Yukon Porcupine by Jenaya Launstein

"Yukon Porcupine" by Jenaya Launstein Wins Multiple International Honours

In late September, 2012, a wild porcupine in the Yukon Territories chose to emerge from the forest just as Jenaya and her dad came into view. In many ways, it walked into Jenaya’s life and changed it forever.

There’s no question the moment in time captured in pixels here represents one of Jenaya’s favourite experiences in the field. What precipitated and followed it, however, makes the moment that much more special. Read the story behind “Yukon Porcupine” below, but first here are some highlights of the prestigious recognition the image has received.

  • Cover image, November, 2012, Nature Photographers Online Magazine
  • Selected as the top wildlife image of 2012 on NPN (Nature Photographers Network)
  • Winning image in the 2013 Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards (a competition which saw over 24,000 entries from some 50 countries), which resulted in Jenaya being named the Youth Photographer of the Year
  • Selected to be part of the Grand Opening exhibit for the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Louis, MO
  • Double-page spread in the Fall/Winter 2013 issue of Nature’s Best Photography magazine
  • Second appearance in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Nature’s Best Photography magazine
  • Featured in an extended exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. and now adorning the halls in their main office (read the press release here)
  • Featured for a second year in the Smithsonian as part of the “Best of the Best” exhibit, which showcased 113 award-winning images from over 500,000 submitted for consideration over the past 20 years

The Story Behind “Yukon Porcupine”

In the fall of 2011, Jenaya (then only 14) decided to enter a national non-wildlife photography competition. While it wasn’t in her primary area of focus, it was built around a theme that was important to her, and she had envisioned an image she wanted to try and create. The competition was the “Western Heritage Values Photo Contest” put on by Canadian Geographic and The Calgary Stampede for the Stampede’s 100th Anniversary. She ended up winning the Youth division, and for the first time, was allowed to compete against the adult and professional entrants for the Grand Prize…and she won that as well. Her winning image, a powerful silhouette of her dad and brother walking through the fields near their home in Pincher Creek, Alberta, was highly acclaimed and was selected to be part of the Western Art exhibit at the centennial Stampede. It also came with airfare for two to wherever WestJet flew. Jenaya wasted no time in selecting her destination: Whitehorse, Yukon Territories.

The first part of Jenaya and John’s trip was spent in SE Alaska, where she photographed grizzly bears, eagles and some of the local history and culture. One of the images from her time in Alaska, “Swatting Salmon,” ended up being Commended in the 2014 Outdoor Photographer of the Year competition. From there, John and Jenaya headed back into Canada and Kluane National Park. It was the first time either of them had visited this beautiful wilderness region, and they hope it won’t be the last.

While Jenaya did get some exceptional images of moose and grizzly bears, two of the species she most wanted to find and photograph while in Kluane, it was this adorable porcupine that stole the show. “Spike” (Jenaya fell in love with this animal and had to name it) sauntered out of the forest just as John and Jenaya approached, and didn’t seem to mind them getting into position for better camera angles whatsoever. In fact, after Jenaya chose to lay down in the Yukon bush at the bottom of a slope she was on in order to position the gorgeous fall colours of the forest as the background for the porcupine, “Spike” rewarded her for her effort by sitting down right in front of her, then sitting up and striking this pose as it seemed to ponder life for a moment. After several moments (and many frames recorded to Jenaya’s memory cards!), the porcupine continued on its way into the next stand of trees and disappeared from view.

Jenaya was literally buzzing with excitement for the rest of the evening. She has always loved porcupines, and not only was this one of the “cutest” she had ever seen, it had given her more than she could ever have asked for in a photo opp. And she had taken full advantage of it. Her decision to pay the price to get to a lower, more dramatic camera angle, and perfect execution of her growing photography skills, resulted in a truly remarkable image. The subject, its pose, Jenaya’s choice of composition and backlighting to highlight the quills, and the gorgeous Yukon forest colours in the background simply all add up to a captivating image.

In November, 2014, a massive print of “Yukon Porcupine” went on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. It was such a rewarding experience for Jenaya and John to witness photographers and visitors to the museum stand in wonder in front of this image and excitedly admire it with friends and family. It is an image that becomes almost magical as a large format fine art print.

[Update:] “Yukon Porcupine” was selected for a second year-long exhibition at the Smithsonian as part of their “Best of the Best” exhibit in 2015-2016.

“Yukon Porcupine” is becoming one of Launstein Imagery’s most popular images of all time, and is available for purchase as an Open Edition print release, as well as carefully managed licensing for publication. There are a handful of Artist’s Proofs available.


To inquire about reserving an Artist’s Proof or one of several options in an Open Edition Print of this special piece, give us a call or simply fill out the inquiry form below!

To learn more about Jenaya and her remarkable accomplishments in wildlife photography, please drop by her bio page. You can also work through a short timeline of highlights in Jenaya’s journey as a photographer on our About The Launstein Family page.

Finally, don’t forget you can follow the Launsteins’ photographic adventures on Twitter @LaunsteinFamily, as well as follow Jenaya @JenayaLaunstein.

Contact us to order "Yukon Porcupine" or inquire about licensing the image for publication:

Sign me up for the Launstein Imagery newsletter!