitoes

Stefanison said another challenging picture to take was of a black tern near Williams Lake in B.C., which he captured while standing in a boat with his camera in one hand and flash in the other.

To get this photograph of a black tern, Stefanison stood up in a boat with camera in one hand, and a flash in the other. “In the picture there’s a lot of white spots everywhere. Those are all mosquitoes,” he said. (Connor Stefanison)

"In the picture there's a lot of white spots everywhere. Those are all mosquitoes," he said.

"It doesn't even do justice to how many there were. My friend and I took pictures of each other with clouds of mosquitoes around us, so that was very was very uncomfortable because you have to try and keep the camera still but you have clouds around you," he said, adding that an additional challenge to keeping still was battling his grass allergies that flare up in the B.C. interior.

Stefanison said it is always worth the challenge — as long as he is not in physical danger.

"I figure I'll stay out and get the shot. I'm out there, I might as well stay," he said.

"The process is fun too, they make good stories."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Young Burnaby wildlife photographer wins two international awards


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