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Creative imagery garners international recognition

Sunday, 26 November 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Creative imagery garners international recognition
“Raindrops” by Josiah Launstein

Creative imagery garners international recognition

By Shannon Robison

If you have an eye for imagery and the patience to wait for the perfect moment to press your camera shutter, you could find yourself capturing an award-winning photograph.

At the young age of 12, Josiah Launstein of Pincher Creek, who photographs throughout the region, is well on his way to mastering these skills and is receiving awards to prove it.

“Raindrops,” Josiah’s black-and-white photo of a monkey moth caterpillar, was selected last month as one of the 100 best images in the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. It was entered in the 11-to-14-year category and chosen as one of five finalists.

The image of the caterpillar was taken when Josiah was only 11.

He had already attracted international attention for his work and was chosen as the subject of a short film project produced by Nikon. Josiah and his dad, John, spent time in Thailand in July 2016 for filming and this is where the shot was taken.

“I think the coolest thing for me as a dad and as a photography mentor was to witness him working out the caterpillar shot,” John says.

On a break from filming due to rain, they decided to grab their gear and see what they could find. From the balcony of their room at the lodge, Josiah spotted his subject.

“He started talking about how he wanted to create this shot and silhouette the caterpillar,” John adds.

“When I first was looking at it, I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like,” Josiah says.

“When I was photographing it, I didn’t actually try for the water droplets, I was trying to get all the fuzz. But after seeing how the droplets looked, I thought it looked really cool so I kept trying to find different angles to silhouette it.”

The magnification was larger than life, given the equipment Josiah used and his proximity to the caterpillar.

From an angle that set it against the sky came the award-winning image above.

“I was so intrigued with his determination to get that shot,” John says.

Able to take along only limited gear, Josiah was shooting with a large lens rather than a macro lens, which would have been his first choice.

His determination paid off in an image that has now been shared worldwide.

Josiah was only five years old when he first held a camera.

“At seven I got really into it,” he says.

On most outings, John would look after the camera settings and leave it to Josiah to find his own perspective to shoot.

John saw a transition in Josiah’s work in 2012 when he photographed eagles for the first time.

On his own, Josiah figured out the settings to freeze the action of the birds in flight and captured some wonderful shots.

“He got honestly the best eagle shot a Launstein has taken,” John says. O

n the trip home, Josiah scrutinized his image carefully.

“We realized the settings he had chosen were sufficient for standard eagle-in-flight shots, but when the eagle pivoted, part of it accelerated dramatically so it wasn’t critically perfect. It was very good, but not critically perfect,” John says.

“He had a really serious, disappointed face and asked, ‘What do I have to do so this never happens again?’ ”

Within the next month Josiah was out more with his camera and asking serious questions about settings and choices.

He used his dad’s backup equipment to start, but through saving his photography earnings and forgoing other things, he saved up to buy his own.

Josiah purchased a used Nikon D7100 body and has a selection of three lenses — a 200-to-500-millimetre telephoto lens, a 70-to-200-mm lens and a fixed 300-mm lens.

The 200-to-500-mm lens is the one most often mounted on Josiah’s camera.

On a typical day, Josiah spends time at the family’s home at the edge of Porcupine Hills.

He is homeschooled, allowing flexibility to work on his photography skills and school work, and even to help at the family business — Launstein Imagery Wildlife Gallery in Blairmore.

He averages two to three hours a day behind the lens of his camera and has an abundance of deer, grey partridges, grouse, foxes, rabbits, snowshoe hares, coyotes, eagles, muskrats and bears to focus on as subjects.

With waterfront and wetland areas on the property, there is seldom a shortage of animals and birds to observe and photograph.

A family of photographers could not ask for a better place to live.

In the different habitats found in Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass they are surrounded by many different species and can also see the same species in different environments.

There’s a bit of healthy family rivalry between Josiah, his sister Jenaya and their dad.

Jenaya has received multiple international awards for her wildlife photography.

Her “Yukon Porcupine” is the gallery’s top seller and, despite their best efforts, neither her brother nor her father has managed to top her print in sales.

They muse about the perfect lighting and the cuteness of the porcupine itself as they compose images in their heads that might take it down.

Looking around the gallery, one sees stunning prints all composed by family members.

As nature conservationists as well as photographers, the Launsteins do not use any baiting or luring tactics, and nearly all images are composed from behind the camera without post-production cropping.

“Wildlife is one of the toughest fields in photography because we’re working with subjects we can’t control and who might not even show up,” John says.

They know the local habitat, where most of their images are generated, and look in likely places for wildlife, using long lenses to work from a distance without creating discomfort for the animals or disrupting the balance of the setting.

Creating art within a naturally unfolding scene is the goal.

“Josiah is lethal with duck identification,” John says, admitting that he has a bit of proud-dad syndrome. Josiah spends considerable time with field guide books and uses his tablet in the field to help with identification.

On the gallery side of things, Josiah is learning the art of framing from his dad and is involved with all of his own prints.

“We test each image on multiple mediums,” John says. “Eventually you find the perfect marriage for each print.”

Josiah’s was the only Canadian image to be chosen in the entire Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which had almost 50,000 entries submitted from 92 countries.

While this is most impressive for a boy who’s been behind the camera only seven years, it’s not Josiah’s first success on the international stage.

This year’s WPY placing actually marks the third time in as many years that he has been a finalist in the prestigious competition, with “Snowy Scene” and “Goose Attack” both chosen in 2015.

Josiah was also named Young Outdoor Photographer of the Year in 2014.

This captured the attention of Nikon Asia, which approached Josiah to do a short film, I Am More Than You Expect, which has been viewed more than two million times on YouTube since last December.

The WPY competition showcases the best wildlife photography from around the world and is owned by the Natural History Museum in London, U.K.

Winning entries were unveiled in October at the museum, where they will be displayed before going on international tour. Josiah’s image will be seen by millions by the time the tour is finished.

It will also be available soon from Launstein Imagery in Crowsnest Pass as a fine-art limited-edition print.

While this kind of celebrity could easily go to his head, Josiah is a typical 12-year-old with a changing voice and a love of road hockey.

He hopes to travel to Alaska to photograph bear, moose, caribou and dreams of creating a work of art to beat Jenaya’s porcupine.

Bighorns are Josiah’s favourite subject and he and John plan to present the entire life experience of rocky mountain bighorns — this includes ewes and lambs, not only trophy rams.

Josiah is constantly visualizing scenes and looking for potential settings, so there is no telling what he will come up with next.

While establishing a name for himself and building relationships around the world, this young photographer will continue working on his schooling and capturing the beauty of southern Alberta. He will even be sharing his knowledge and stories through courses at the gallery in the new year.

For more information, visit www.launsteinimagery.com.

JosiahLaunstein Holding framed First Snow 5in
Josiah Launstein with a freshly-framed limited edition print of “First Snow,” one of his favourites of the images he’s taken.   Photo by John Launstein

JosiahLaunstein Photographing at sunset 5in
Josiah photographing waterfowl at a wetland area near his home as the sun sets behind the Livingstone Range.   Photo by John Launstein