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Travel Photographer of the Year talks to ePHOTOzine - Winning Travel Photographer of the Year 2008 was a bit of a surprise for Darwin Wiggett. Here he tells us why.
While working on his Masters thesis in Zoology Darwin Wiggett found that a career as a wildlife biologist wasn't what he envisioned it to be. To spend time in the outdoors he had to write papers asking for funding and as a result he was never really ever outside. He wanted to find away where he could work outside for more than four months of the year and while reading a book by Freeman Patterson he found his answer.
"The photography of natural things really did change my life. I thought what a great idea, be outdoors, take pictures and get paid for it. "
He went and bought some camera equipment and quickly became addicted to taking photographs, he may have been a little naive but a career in photography wouldn't have followed if he wasn't.
He now spends his time travelling across Canada and other provinces photographing landscapes which is why the news that he was Travel Photographer of the Year came as a bit of a surprise.
"I don't photograph people, tribes and culture which is what I think of when I think of travel photography so I didn't think I would win. It was a total surprise, I threw something into the competition and forgot all about it until I got the message to give the organises a call back."
Darwin hasn't let his recent accolade go to his head however with him still sticking by his statement that he loves photography: "So far it is the best work I have come across for my personality (unless I figure out how to get paid to eat pizza and drink beer)."
In the Beginning Darwin would go out and focus on one image until it was technically perfect now his work has a narrative to it something he feels all photographers eventually turn to on their photographic journey. The work he entered into the Travel Photographer of the Year competition tells a story and also represents how nature resonates with him.
"In the past I would shoot just because I liked the picture now of course things are changing with pressure from developments and other things on our landscapes so I am starting to use my pictures to raise awareness. "
Darwin is mostly self taught, he's learnt by going out there and just taking pictures something he encourages others to do on his workshops and courses he runs.
He offers a 'learn by doing' type of education where he gets as much from the students in terms of learning and inspiration as they get from him. He really enjoys teaching and admits that many photographers have to hold workshops to boost their income.
"It's something we have to do, there's a lot of competition in this small market but it's most definitely something I enjoy. When I hold my workshops it's a really nice experience. It's a bit like playing in a band when you jam together, you get into a groove."
Darwin's 'groove' has allowed him to create some brilliant, award-winning images but if you ask him to describe what it is and where his style came from his answer isn't all that clear. People began to recognise a "Darwin" long before he even acknowledged he had any form of style. He believes a style cannot be developed consciously, if it does it isn't real. Darwin believes it must come from within and to develop a style you must shoot from your heart.
"When photographers first start out they concentrate on technique and often emulate other photographers which means they become a copycat. This is all good and fine as part of the journey but some photographers never get past it. To create your own style you need to shoot from the heart and photograph what you want to photograph in a way you're comfortable with. Do this and your voice will come out and be heard. You need to shoot everything and shoot lots. That way your style, the part that makes your photography yours, will stand out."
Visit Darwin Wiggett's website for more details.