Wildlife photos by three Canadians selected for museum exhibit

A humble raccoon living in Saskatchewan joins wildlife great and small at the 55th Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit at the Royal B.C. Museum, which starts today.

The travelling exhibit from London’s Natural History Museum includes 100 images, the cream of the crop from almost 50,000 entries taken by photographers from around the world.

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Canada is well represented, with three photographers’ work on display. All three were at the museum on Thursday for a sneak peek of the show, which opens today.

Lucky Break is an image of a humble raccoon clambering from the broken windshield of an abandoned car in a farmer’s field. Jason Leo Bantle, a professional photographer from Saskatchewan, says it took him three years to get the shot after he and some friends first noticed that a raccoon had made a den in the abandoned Ford Pinto. The only way in and out of the vehicle was through a hole in the windshield.

“There are coyotes about and she realized early on that the hole was too small for the predators to get at her young,” said Bantle. “I knew the shot I wanted and came back every year to capture it. I was ready to give up if I didn’t get it the third year — and finally captured the shot.”

Bantle studied biology, but picked up the camera because he found he could tell stories better through the power of imagery.

Another photographer telling stories with her work is Toronto-based Jo-Anne McArthur, in the photojournalism category.

“It’s hard subject matter,” says McArthur as she stands in front of a vivid image, titled Wall of Shame, of a snake that had just been skinned at a four-day festival in Texas.

Bloody handprints and signatures attest to the people who have proudly witnessed or participated in the reptile’s death.

“I wanted to show this celebration of violence and the people with literally blood on their hands.”

McArthur travels six to eight months of the year, sometimes undercover, to shine light on the fate of some animals at the hands of humans.

Françoise Gervalis, who lives in Victoria, works as a guide for people exploring the Arctic or Antarctic.

Her selected image, The Challenge, strives to express the vastness of both ends of the Earth in one image.

“I work primarily portraying negative space. My wildlife and landscape photographs tend to be minimalistic,” said Gervalis, who was born in Quebec.

Her photograph chosen for the exhibit, taken from a boat, is of a solitary polar bear set against a massive background of black rock.

“I try to translate the vastness of the land and the animal in the environment,” she said.

The exhibit starts today and runs until March 29. Entry is included in the price of regular admission. It can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Royal B.C. Museum, 675 Belleville St. For more information, go to royalbcmuseum.bc.ca.

parrais@timescolonist.com

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