Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Local youth photographers garner international accolades

Toni Lucas

Local youth wildlife photographers Jenaya and Josiah Launstein have been awarded international acclaim this year in some very prestigious international photography competitions. Josiah is 10 years old and Jenaya is 18. The brother and sister are home schooled, *Jenaya graduated high school at the age of 17. Each acknowledge they owe much of their skills in photography and love of the craft to their father, John Launstein.

Outdoor Photographer of the Year - 18 years and Under - Overall Winner, named 2014 Young Outdoor Photographer of the Year for "Bighorn Battle" Josiah Launstein

What photography contests did you enter this year, and how did you do?

Josiah: This year I entered the Outdoor Photographer of the Year competition, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, Por el Planeta, and Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice International Awards. In January, I won the title of Young Outdoor Photographer of the Year. I was super excited to be awarded in Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Por el Planeta, this year, too. I was a finalist in Nature’s Best with a fox picture from near Pincher Creek, but didn’t end up awarded in that one.  They held the next Outdoor Photographer of the Year competition early so I am waiting to see if I get lucky and get awarded again. I had 3 images selected as finalists and will learn in December if any of them made it.

Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice International Photography Awards - Youth Photographer of the Year - Highly Honoured for "Band of Brothers" Jenaya Launstein

Jenaya: This year I entered the Outdoor Photographer of the Year competition, the Big Picture Natural World Photography Competition, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, Por el Planeta, and Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice International Awards. I'm currently waiting to hear from the Outdoor Photographer of the Year competition. I'm lucky to have 5 images selected as finalists, so hopefully I'll be able to place again this year.

I was lucky enough to have images chosen as finalists in all of the competitions, and was awarded in Outdoor Photographer of the Year, Por el Planeta and Nature’s Best. I found out in June that I had won the Big Picture competition from right here in Pincher Creek and had a second image awarded as well.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year - Young Competition - Awarded Finalist "Goose Attack Josiah Launstein

Big Picture Natural World Photography Competition - Youth Division - Overall Winner / First Place
Por el Planeta - 14-17yrs - Specially Commended for "Owls in the Wind" Jenaya Launstein

How do you feel about winning?

Josiah: I was so excited to be named the Young Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and was even happier that they chose a picture of two Bighorn Sheep rams doing battle in Waterton, because they are my favourite animals to photograph. I couldn’t believe I was awarded in Wildlife Photographer of the Year because it’s a huge competition and I was just excited to be a finalist. The pictures they chose were my favourite snowy owl picture that I’ve ever taken and one of my favourites from a trip I took with my dad and sister to BC this spring. Por el Planeta also awarded my snowy owl picture. I was really happy that one got two awards because I love snowies and we worked really hard in a crazy snowstorm in January to end up with that picture.

Jenaya: I'm always excited when I win, especially because there is stiff competition in my categories. When picking images to enter, my dad and I always have to think about what will catch the judges’ eyes, what the competition’s main goal is, and what images I would be proud to have on the international stage.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year - Young Competition - Awarded Finalist
Por el Planeta - 10-13yrs - Specially Commended
 "Snowy Snowy" Josiah Launstein

What sparked your personal interest in photography?

Josiah: Every time my dad and sister would go on a wildlife photography trip I loved all the pictures they came back with. I would go on lots of outings with them while they photographed wildlife and started wanting to take pictures myself, too. My dad let me use one of his backup cameras and we would switch lenses around and I just fell in love with it. The more I photographed, the more I wanted to get better and then go out again.

Jenaya: When I was born, my dad was a full time fine art and commercial photographer, and even my grandpa used to be into photography. My dad ended up going into ministry and non-profit leadership, but I always liked going out to look for wildlife, and often had a camera in hand. After a few outings with my dad, I kinda got him pulled back into photography, so we've been photographing together ever since. Now my dad is full-time again in wildlife and dog photography, and my younger brother photographs too, so it must run in the family.

Jenaya Launsein
What was the best advice you have gotten for photography, and who gave it?

Josiah: I ask my dad lots of questions and try and really listen to his advice. One of the things he told me is to always try and think about how I want the picture to turn out before I take it. That helps me decide what lens to use and even what settings to use, like if I want to show an animal going so fast everything is blurred or if I want to freeze every detail. When I found some Bighorn rams banging heads when I was out with Jenaya, I knew I wanted to freeze them the moment they hit each other. I changed all my settings and I love how you can even see the hair and dander flying from the impact in the picture I ended up with.

Jenaya: I've received a lot of advice through the years, mostly from my dad, and it's been great. I also get advice through an online nature photography community, which has really helped me grow. I’ve participated in several workshops and was chosen to be part of the North American Nature Photographers Association’s High School Scholarship Program in 2013, where we had an intensive week photographing in Florida and Georgia. Some good advice I've been given includes to never leave your camera at home, to always look for the best angle and change position to get something different when needed, work hard for the perfect shot, and learn the settings on your camera so it comes naturally to you in the field.

Josiah Launstein
photo by John Launstein

Who are the photographers you admire and look up to? Why?

Josiah: I love looking at wildlife pictures and there are lots of photographers that I like. I really like David Lloyd’s photography, especially his black and white images. I also really like Morkel Erasmus, who makes beautiful pictures in Africa where he lives. When I was growing up my dad always showed me pictures from Art Wolfe and Thomas Mangelsen. All of those photographers care a lot about the animals they photograph and do lots for conservation.

Jenaya: I've always liked John Marriott’s photography (based in Canmore). He has so many great photos, including species that I would love to photograph one day. Paul Zizka from Banff is another photographer that has some insane photos. Looking through their images pushes me to get out more and makes me hope that I can grow more as a photographer and get better every day. Last year I also got to meet up with my friend Ashleigh Scully, another young photographer from New Jersey, and she's got some pretty amazing images and really cares about the animals she photographs.

Jenaya Launstein
photo by John Launstein

Do you intend to make photography your career?

Josiah: Well, I always hoped I could play in the NHL. I love taking pictures of wildlife and hope it can become my career. I’m also interested in sports photography but I haven’t done much of that yet.

Jenaya: Definitely. It would be amazing to be able to do this as a life-long career.

*Outdoor Photographer of the Year - 18years and under Commended for "Salmon Swatter" Jenaya Launstein

What subject matter do you like to shoot?

Josiah: My favourite animals to photograph are bighorn sheep and elk. I also like photographing foxes, owls, mule deer and probably almost every other species I find with my camera.

JENAYA: My favourite subjects are definitely wildlife. I've always loved animals so being able to spend so much time with them is amazing. I also do a lot of photos for the Pincher Creek Humane Society/SPCA of their cats and dogs in need of homes. My dad and I also have a fine art dog photography business.

What kind of camera/s lenses do you use?

Josiah:  I usually use one of my dad’s backup cameras or whichever camera body he isn’t using. Sometimes we trade back and forth in the field. Usually I use a Nikon D7100 camera and either a Nikkor 300mm f/4 lens or Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens. Sometimes I use a Nikkor 70-200mm lens to show the animal with some of its habitat around it. I don’t own any of my own equipment yet but hope to soon.

Jenaya:  I use a Nikon D600 and D7100 and several different lenses. My favorite lens to use is the Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR. I love the way it performs and it works great with my camera.

If you could give someone advice about photography, what would it be?

Josiah: The best advice I could give is to photograph what you love. You will enjoy taking pictures more and your pictures will be better. Sometimes I think I could photograph bighorn sheep all day every day. My dad told me that you can almost always tell if a person really cares about the animals in their pictures when you look at them, and I’ve noticed that about some of my favourite photographers. If you like to take pictures of wildlife, it’s really important to respect them and not do anything that might harm the animal or make it uncomfortable.

Jenaya: I'd say get out as much as you can, always remember your camera, go to some workshops and seminars if you can. The online nature photography community I joined when I was 13 has really helped me out. You can check it out at Also learn about your camera and the different settings as much as you can.

Related link: Launstein Imagery

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