50th Wildlife Photographer of the Year

There I was standing on a podium in the Great Hall at the Natural History Museum in London, receiving an award at the 2014 Wildlife Photographer of the Year, hosted by Frans Lanting (wildlife photographer) and Liz Bonnin (natural history TV presenter) and in the presence of the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) and my childhood hero Sir David Attenborough.

My picture, the 'Passing Giants', showing two whale sharks that passed by at different depth had got me there, winning first prize in the underwater category.  The two whale shark were coming from different directions. presenting a small window of opportunity for 'the' shot as they crossed each other.

The challenge to position myself relative to the two whale sharks, such that they would cross directly below me was the most difficult aspect of composing this picture.  If at any point, either of the whale shark had changed direction or if I hadn't been able to keep up with them and maintain my position right above them, the opportunity would have gone.

Dealing with these two whale sharks, which were at different depths of sea level also gave me exposure problems.  As I wanted both whale sharks to be sharp, I needed a high aperture number, but also a high ISO to capture the deeper whale shark in the murkier water.  At the same time I had to adjust the output on my strobes to minimum so as not to 'blow out' the whale shark nearest to me.

When their paths finally crossed, it was not perfect. I remember having to give a big kick with my fins to push myself to get the right perspective so that the whale shark at the deeper depth was positioned inside the frame.

The picture was about seeing the opportunity and seizing it.  The result was this award at what is considered to be the Oscars of the photography world.  Sharing the evening with so many great photographers from all around the world was a real honour, as was seeing my image amongst all the amazing winning images that night. The passion and the dedication each of the photographers showed toward their chosen subjects shone through on the night.  Truly memorable.

The icing on the cake of this amazing evening was getting the chance to talk with and shake the hand of the great Sir David Attenborough, something I never dreamt I would do when I was being inspired by his documentaries as young girl.

Finally, it was great to hear the words of Frans Lanting when he commented how great it was to see an Indonesian Photographer winning with a photograph out of Indonesia.