Summer on the Wild Side at the Royal Alberta Museum

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The 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibit brings the wild things to Edmonton, Alberta through mid-September

Choosing high ridges to set up remote cameras was tough … part of this ridge was very narrow, so I set a camera where the cat had no choice but to walk directly in front of it

When the wild calls, the Royal Alberta Museum answers. The Royal Alberta Museum is currently hosting the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. The exhibition does more than reveal the subtle vulnerabilities and humble magnificence of nature and the objects that exist within it. It also gives testament to the lengths that photographers are willing to go to capture these moments.

"Choosing high ridges to set up remote cameras was tough … part of this ridge was very narrow, so I set a camera where the cat had no choice but to walk directly in front of it," says Steve Winter, named as the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year, for his shot entitled, Mountain Prowl. Winter's winning photo of a snow leopard met the requirement of being the competition's most striking and memorable submission.

The touring exhibit - in Edmonton, Alberta through September 13 - features the enthralling tales behind the photos. In fact, one of the interesting components of the exhibition is that each shot's splendour is enhanced with each photographer's story as to how their winning photo came to be. Whether it is something as simple as having a camera ready at the right moment, or having spent hours crouched, waiting in a particular area for a specific angle, their anecdotes serve to inspire and touch exhibition viewers.

For example, with her photo entitled The Show, Catriona Parfitt earned the distinction of the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. Her story of getting the shot, which can be found along with her photo at the Royal Alberta Museum, is fascinating. "As it walked slowly towards the waterhole at Hobatere Lodge in Namibia, this solitary giraffe kept looking over towards four lions on a nearby bridge… an ambitious young male (lion), raced down the ridge to chase the giraffe for some distance, watched by the assembled oryx," she explains.

The winner of the Creative Visions of Nature category was Miguel Lasa of Spain. Lasa's photo, Polar Sunrise, met the judges' criteria for being able to reveal a new way to see natural subjects or scenes, and representing this new perspective in an imaginative or abstract way. "So many photographs I'd seen of polar bears failed to show the power of the animals … while the bears paced the beach waiting for the ice, I waited for the perfect light. Finally I got the shot I was after," says Lasa of his shot, which features a polar bear illuminated by sunlight's inaugural rays.

The 10 Years and Under division was claimed by Snow Pose, a photo taken by Italy's Alessandro Oggioni. "I took many photos," says Oggioni, "but I like this one because it has everything - the landscape, the fox, the fox tracks, the shadow of the fox and the tree, all together."

Submissions for this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit flooded in from around the world. An expert panel was given the arduous task of paring down 32,351 to an exceptionally distinct 80 photos. While these 80 photos act as the main attraction of this touring show, the Royal Alberta Museum's supplementary photography presentations and films prove to further complement this special Edmonton event.

Reflecting the different categories within the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, the exhibition is divided into 18 categories, with the work of the winner as well as the runner-up for each section being displayed.

Launched in 1964 with a modest 600 entries, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year showcase has grown into the world's largest and most prestigious wildlife competition. Open to amateur and professional photographers alike, the competition and exhibition are organized by the Natural History Museum in London, England, and BBC Wildlife Magazine. The end goal of Wildlife Photographer of the Year is two-fold: to find the world's very best photographer of nature's subjects, and to have the winning images prove to both inspire and captivate visitors of all ages.

To take in all 80 photos, photographer insights, complementary films and supplementary presentations, make a plan to attend the Royal Alberta Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year summer exhibition.

For more information about the Royal Alberta Museum or planning an Edmonton vacation, visit http://www.edmonton.com/liveallyear.

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Jenifer Christenson
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