Professional photographer

Erlo Brown Photography
Photographer of the Year

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As with anyone in any profession, I have dreams, some of which include having my photographs grace the pages of a National Geographic Magazine and having a solo exhibition that sells out. Among my dreams are one that has driven me for a long time. Winning big in a wildlife photography competition like the Sunday Times Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards.

When I first came across the competition it immediately struck me how much emphasis they put on the smaller details, they even asked for the scientific name of the creature in the photograph. The prize money also caught my eye, it was probably one of the best payed local photographic competitions with a total first price to the value of R75 000 (R70 000 of which is Canon gear) I knew such an event would draw much attention and it did, but that “what if” feeling would not go away…

I started working specifically for the competition, trying to get that winning shot purely by working hard and thinking out of the box. I got involved in an idea where I would photograph a Flamingo from water level using a wide angle lens, thus needing remote triggering to make the photo possible. It payed off, although I never got the photograph I had in mind I got something that could maybe stand a chance.Read more here:

The flamingo photo managed to get an honorable mention in the monthly trials. I was happy, but a little disappointed, I wanted to win this thing so badly. So I decided to send in a photograph that I had taken months before.

This particular photo idea came to me on the spur of the moment. We were camping out in the Magalies Kloof when these Vervet monkeys started harassing us. I got the idea of setting up a camera and then remotely triggering it to allow the monkeys freedom of coming close to the camera.

I had my camera on a tripod and a flash directly to the right with an umbrella to soften the light. To the left and above I had another flash fastened to a tree to act as a rim light. This setup is certainly not the norm when it comes to wildlife photography, but I love the challange of bringing unimaginable angles and great lighting to wildlife. By using a wide focal length (17mm) I could have the camera placed withing centimeters from the monkey’s faces, thus giving it that intense personal feel. They had been steeling our apples all day and so I used some pieces of apple close to the camera to get them coming in close.

It took at least four changes in my lighting and camera angle until I was satisfied. I normally photograph myself when testing remote setups to see what the light does and to check for scale, to make sure the monkeys will fit in the frame nicely. At first I was hoping for a single monkey on the tree stump, but the two posing together was a huge bonus. The small monkey managed to loosen my one strobe from a tree on the left and ran up the branches with it. Eventually it dropped it and it miraculously got snagged in a fork between two branches, narrowly avoiding a long drop to the ground.


Amazingly this very photo managed to make its way through the trials and into the final twelve. The competition was intense, I didn’t even want to get my hopes up. Eventually the news reached me, at 6 am on a Sunday morning, that I was the overall winner. I was ecstatic, running and jumping around in the house shouting for everyone to hear that I had won.

In hind site it is nothing short of a miracle that I won, there were many worthy competitors up with my photo and it could easily had gone the other way. I give God all the glory for allowing me to win such a prestigious competition. The gear that I have won fit in perfectly with my other photographic gear. I now strive to be a good steward of the gift and employ it wisely into my photography.

One Response to Photographer of the Year

  1. Lorna says:

    Absolutely love these pics! Thanks so much for sharing how you did it! Brilliant.

    Keep well

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