SA father and son duo make history in UK's 51st Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition


Cape Town - Every image on display at the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) exhibition, currently on show at the Chavonne Battery museum at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town until April 2016, will give you goose bumps.

An elephant calf, standing in the safe shadow of its mother’s colossal body... ('Natural frame' Morkel Erasmus Finalist, Black & White)

Two bee-eaters’ territorial battle, captured against the sunlight like a rainbow in the dry Chobe sky...  (Juan van der Heever standing in front of his photograph, 'Battle of the Bee-eaters'.)

The final breath of a springbok, its flesh pierced by the claws of a young leopard... ('The Final Leap' Wim van der Heever Finalist, Mammals.)

But these are just a snippet of the 13 photos captured by six South Africans in this year’s travelling display - all of which inspire a special, proudly South African feeling.

ALSO READ: Meet SA's NatGeo Adventurer

And for the first time ever a father and son have been chosen as finalists in the same year, for one WPY exhibition. The South African father and son entrants, Wim and Juan van der Heever, were both commended for their work in this year’s WPY.

The two blokes, Juan, a spitting image of his father, Wim, attended the opening of the exhibition in Cape Town.

Wim, hovering around the large print of his son’s photograph for most of the evening, proudly told passers-by of how Prince Harry of Whales took a photo of Juan’s image.

“He was standing right here,” he’d tell them, pointing to a spot on the floor.


(Prince Harry of Whales taking a photo of Juan van der Heever's 'Battle of the Bee-eaters'. Van der Heever can be seen standing in the background.)

Wildlife photography exhibition gets the royal thumbs up

'Battle of the Bee-eaters'

Juan’s photo, Battle of the Bee-eaters, is commended in the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year category for photographers 15 – 17 years old. The images in this category however do not reflect the shooters’ age or life experience. Instead, by the looks of the chilling wildlife moments they manage to capture, it seems as if they have been in the field for a lifetime.

Juan says he loves travelling to photography hotspots with his dad during the school holidays. His image of the fighting bee-eaters was taken during a trip to Botswana in 2014.

Juan says he anticipated the shot when he saw the birds fighting on the ground.

“I knew the bee-eaters were going to shoot up. It was like a dog fight and I knew they would fly into the air at some stage. I just kept my camera on them and, luckily, this is what followed…”

'The Final Leap'

Wim’s photograph, 'The Final Leap', is included in the Mammals section of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

He says taking the photo was like a photographer’s dream come true.

" As photographers, we dream of the perfect scenario. But in reality it very rarely pans out the way you think it is going to pan out,” he says.

“But on this specific day, everything happened exactly according to plan. I’d been following the leopard for about three days and when the moment came, the leopard did exactly what I thought it would.

“Everything was just perfect and I managed to get this once in a lifetime shot of a leopard – out in the open.

“For me, it really is one of the best photos I’ve ever taken.”

(Father and son photographers, Wim and Juan. Wim's WPY photograph can be seen in the background.)

The other three South Africans - apart from the two Van der Heevers and Morkel Erasmus - whose photos are included in this year's WPY are, Brent StirtonNeil AldridgeTristan Dicks.

ALSO READ: In the Dark Room: Looking through the lens of an expert photographer

Entries for the 52nd Wildlife Photographer of the Year can be entered from 4 January to 25 February 2016. Click here for the details.

Want to see all 100 Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 photos for yourself? Here are the exhibition details:

The exhibition will be in Cape Town until 15 April at the and from there it will move onto Johannesburg in May and Durban later in 2016.

Cape Town venue:
Chavonnes Battery Museum, Clocktower, V&A Waterfront

Every Wednesday evening from 18:00 - 20:00, on ‘Wildlife Wednesdays’, the exhibition will host a wildlife photographer presenting their work and inspiring an audience with their stories and photographs from the field.

R100 Adult
R50 Students (With valid student card)
R60 Seniors (60+ ID required)
R50 Children (6-16 yrs)
R240 Family (2 Adults + 2 Children)

Johannesburg and Durban venues:

Buy tickets here.

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