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The Gap Year Blog

Into the Wild Meets: Skye Meaker, Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year

28 Nov 2018 12:00 PM
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Photo Credit: Skye Meaker

Edited with Permission by Frontier

Waiting for two hours, Skye Meaker lingered for a perfect snapshot of wild leopard ‘Limpy’ snoozing in the wild. The picture - Lounging Leopard - won him the Grand Title award for the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018 now in exhibition at London’s National History Museum. Into the Wild Meets spoke with Skye to talk all things wild and how he stood out amongst 45,000 other wildlife photos.

Firstly, well done for winning Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year! Did you ever believe that you could win the competition?

Thank you very much. It has always been a dream of mine to win this competition ever since I started taking my photography seriously but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would win. I did know that if I kept trying and kept entering I would get better and just might be able to win a category never mind the whole Youth award.

Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year Grand Title Winner - Lounging Leopard

Photo Credit: Skye Meaker

You were made the grand title winner of the under 17 category, which is an amazing title to have at a young age. Do you think it’s important to recognize young photographers in the industry?

I believe that it is extremely important to help support and recognize the youth as they are going to be the experts of the future and have been brought up in an era of technology affording them the opportunity to experiment with new technology like digital cameras from a young age and because of this they aren't afraid of technology as you can just delete a photo which couldn't be done in the days of film.  It is because of this that I think the youth are coming out with very new and creative ways of photography and with some experience and support will produce exceptional photos.

The story between you and the ‘Lounging Leopard’ you photographed is quite touching. Tell us about your relationship with the animal.

I have been taking photos of this leopard ‘Limpy’ (she got this name due to her falling out of a tree at a cub and breaking her hind leg) for almost 7 years now and have been able to watch her grow from just older then a cub to having her own cub which happened recently. I have an emotional connection with the animal as I've got to grow as a person and as a photographer while watching her grow. 

Photo Credit: Dawn of the Beast | Skye Meaker

You clearly work very closely with animals and have to adapt to the elements. Have you ever had a strange or unique story whilst being out photographing in the wild? 

I've had way too many to count but I will tell you one of when I took a picture of my favourite insect - a solifugae, also known as a camel spider. What made the experience one I would never forget was firstly it is one of the most horrifying insects on the planet as they run towards your shadow and are one of the biggest and fastest (and ugliest) insects in the world.  I had just arrived from our morning game drive in Mashatu, Botswana when on the way to my room I spotted the biggest solifugae I had ever seen.  After rushing to grab my camera I began to leopard crawl next to it to get a macro shot eye level shot to show its preys' point of view. Shortly after getting the shot I made a mad dash to escape and crawled across my legs while looking at the shot I had just gotten on my LCD. Well, I will say that gave me possibly the biggest fright of my life I genuinely thought I was going to jump out of my skin.

Some people might find photography quite technical; do you have a certain style or method when taking wildlife photography? 

Yes I like to take the approach of showing the beauty of our natural environment and take the best picture in the moment so I can keep it natural without photoshopping my picture and to try capture the emotions I felt while taking the photo.

Photo Credit: African Gold | Skye Meaker

How did you learn your skills to become such a talented photographer?

I have never been to a formal photography workshop or lesson so I learnt my photography from trial and error and from learning from those around me.

Your photo has now been shared all over the world on many different publications all over the world. Has the impact of the result made you overwhelmed at all?

Yes it's been really hectic and busy especially with trying to catch up school work for my exams but it’s been the best kind of busy I could ever hope for and has been an experience I will never forget.

What is your favourite part about wildlife photography?

My favourite part is getting to share my love and passion for the bush and for nature.

Photo Credit: Serendipity | Skye Meaker

I have heard that even though you are an avid fan of photography, your goal isn’t actually to be a photographer. What are your next steps?

My future plans are to study and get a degree for something in finance and study a carted accountancy degree while keeping my photography as it is - my passion and my love which I will still pursue. For now I want to study a degree while I'm still young.

If you had to give one piece of advice to a new wildlife photographer, what would it be?

For new photographers my best advice would be to try everything and to break the rules of conventional photography, to make mistakes and learn from them to improve.  That is what I did and it seems to have worked out well so far.

To see more of Skye’s work, head to his website www.skyemeaker.com and keep up with his most recent photography. 

By Caitlin Casey - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!