South African X-Photographer Peter Delaney's image "Contemplation" is the Winner of the Animal Portraits category and the finalist of the overall award for The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017. We took this opportunity to learn more on Peter's background as a photographer and his winning image.
My photographic journey began in 2007. The only platform a professional photographer could choose was “DSLR”. These cameras and lenses were bulky, heavy and expensive. Over the years I became a frustrated photographer with the weight of this camera system. I was beginning to loose the passion for my photography. In 2014 I heard about Fujifilm and its flagship camera the X-T1, so I arranged a meeting with Fujifilm South Africa. As the meeting progressed one thing became evident Fujifilm were committed to the mirrorless market for the long haul. Fujifilm promised to listen to the needs of their photographers. To provide them with high quality and innovative products and regular firmware upgrades called “Kaizen“. I was sold, hook, line and sinker. I wanted to be part of the Fujifilm family.
”Pure Photographic Enjoyment”. That is the simple answer. I know as a professional photographer, a camera is meant to be just a tool. For Fujifilm cameras are much more that. When I pick up my FUJIFILM X-T2, it is light with a solid feel. The retro look with the dials and knobs are not just aesthetically beautiful, but functional. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is one of the most important features within the mirrorless platform. The advantage of knowing how your final photograph looks before you even press the shutter is invaluable. I could never go back to an optical viewfinder.
As a wildlife photographer “My photography mantra is keep your photography simple, one camera and one lens. The FUJINON XF100-400mm telephoto zoom lens means no more reaching and swapping lenses. A simple rotation of the lens barrel and I can continue tracking my subject without taking my eye from the viewfinder. This lens is sharp, good contrast and has no chromatic aberrations. The FUJINON name has always been synonymous with excellent optics. In my opinion the FUJIFILM X-T2 and the XF100-400mm lens is the best combination to use for my wildlife photography.
I was on an assignment for a conservation project to photograph the chimpanzees and mountain gorillas of Uganda. We spent a week in Uganda but most of those days were spent traveling to our destinations. I had one morning to photograph the chimpanzees in Kibale National Park. My time was limited and I was under a lot of pressure to get successful photographs for my client. I have to admit I was apprehensive as this was my first time to use my FUJIFILM X-T1 and the XF50-140mmF2.8 lens in a rainforest environment.
Photographing in a rain forest with dim light levels and splashes of highlights from the overhead sun means your exposure settings are ever changing. The conditions as expected were wet underfoot and humid. Finding chimpanzees is not as easy as you think in the dense undergrowth. Your first hours will leave you frustrated just getting glimpses of chimpanzees as they swing from tree to tree. Eventually as the morning wore on the Chimpanzees descended to the forest floor. Finding yourself on a one to one basis with chimpanzees can be intimidating. Chimpanzees are intelligent and stronger than humans. If you get too close they will react, fight or flight.
Totti is the name of this wannabe alpha male chimpanzee. Totti came down from the canopy to the forest floor with one motive. Desire. A young female chimpanzee is above him in the canopy. Totti is doing his best to entice her away from other males. He poses and gestures and calls in every seductive way possible. But alas to no avail. His advances go unnoticed. The female chimpanzee ignores him. Totti concedes defeat. lies back with hands behind his head and dreams of what could have been.
This is when your wildlife photographers experience and adrenaline kicks in to capture the “decisive moment”. I set my X-T1 ISO to 3200, I took advantage of the XF50-140mm fast aperture of F2.8 which gave me an acceptable 1/75 sec shutter speed. Tripods, monopods are not allowed. Hand holding the X-T1 and engaging the XF50-140mm “OIS” stabilization feature meant my previous apprehension was unwarranted. My FUJIFILM X-T1 and the XF50-140mmF2.8 did not let me down.
Wildlife is one of the most difficult genres in photography. All the elements that are needed to make an unique photograph are beyond the photographers control, the lighting, the subject (active/passive), and location of the subject. It's a very opportunistic genre. I am an emotional photographer. I photograph whatever pulls at my heart strings. This was the case with “Contemplation”. But in order for me to create beautiful fine art prints. I need a photographic system that is an extension of my being. Fujifilm fulfills that role completely.
In 2001, Africa became the new chapter in my life. The sheer size and magnitude of the African continent was overwhelming. I traveled the forests of Bwindi to the peaks of Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya, to the shores of Lake Malawi and the red Desert Landscape of the Kalahari. Wildlife photography has become more than a passion, it has become my life. A life I am very proud of and one that I wish to share with everyone.