New West nature photographer gets a winning shot
Photographer Adam Gibbs has hiked up mountains and traversed glaciers in search of breathtaking vistas and perfect light.
But the photograph that earned him a commendation in the 2012 Veolla Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition put on by the Natural History Museum in London, England was shot at the side of the road near Port Renfrew, on Vancouver Island.
Not that Gibbs, a New Westminster resident, didn't have to work for his winning image of a miniature Douglas Fir growing out of a nurse stump partially submerged in Fairy Lake. The little tree is a bit of a local landmark and has been photographed thousands of times by tourists and residents. But to get to an angle that isolated it against an abstract background of forest on the distant shore reflected in the still water, Gibbs had to hack through some thick bushes on a steep embankment and pack along his longest telephoto lens.
When he was sorting through his year's work to choose his submissions to join the 48,000 entries for the competition from nature photographers around the world, Gibbs knew his effort had paid off.
"It's such an unusual subject," says Gibbs of the miniature Fir tree. "It has to have something special, the light has to be unusual."
For Gibbs, chasing "something special" in nature with his camera was a natural progression when injuries curtailed his abilities to climb mountains and then paraglide off them. While studying photography at Langara College, he spent time at the UBC Botanical Gardens, applying the lessons he was learning about light, exposure and composition by photographing the flowers, shrubs and trees there.
When Gibbs graduated, he submitted his portfolio to Gardens West magazine where publisher and editor Dorothy Horton took him under her wing. He's been traveling across Canada, photographing impressive gardens for the magazine and its three sister publications ever since.
The assignment keeps Gibbs busy about two to three months of the year and finances his photographic expeditions to places like Antarctica, Iceland, Patagonia, and all up and down the West Coast.
The two seemingly disparate subjects, one controlled the other wild, actually complement each other, says Gibbs.
"When you're in a garden, you can see how someone has formed order out of chaos," says Gibbs, 48. "When you're in nature, you're left to the elements and I really like the challenge of looking for order out of the chaos."
The results, like a reflection of sun-dappled mountains in a puddle on a rocky shore, a swirling pool in the forest at the base of a waterfall, have ended up on calendars or on the walls of private collectors. Occasionally a magazine will come calling for a stock image.
But for the most part, says Gibbs, photographing nature in the wild is his private passion; there's no money in it.
That's a mixed blessing. It means he can shoot what he wants and if he comes up dry on one of his journeys, well, at least he's had an adventure.
"There's no real pressure," says Gibbs. "You could hike for miles and get nothing, or you could be driving along and happen upon a great photo."
Gibbs' winning photo is one of 100 from 98 countries in 19 categories that comprise the 2012 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria. The show runs until April 1, 2013.
More of Gibbs' nature photography can be seen on his website, www.adamgibbs.com