Teenage wildlife photographer Josiah Launstein is continuing to sharpen his skills—and win awards—with his stunning images of animals in the wild. Even in the short time since we first featured his photography, the 14-year-old has added a number of accolades to his name and continues to expand his portfolio. In particular, his reputation as a skilled bird photographer continued to grow, as proven by his recognition in the Young International Bird Photographer of the Year competition for the third time in three years.
The young Canadian photographer is continually on the move, looking for opportunities to get out into the field and capture nature’s beauty with his camera. A truly family affair, Launstein’s father John and sisters Jenaya and Marlise are also accomplished photographers. Together they spend time in the great outdoors, enjoying the thriving ecosystem found in Alberta, Canada.
When he’s not taking photographs, Launstein also spends time at his family’s art gallery, where all his relatives are able to display their magnificent work. We had the chance to ask Launstein how he feels about his recent accolades, which also include one of his photographs in a year-long exhibit in the Smithsonian. He also shares some of his newest work and the stories behind these photographs. Scroll down to read My Modern Met’s exclusive conversation with this impressive young man.
How does it feel to continue to have your work recognized at such a young age?
It’s an incredible honor whenever one of my images is awarded in competition. The judging panels on the competitions I enter are made up of outstanding photographers, publishers, and conservation leaders, so if something I do catches their eye it really means a lot to me. I’m super excited to have one of my photographs on exhibit in the Smithsonian this year, as that was a goal for me for a few years now. Of course, when I’m in the field I’m just focused on spending time with wildlife and enjoying nature while creating the best imagery I can. Mostly I work at crafting images for print, which means I’m choosing a certain look or composition that tells the story I want to tell. Sometimes when I’m going through my images from a trip with my dad, one or two might stand out and we’ll consider submitting them to a competition down the road.
How have your skills as a photographer developed or changed over the past year since we last chatted?
That’s a tough question because I’m always trying to become a better photographer and student of nature. Looking back, I guess one thing I’ve really worked on this year has been thinking about how I want the final image or print to look before I even start taking pictures of an animal. In fact, sometimes I’m thinking about it before I even head out because it helps me decide if I want to photograph a certain species in the rain, or at dusk, or try and backlight them in the morning light.
Once I’m in the field I still have to adjust to what’s happening, but I’m paying more attention to what angles I photograph from and the settings and composition I choose—being really deliberate in crafting the image I have in mind. My first few years photographing wildlife, I was just excited to see an animal and get a good picture of it. I’m still just as excited to be with wildlife, but I think I’m a lot more intentional now about the art I’m trying to create.
(continued) Another thing I’ve noticed is I’m getting better at spotting animals while I’m out. Whether that means tracking down a grouse I heard drumming in the forest, or spotting signs that a bear or ungulate has just moved through the area, or identifying what kind of a bird made that flicker of movement in a tree, I’m working hard at noticing little clues in nature that help me find the animals I want to photograph.
You have a long career ahead of you, but for now: what’s next?
We’re just entering the best time of the year to find and photograph a lot of my favorite animals in the Rockies, so I’ll be out with my lenses in search of pikas, marmots, bears, hummingbirds, waterfowl, owls, and other critters for most of June and July. By August I start looking for bull moose, and then we’re into the elk and deer ruts and my favorite, the bighorn rut. I’m also spending more time at the Wildlife Art Gallery my family operates in the Crowsnest Pass, and I really enjoy talking with collectors and guests that come in and want to hear the stories behind our print releases.
This fall my dad and sister and I are speaking at a wildlife photography convention in Ontario, so I’m excited to share some of the things I’ve learned about photography and animals with other photographers and to get to photograph with them in a new part of the country for me. I hope to have more opportunities to share my photography and stories from the field in the future.
I hope I continue to grow in my photography this year and throughout my career. I really want to create images that help people connect with the animals I’m photographing and see them in a new way.