For most photographers, the sinking sun signals the end of the shooting day. The ISO rises, noise increases, and the attainment of crisp, clean images becomes less and less likely. But Connor Stefanison remains undaunted. “Shooting at dusk and at night are some of my favourite times to shoot,” says Stefanison, and sure enough, his dark endeavours have yielded some of his most treasured images. “It takes a bit of time to get used to night photography, but once you learn how to set up the camera, it isn’t too much more difficult than daytime shooting.” The 24-year-old was recently named the winner of the Rising Star Portfolio Award, given to an emerging photographer between the ages of 18 and 25, as part of the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. The major annual contest, run by London’s Natural History Museum, received over 42,000 entries from 96 countries this year.
Stefanison didn’t pick up a camera until his late teens, and as a lover of mountain biking, was soon enveloped in sports photography—which was followed closely by an appreciation for the B.C. wilderness. “I’ve been fishing the interior lakes my entire life, so once I began photography, I already knew of so many great locations for wildlife photography up there,” says the Burnaby native. As Stefanison’s infatuation with the medium grew, his identity as a photographer blossomed in tandem. He now wields a Canon 5D Mark II, a EOS-1D Mark IV, and a Fujifilm X100T in his adventures, acknowledging that unfortunately, as a wildlife photographer, digital is the only practical option. “I will say that my absolute favourite photographic look is from the discontinued Kodachrome slide film,” he says. “It’s a real shame that it’s not available anymore.”
On the first of a few quiet evenings that Stefanison had set aside for shooting, he spied a mountain goat bedded down underneath a bright, clear night sky. Without using his headlamp, he secured a vantage point and took multiple test shots before pressing his shutter and holding his breath for the 25-second exposure. “The toughest part of making this image was composing it—a lot of guesswork was involved,” he explains. The flash fired, the shutter snapped closed, and Stefanison ended up with one of his favourite images to date—Night of the Mountain Goats—a shot that helped him earn his Rising Star accolade.
Stefanison remains guided by the lessons he’s learned as a young photographer: he likes to stay local and be honest, and he tries not to worry about what he thinks others want to see. “Of course, like most photographers,” he admits sheepishly, “the ultimate goal is National Geographic.” Already riddled with critical acclaim, for Stefanison it’s clearly a question of when rather than if.
Photos courtesy of Connor Stefanison.