Our four judges weigh in with their top picks out of the 35 images that made the final cut in our year-long photographic competition, run on Instagram…
JUDGE: IRVINE MEYER
I have been teaching professional photography full-time since 1981, first at Cape Technikon, then Peninsula Technikon as senior lecturer, and after the merger, at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I think I retired two years ago but still teach part-time at CPUT and Vega. My main fields of interest in photography are in image permanence studies, in which I hold a Master’s degree, and new trends in photographic science and technology.
I regard myself as a Renaissance man, embracing arts and sciences equally. My favourite camera is probably my Nikon D800, but I still shoot Tri-X in my 4×5 wood and brass field camera.
Out of doors is my comfort zone. In the mid 1980’s two friends and I rowed our canoes down the Kavango River from Rundu through the Okavango Delta to Maun. That was a rather insane adventure, but we survived.
And I bake bread. Seriously.
All the photos make me want to pack up my Jeep and rekindle old, or create new, memories in the areas photographed. However, I have excluded in my considerations those photographs that seem to have as their aim despoiling pristine nature with tyre tracks, or where a vehicle is the purpose of the photo rather than a means of interacting with remote areas, or where access to specialised equipment is the striking point. I looked for images creating feelings rather than “wow, how was that taken?!” on an equal playing field.
1: Rocky Cruiser (Gareth Thompson @gman_za)
This is a very well-constructed photo leading the eyes from the tough vehicle over the rocky road into the barren and beautiful solitude. An impeccably balanced composition that speaks volumes of the immersion into pure nature made possible by 4×4 off-roading.
2: Sunset road trip (Stew Nolan @explorations.co.za)
This photo so accurately represents the fun and exhilaration of getting away off the beaten track: the hands waving and the excellent backlit dust. There is an adventure in the making, and it’s going to be a great one.
3: Fighting jackals (Kyle Kardolus @kylkelk87)
This photo is clearly the result of lots of patient waiting in the right potential spot and capturing the precise moment while maintaining a clean background with no distractions. This displays a clear love of being with nature.
JUDGE: MORGAN TRIMBLE
Morgan Trimble is a writer, conservation scientist and award-winning photographer based in Cape Town. Her work has been published around the world from the New York Times to BBC Wildlife to SA4x4. She loves exploring the bush in her Jeep Wrangler.
1: Impala (Cameron Scott)
This photo captures the magic of sunset in the bush with a nice composition and beautiful rim lighting on the impala, a subject many photographers would zoom past in pursuit of a good sundowner spot. The photographer did well to underexpose the scene, creating silhouettes and saving the orange glow of the highlights.
2: Cracked earth fisheye (Stewart Nolan @explorations.co.za)
Extremely wide shots, especially fisheyes, are hard to do well. This picture nails it with an interesting cloudy sky that mirrors the foreground details in the cracked earth. The subject matter—partner unpacking the vehicle while the photographer plays — will be a familiar scene to 4×4 photography enthusiasts.
3: Icy road aerial (Craig Muller @backyard_adventures_sa)
This shot grabs attention with graphic elements while providing a dose of mystery. It takes a second look for the brain to resolve what’s happening in this frozen landscape. The converging lines in the ice point the way forward on the open road.
JUDGE: JACQUES MARAIS
Jacques Marais rates as one of South Africa’s most respected adventure photojournalists, and has been writing about and photographing action sports around the world for more than three decades. He is an elected ambassador for a range of premium imaging and sporting brands, including SONY XPERIA, GIANT BIKES, SPOT AFRICA, FRONT RUNNER & PEAK DESIGN. He has also authored more than a dozen outdoor guidebooks, is an award-winning GETTY photographer and regularly contributes feature articles to premium international publications.
In order to select winners, I considered a number of key areas …
- WOW FACTOR – this is always the first thing that stands out: does the photo thump you in the gut? Can you ‘feel’ the moment captured, and does it tell a story?
- TECHNICAL EXECUTION – focus, composition, light, post-processing… is all of this spot-on?
- DIFFICULTY RATING – how tough or easy was it to get this specific shot? This also includes the subject or destination; the more out-of-the-ordinary, the better.
- CREATIVITY – different angles, exposures, treatments or ideas… anything that makes you do a double-take
1: Fighting lions (Jaap Wildboer @jaapwildboer)
An absolutely unique moment showing the ‘Kgalagadi Royalty’ (or is it Etosha) in a nearly surreal balletic pose. The image captures the interaction between the lions at exactly the right instant, is in pin-sharp focus, and with the eye perfectly exposed. Yes, some luck, undoubtedly, but a well-executed image that makes you go ‘Bliksem, I wish I was there!’
2: Icy road aerial (Craig Muller @backyard_adventures_sa)
A great selection of drone imagery from Craig, but the graphic, painterly textures of the snow, ice, shadows and gravel makes for creative and very different point of view. Obviously, a drone gives an ‘unfair’ vantage point, but you still need to visualize the end product, and this photo works for sure. Negatives are slight over-processing, and lack of quality of the drone camera.
3: Sunset road trip (Sunset road trip (Stew Nolan @explorations.co.za)
This is one of those #WanneBeThere photos… without the lagers and safe-sign it would not have rated as one of the Top 3 images, but that actually transports you to inside the vehicle and screams ‘road trip with my best buds’. Sharp, good sunset, lekker attention to detail.
JUDGE: RICHARD VAN RYNEVELD
Richard van Ryneveld has been a photojournalist for some 40 odd years. In that time he worked for many years for one of the largest magazine publishing houses in South Africa. A lover of the mountains and the outdoors, his photography has always reflected this love. But perhaps it’s his portraits, usually of the ‘unknown people’ met and photographed on his travels that best sums him up as a human being.
A world- renowned photographer that he collaborated with on a book called Bushveld Banquet summed Richard up as follows: “Richard’s core philosophy in life is ‘how many new friends can I make’, but more importantly, ‘how much fun am I having.’”
Describing himself as old Skebenga, who grew up on a farm in Kenya, he worked for a number of years for a British newspaper covering some of the hotspots of Africa. According to him, “that was not a helluva lot of fun, but it put one of the kids through ‘varsity!” He is now back where he’s happiest, photographing, hiking and fishing. But mainly having a heck of a lot of fun.
1: Dune Land Rover, black & white (Robbert Koene @robbertkoene)
By choosing the simplicity of Black & White, this well-balanced photograph captures the essence of off-roading in the great outdoors.
2: Land Rover starscape (Rowan Pybus @makhulu_)
This picture, a technically difficult shot, captures a couple’s joy of camping out under the stars. I think the photographer has captured the scene extremely well.
3: Fighting jackals (Kyle Kardolus @kylkelk87)
This photograph captures what every photographer dreams of: a stunning wildlife picture seldom seen before. The photographer has framed the picture well, with the background out of focus and the fighting jackals perfectly sharp… I particularly like the dust and the frozen particles of sand flying around.
4: Jeep in the dunes (Jean de Villiers @jean_daville)
I have to admit to a certain bias here; I love deserts. This picture captures the essence of a trip into the magnificent Namib dunes.
FIRST PLACE: Stewart Nolan
A five-night photographic safari to the Khwai region of Botswana (worth R40 000) with Will of Africa Adventures.
SECOND PLACE: Kyle Kardolus
A Snomaster BC/C 65-litre stainless steel fridge-freezer.