Shutterbug’s wasp shot wins international award
By Ieva Tomsons
LATE last year Coondle resident Georgina Steytler (left) became the first Australian woman to win a category in the highly contested Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition run by Britain’s prestigious Natural History Museum.READ MORE
Her remarkable close-up photograph (above) of two mud-dauber wasps collecting mud for a nest in a Goomalling nature reserve beat 45,000 entries from 95 countries in the ‘Invertebrates: Behaviour’ section at a glittering awards ceremony in London.
“I didn’t have anything to wear and dashed out to buy a $50 black dress,” laughs Georgina who stood up in front of her peers on the world stage last October to accept wildlife photography’s equivalent of the Oscars.
Georgina (45) grew up on an apple orchard in Donnybrook and spent a year on a Rotary exchange scholarship in Japan.
“My host was very enthusiastic and kept me up late, teaching me Japanese – it was exhausting.
“Japanese kids have to clean the school every day. It teaches them discipline and a work ethic; it’s a good idea.”
Georgina needed a ton of self-discipline and a work ethic to get through six years at Murdoch University where she completed Law and an Arts degree majoring in Japanese.
In her third year at uni she returned to Japan for another year cementing her knowledge of Japanese.
As a law graduate Georgina started her career as a judge’s associate at the Supreme Court of Appeal of WA where she met her husband Chris Steytler, the first President of the Court of Appeal WA.
She spent six years at the top end of St George’s Terrace working in commercial litigation which she “hated absolutely” and led to her being “seriously depressed”.
“It’s not a life – people would leave by the fire escape because the partners took a dim view if you left before 7pm.”
The highly competitive environment, 12-hour days and working every weekend took its toll and Georgina switched to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), investigating insider trading in the mining industry.
“I’m not going to make any comment about the gold mining industry but needless to say, I still want to write a fictional book called Dirty Gold.”
Photography has always been a hobby for Georgina and while she was at ASIC she contributed numerous articles and photographs to The West Australian’s travel section.
“I tried to weave conservation into the articles. In one on the Fitzgerald River National Park I wove in the Western Ground Parrot which is down to 140 birds and the captive breeding program isn’t working.”
In 2007 Georgina started volunteering at BirdLife Australia helping older members with PowerPoint presentations to illustrate their talks on birds.
“They were wonderful people who care nothing about status and money.”
Georgina readily admits that she knew nothing about birds when she first started taking pictures with a powerful lens in 2007.
“I thought that the small pigeons were the babies of the bigger ones,” she hoots.
By the time the Steytlers moved permanently to Toodyay in 2012, Georgina had joined BirdLife Australia’s Photography sub-group committee and served as its competition co-ordinator for a couple of years.
The goal of BirdLife Photography is to create a national data base of images; it’s a fantastic resource.”
In 2014 Georgina won her first major photographic competition and has been a winner, runner-up or finalist each year since in the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Awards.
“I’m drawn to capturing anything that flies and when you find an animal that has a distinct flight path it presents a golden opportunity.”
In her blog, Georgina describes how she took the prize-winning shot of the wasps by lying down on a muddy slope next to a waterhole at eye-level with the wasps’ flight path in Walyormouring Nature Reserve (Oak Park).
‘Spray and pray’
She used the ‘spray and pray’ method with her metre-long camouflaged 600mm lens that weighs 5kg and set the shutter mode to continuous high-speed, hitting the button whenever the insects flew into range.
Of the 5000 images that she took in three hours, very few were in focus and the winning photo was the only one with two wasps in focus.
Georgina doesn’t use a tripod to support her heavy lens and describes her hand-held positioning as a ‘bodypod’.
“I’m going to patent that word,” she jokes.
Wildlife photography is all about being in the right place at the right time and the rest is down to luck.
“Luck won’t find you – you have to be there to get the shot.”