Durban – It often requires being in the right place at the right time, “some luck” and daring to shoot pictures of animals in the wild.
Capturing stunning wildlife photos comes naturally to Branson Meaker, 13, who received international recognition this week for his skilful camerawork “in the bush”.
One of the Durban North teenager’s photos, which was named Aquabatic Antelope, has been on show at London’s Natural History Museum since Friday.
That’s because the image was among the top 100 entries at this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) competition, on display at the museum. This year’s competition drew 48000 worldwide entries.
Branson’s shot was captured at the Kwando Game Reserve in northern Botswana, in October last year.
His entry was one of four from the 11-14 age category to make the Top 100 and he and Thomas Peschak were the only two South Africans to have had that honour.
The image showed a red lechwe (antelope) in full flight as it hares through a marsh, the resulting water splash and a hovering pied kingfisher. It was also among 18 pictures displayed at 10 Downing Street (residence of the UK prime minister) this week.
Branson said being part of the WPY mix and visiting 10 Downing Street was a huge honour.
“I have been trying for a few years now. After my brother Skye’s Vanishing Lions made the WPY top 100 in 2014, it inspired me."
Last year, Skye, 17, won the WPC’s under-18 category with his Lounging Leopard shot. That achievement opened various doors for Skye, including speaking alongside conservation icon Jane Goodall at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in January.
“Skye taught me a few things and each time I missed out I didn’t lose faith,” said Branson.
He agreed that in taking good pictures lots of patience was required, the camera must be set right, the best angle for the shot needed to be worked out and a bit of luck was also required.
Branson said it was the first time he had taken aim at red lechwes when he snapped his award winning picture on his Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera.
“Red lechwes are the type of antelopes that live only in the swampy parts of northern Botswana and Namibia. They are a very skittish type of buck. So we had to patiently wait for a long while before we could have a go.”
Another of his red lechwe pictures, taken on the same day, which has been captioned Dancing on Light, was awarded at this year’s MontoPhoto photographic competition in Spain.
Branson, his brother and parents Enid and Shawn have a great affinity for animals in the wild, photography, and have trekked to many of Africa’s leading game reserves over the years.
As a result, Branson is also big on conservation, gets to watch animals in their habitats and takes pictures.
He said, once, while his family was on an expedition through Zimbabwe and canoeing on the Zambezi River, there was no time to take pictures because of the elephants that charged at them.
“We were canoeing over crocodiles and hippos when elephants tried to charge at us from the banks.
“That was an amazing experience. I didn’t get a chance to take pictures because I was too busy paddling the canoe that carried my mom and I.”
Branson, a Grade 8 pupil at Clifton College, who is a big fan of internationally renowned photographer Greg du Toit, said photography would always be his hobby.