BY Kevin Ding

In a dark exhibition hall at the rear of Sydney’s Australian National Maritime Museum, rows of vivid photographs draw you in.

Each year, the Natural History Museum in London develops and produces the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and 2020’s edition is not to be missed.

These are the best of the best in wildlife photography, chosen from over 48,000 entries and more than 100 countries. Each image is dynamic, often evoking an emotional response, and every facet of the natural world is showcased here.

On display is the sheer variety of the animal kingdom: bald eagles and terrifying spiders, penguin couples, and scared otters. You can easily wander the stark and beautiful corridors of the exhibit for over half an hour.

Blitz had the chance to talk to Justin Gilligan, an Australian photographer whose winning entry, which you can see above, is part of the exhibit. Here’s what he had to say.

JUSTIN: My entry is of a red kangaroo framed in the middle of the road, that was killed by a car. It’s framed by the red sand of the desert outback.

Were you just travelling across Western Australia when you stumbled across this tragic sight?

That’s it. I was actually in-between shoots. I mostly do underwater [photos], but this was an encounter that I had driving between underwater shoots. I recognised this large red kangaroo in the middle of the road. It was as if it was mid-leap, and I thought ‘That could potentially make a really good drone shot’, so I pulled over, put the drone up and got the image.

That’s very interesting. You said you used a drone to capture this image. What factors into your decision on what equipment or camera to use for an image?

I knew that I needed to get higher for this shot. It was going to be a wider shot- that would be most intriguing, almost a surreal image of a kangaroo that looked to be mid-jump. So, I had the drone in the car and I knew it was the best option for the job, particularly to provide that sense of location with the red sand on either side of it.

It’s a beautiful image, and quite stark and tragic too. Is it different from your usual underwater work?

It’s a little bit. I guess [the category of] conservation photography is what you could package by work into. So I try to tell the story of the interaction between people and nature. Mostly with a focus underwater however, sometimes that comes out of the water and is in places like the road where we interact with wildlife.

Have you done any photography up in the Great Barrier Reef?

I have- I’ve seen many changes up there over the years. Probably not good changes. And places like Tasmania have lost 90% of giant kelp forests down there… but I’ve also seen positive changes like the waters around Sydney. They’ve stopped releasing sewerage around the shore and it’s actually improved the water quality of our harbour.

Compared to the Brisbane river, or the Yarra down in Melbourne, Sydney Harbour definitely has really blue water. It’s a great thing!

It’s an amazing backyard that Sydney’s got right here.

Any tips for aspiring photographers?

Try and find a subject close to home when you’re starting out so you can work on your skills and get to know an animal or place in different conditions.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit will go on until 11 October, at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour.

Opening Hours: 9:30am – 5pm.

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