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Young photographers earn international acclaim

Wednesday, 11 February 2015. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Young photographers earn international acclaim

Jenaya and Josiah Launstein are receiving rave reviews, nationally and internationally, for their wildlife photography.

Photo by Brad Quarin


Young photographers earn international acclaim

 By Brad Quarin

Of 10,000 entries in an international photography competition held by Outdoor Photography magazine, two pictures were among the standouts.

One is a breathtakingly close shot of two bighorn sheep headbutting each other. Another is of a bear fishing.

Those images are the work of two young photographers from the Pincher Creek area. At 10, Josiah Launstein is the youngest artist ever to be named young outdoor photographer of the year, for his sheep photo.

His sister, Jenaya, was one of only a handful of photographers under 18 whose picture was commended. She had the photo of the bear.

20140429 Bighorn Battle JLO1

Two Rocky Mountain bighorn rams do battle as dusk falls at Waterton Lakes National Park. This was Josiah’s entry that led to him being named 2014 young outdoor photographer of the year by Outdoor Photography magazine.


Grizzly Bear JLO1

A grizzly bear swipes at a passing salmon as it works its way up the bank of a coastal river in Alaska. This image, shot by Jenaya, was a commended entry in the 2014 Outdoor Photography photo contest.


“I like getting outdoors and spending time with the animals … and trying to get the perfect shot,” Jenaya says.

At 17, she’s no stranger to recognition and awards, having won more than seven of the top wildlife photography competitions in the world.

She was named the 2013 youth photographer of the year by Nature’s Best Photography, one of the most prestigious competitions in the world. As a result, Jenaya’s enlarged photo of a porcupine is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., until April 20. This contest had over 24,000 entries from 50 countries.

Having a place in the famous museum feels “unbelievable,” she says.

Josiah is sharing a moment of glory. The Launsteins had seen the other finalists’ “staggering” work in the Outdoor Photography contest and hadn’t thought Josiah’s victory was a sure thing.

“I was really excited,” he says.

The two inherited an interest in photography from their dad, John — a professional who inherited the interest from his dad, a hobbyist. The Launsteins have lived in the Pincher Creek area since 2006.

With their work, the Launsteins aren’t solely after a documentary-style view of wildlife. They want the artistic, revealing and amazing. Hopefully, the audience will learn about and connect with the animals, and think about conservation.

Jenaya took an early interest in photography. “At 10, she actually told us that she wanted to be a wildlife photographer when she grew up, and she never stopped talking about it,” John recalls.

So, when she turned 13, her parents were convinced enough of her dedication to give her a Nikon DSLR system.

As soon as the camera was unwrapped, she asked her parents if they could go to Waterton. There, on her very first outing, she captured a picture that was a runner-up in a Canadian Geographic wildlife photography of the year contest, in her age group.

Josiah was only five when he first shot a camera, and his dad says he became serious at the young age of seven. Josiah was then asking to go on trips and about different camera settings.

He took to the art quickly. “It was really fun to photograph wildlife and nature,” Josiah says, and he wanted to improve.

On every trip, he got some good, clear pictures, and with time a greater number of photos were good, John says.

John feels both children “had a real eye” for photography, learning the craft fast. His approach was to teach them the basics and “turn them loose.”

Both young photographers developed their own interests and styles.

For Jenaya, favourite subjects are bears, foxes and porcupines. When her photography won her a trip to anywhere within WestJet’s reach, she chose the Yukon, hoping to see the bears, moose and porcupines.

There, she got her first chance to photograph a porcupine in the wild, and found it adorable. That’s the photo now displayed at the Smithsonian.

Jenaya’s photos are becoming more recognizably hers, John says. Generally, her photos are intimate, and show “animalscapes,” an animal in its environment.

Her photos also tell stories, John says. Last month, she caught a snowy owl caught in a blizzard, and called the image “Harsh.”

Meanwhile, Josiah’s developing style is more like animal portraiture, getting the animal’s personality, John says. Josiah’s shorter stature and willingness to lie down also allows him to find a unique perspective.

Josiah identifies his favourite subjects as bighorn sheep and foxes. The sheep are great for action shots, and they’re not skittish at Waterton, he says.

Looking at those action shots, one may wonder how the young photographers feel about being so close to headbutting sheep and hungry bears. Wouldn’t it be a bit scary?

However, the Launsteins say they’re never in harm’s way. The picture of the bighorn sheep was actually taken with a telephoto lens, which brings an image in close.

The Launstein children grew up in the wilderness, and know how to respect animals and keep safe distances, John says. Rather than fear, Jenaya and John have experienced adrenaline rushes in the field.

It goes without saying that John is proud of his children and their achievements, which show real dedication.

And it goes without saying that the young photographers are interested in professional photography, where they likely have quite a future. You can see more of their work at www.launsteinimagery.com .


Red Fox Vixen Portrait JLO1

Red fox vixen portrait shot by Josiah.



20120915 Yukon Porcupine JLO1

A common porcupine strikes a pose as it pauses to make sure his route to the forest is safe in Kluane National Park, Yukon. This photo, by Jenaya, is currently displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.



Jenaya Launstein photographing elk age 16 FULL RES


Josiah Launstein behind the camera age 8 FULL RES

Jenaya and Josiah doing what they love. Images captured by their father, John Launstein.




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From the Feb. 11, 2015 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze.

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