Judging Wildlife Photographer of the Year

I spent last week in London, with a fantastic group of people:

WPY60 Photo Jury
WPY60 Photo Jury, Natural History Museum in the background

We were there to judge the 60th edition of the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY60), organised by the Natural History Museum London.

Group dynamics can sometimes be tricky, especially in cases when most people have never met one another. 

In this instance though, the chemistry was excellent from the get-go.

We worked hard(!), but we also laughed, exchanged information about each other's projects, and learned a ton about organisms and environments around the world.

During an interlude, we had a brief opportunity to visit a back room of the museum. What a bonus. My eyes immediately went to the marine organisms of course (ArchiteuthisMesonychoteuthis, coelacanth eggs, and much more), but I also had a chance to see Darwin's pet tortoise!

Darwin's pet tortoise
Darwin's pet tortoise

I probably got a little too excited. Living with Oogway has changed me.

The judging process itself was grueling. We began the year by looking through nearly 60,000 images at home. Let's say, for argument's sake, that you can consider 10 images a minute on average, or 600 images an hour. That would be 100 hours, more than four days straight on a 24-hour/ day basis. 

In reality, it did take me a week or so to go through the first time. About half that time the second time. An entire day the third time.

Yes, glutton for punishment that I am, I went through the entries three times—before going to London.

It's not that I wanted to go cross-eyed. It's that I know how much it means to everyone who enters. 

I did not want to overlook anything.

During our week together, the seven of us whittled the shortlisted entries (there were so many!) down further, until we were forced to make decisions. I choose the word "forced" intentionally, as many times, I did not want to choose, because there were many images I liked. 

It was difficult.

Not just because there were excellent images, but also because often, someone articulated arguments for or against an image, introducing thoughts and lines of reasoning that I'd never considered. This meant I had to use my brain. Aiyah.

Seriously though, there were so many times when I listened to someone in the room and thought, "Huh, he/she is correct. How in the heck did I miss that/ not know that?" Humbling on the one hand; rewarding on the other. Rewarding because it's always good to learn.

I am really happy with the results. I cannot say anything more than that for now.

I look forward to the award ceremony and announcements in October, and also to meeting the awarded photographers.

Kathy, Roz, Paula, Miranda, Luciano, and Chien—thank you for being such terrific people! 

Gemma, Wendy, Jo—thank you for babysitting us 😊