2016 Favourites from John, Jenaya & Josiah Launstein
It’s that time of the year when photographers put together a list of favourite images from the past 12 months. We’ve enjoyed doing the same, but have always struggled with the tension of separating favourite memories and experiences from the images themselves. This year had some pretty crazy developments for our family of wildlife and conservation photographers, so we decided to do something a little different: each of us (John, Jenaya–now 19–and Josiah–now 12) chose one favourite image, one favourite experience, and one bestselling print as chosen by our collectors and gallery clients.
2016 Favourite Images: The Year Went to the Birds
JOSIAH: Josiah had a hard time choosing his favourite image from the past year (for good reason…he put together some stellar pictures in 2016!), and he and I (John) realized that both of us had narrowed our lists down to almost exclusively avian images (even though we are both die-hard bighorn sheep fans!). In the end, Josiah chose this remarkable capture of a female Snowy Owl amidst a flock of Common Redpolls. Although many smaller birds do harass or even mob owls (a great hint to their presence when in the field, in fact!), in this case Josiah spotted this beautiful “snowy” perched on an interesting old fence with dozens of Redpolls lining the barbed wire beside it. It was a very cool scene to witness as the snowy searched the fields for a meal alongside the much smaller birds that were seemingly just hanging out with their visitor from the North. Without warning, the flock of Redpolls suddenly took flight and Josiah caught this moment of the owl surrounded by its avian neighbours.
JENAYA: One of Jenaya’s favourite photographic experiences this year ended up yielding several contenders for her favourite image. In the end I decided to pull rank and name this one MY favourite image of hers from 2016 because it’s just such a cool moment beautifully captured. Jenaya, Marlise, Josiah and I were on our annual “owls and waterfowl” photography trip to British Columbia when we encountered these two Northern Pygmy Owls hunting in a clear cut area high in the mountains of the Fraser Valley. We had been photographing the male for some time while he gave us a veritable owl modeling session with all his great poses and intense looks as he watched for movement in the underbrush that might result in a meal. He eventually hunted his way away from us, but before long the female landed on a tall willow right in front of us. We quickly swung our lenses over to her and began getting some great portraits when out of nowhere the male flew into our shots, landing on top of the female! I’m not sure any of us realized what was happening for a few moments but fortunately we just kept framing up shots as we witnessed a little owl romance as the sun set to the west. While all of us got some memorable shots, this one stood out for me because of the expression on the female owl’s face and the wonderful “embrace” of her mate.
JOHN: I think I may have had the toughest time of the three of us in choosing my favourite from 2016, and as much as I want to add a different experience than the one above, I just can’t deny how special it was to photograph those Northern Pygmy Owls with my kids as evening fell in the British Columbia mountains. Great moments in the field with my family always make the resulting images that much more special to me, so in the end I think this is at least one of my favourites from that experience. Taken just a few minutes before Jenaya captured “The Embrace” above, this is the male owl looking back over his shoulder at some suspect movement in the grass to my left. He had chosen to perch on this tiny cedar sapling, but being incredibly tiny himself (just 6-7in including the tail!) the slender sapling didn’t even bend under his weight. The cedar was the lone conifer in a thick stand of willows, and I immediately recognized the potential for a more artistic portrayal of the scene by shooting through the willows instead of simply finding a hole in the branches for a clear shot. The end result produced the painterly effect that I had envisioned, which is probably another reason it’s one of my favourites!
2016 Favourite Experiences: A Year to Remember
JOSIAH: This year was, without a doubt, full of some of the coolest developments for our family to date. As exciting as my choice for overall favourite is for our entire family, it’s a little hard not to lead off with Josiah’s favourite experience! It’s also a little hard to even begin to capture this one in this short space, so I’m going to link you over to the full story here. This July, Josiah and I travelled to Thailand for a Nikon film project about Josiah and his wildlife and conservation photography. It was, simply, an incredible experience, and will likely be one of the highlights of our photographic lives. The resulting short film, and especially the “Making Of” feature, is something Josiah and our whole family will forever treasure. Quickly reaching over 1.1 million views, Nikon Asia declared it to be “one of our most loved films to date!” Without further ado, here is Nikon: Neighbours – I AM MORE THAN YOU EXPECT
Be sure to click through to our blog story about Josiah’s Thailand adventure where you can view the behind-the-scenes “Making Of” feature with candid commentary from Josiah about his love for animals and photography, as well as a few sound bytes from your’s truly!
JOHN: My choice for favourite experience would have to be the opening of our Launstein Imagery Wildlife Art Gallery in the Crowsnest Pass, a small tourist town in the Canadian Rockies in southwestern Alberta. The ability to share my family’s passion for wildlife and art with like-minded people from around the world has been an absolute privilege and tremendous honour. As you can imagine, I am most excited to see fellow wildlife lovers moved by the imagery of my kids, and help them develop a loyal collectors of their work. This is another development of our year that can’t be summed up simply here, so once again I’ll point you to our blog post about our gallery opening. I’m also pretty excited about the launch of our line of greeting cards available on our new online store!
JENAYA: Jenaya is at least as excited as I am about our new gallery, but as I already spoke for that highlight, I’ll share another of her experiences from the past year with you. Shortly after our gallery opening, we learned that “Ramscape,” one of her most iconic images from the Alberta Rockies to date, had been awarded in the prestigious Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards and had also been selected for a prolonged exhibit in the Smithsonian! This marks Jenaya’s third exhibit in the Smithsonian by age 19 (in fact, her work has been on display there for three straight years!). This one is particularly special to her as Ramscape is a carefully crafted image taken under an hour from our home in our beloved Waterton Lakes National Park. You can read the full story about Jenaya’s return to the Smithsonian here.
2016 Favourite Prints: Our Collectors Have Spoken!
As much as our family is committed to help one another succeed in our goals and dreams in photography, there’s more than a little dose of healthy competition amongst us, too! That became pretty clear when I managed to finally catch up to Jenaya and her “Yukon Porcupine” image for best-selling print a year ago. Although I wasn’t able to completely displace her ;) I did end up tying her at the end of 2015 with “Long Winter’s Nap”. It turns out those same two images were neck-and-neck for top spot once again in 2016, but Jenaya’s pesky little brother came out of nowhere and threatened to take the title with “First Snow”! Well, the results are now in, and after every framed print, flat print, flat print and art card have been totalled, I finally regained my rightful place as the master of photography in our home! Yes, I am bragging about beating my kids, and I’ll work through that later if you promise not to judge me in the meantime. ;) Hey–it’s not that easy staying a step ahead of these two young Photographers of the Year! :) Here are our three most popular images as chosen by our collectors and gallery clients…
JOHN: Long Winter’s Nap
JENAYA: Yukon Porcupine
JOSIAH: First Snow
Bonus Highlight: Our Favourite Blog Entry (and 4th best-selling print!)
In May, 2015, we launched our blog with the story of one of our favourite wildlife subjects of all time. That blog entry was once again our most viewed and shared story on our blog in 2016, and one of the images we shared in it was released this fall as a Fine Art Limited Edition Print. “The Bond of Love” quickly became our best-selling limited edition print since its release and despite the late-in-the-year launch actually ended the year as our 4th most popular print overall! Here’s the link to our most popular blog entry of the year, Tribute to a Mother. I’ll leave you with “The Bond of Love” as it pretty much visually sums up why Jenaya, Josiah and I do what we do, and why our whole family is passionate about wildlife and conservation art. Thanks for letting us share these highlights with you, and all the very best from our family to you and yours for the coming year.