Living on Vancouver Island, it’s easy to pass by striking natural landscapes with no more than a fleeting glance.
Beauty weaves its way through the Island with such frequency that road trips through pockets of old-growth Douglas firs can almost seem mundane.
Yet one stroll through the Royal B.C. Museum’s 2012 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, and that calloused appreciation turns ethereal.
“This is one of the finest photography exhibitions in the world,” said Tim Willis, the museum’s exhibitions director at the opening on Friday.
Now in its 48th year, the curation is a joint venture between the Natural History Museum in London, England, and BBC Worldwide.
Judges sift through 48,000 submissions from professional and amateur photographers, selecting the best 100 images for display.
“It’s really a big notch in your belt, because it’s been going for so long and it’s quite prestigious,” said B.C. resident Adam Gibbs, whose shot of a lonely Douglas fir, clinging to life in the middle of Fairy Lake, is part of this year’s exhibition. “It’s actually just off the side of the road near Port Renfrew,” he said.
A former rockclimbing instructor, Gibbs, 48, took up photography as an excuse to get out in nature. “Hiking in alpine areas or on the coast, I get way more fun out of that then actually taking pictures,” he said.
The overall winner went to Nanoose Bay resident Paul Nicklen, who lowered himself into an ice hole in the Ross Sea, Antarctica, and snapped a sunlit mass of emperor penguins charging out of the water, as featured in National Geographic’s November 2012 issue.
The photograph topped submissions from 98 countries in 19 categories. Nicklen was also featured in August 2011 National Geographic for his stunning photos of the Kermode bear in the northern B.C. rainforest.
Willis said the museum is particularly proud of being the first to host the exhibition outside of London.
“We were so surprised by the public reaction to this exhibition last year,” he said.
“It’s both a testament to the quality of the presentation, but it’s also the power of these images. Some of them are very beautiful and some are just fascinating.”
The exhibition runs until April 1. For more information, visit royalbcmuseum.bc.ca.