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When Deborah MacEwen submitted five nature images to Team Canada for the ninth annual World Photographic Cup, she didn’t imagine she would win a top award.
“Sometimes when you’re doing things like this, you do it, but you really don’t think for a moment that your image is going to stand out from so many others. But when it does, it’s just something amazing,” she said.
MacEwen, a fine art nature and wildlife photographer from Warman, won sixth place in the international team competition, which had submissions from 36 countries this year.
“I was pretty ecstatic. It was surreal. It was just a very surreal moment,” she said.
The award-winning photo, Coalescent, shows a whale surrounded by snow-covered mountains in the Icy Strait in Alaska. MacEwen said it was taken on the last whale-watching tour of the season. She waited nearly an hour to get that perfect shot.
“Of all the images I took that day, that’s the only one that was in front of the mountains like that … it just all came together as one — the mountains, the whale, the lighting, the colours, everything,” she said.
She felt honoured to be part of the team representing Canada and visit Rome for the award ceremony, MacEwen said.
“Just being on the team was probably the most exciting thing I’ve encountered in my photography journey … and to represent Canada. Of course, I was just beyond thrilled.”
Team Canada had three photographers place in the top 10, including Michelle Valberg from Ottawa, who took gold. The team finished seventh place overall, their third consecutive top-10 placement.
Two past recipients joined the team on the podium this year, finally receiving their medals after a two-year wait caused by the pandemic. Jacquie Matechuk won bronze in 2021 and Kristian Bogner won bronze in 2020. Both are from Alberta.
MacEwen has been working in photography for about 40 years. After receiving a camera as a gift, she started learning about the art and taking portraits.
“I was doing portraiture and weddings and everything for so many years. And the reason I was doing that is I love to give memories to people. That was what started it all for me,” she said.
From a young age, she knew she would be doing nature photography one day, she added.
“From the time I was 10 years old, I’d seen my first National Geographic magazine and in my heart, I just knew that’s something that I wanted to do … And seven years ago, I was able to start that journey.”
She said she hopes her photography shows her love for nature and encourages others to see the appeal.
“I love nature. I love wildlife. I respect nature. And I just hope that some of these images pass on the beauty of our world to people and that we can keep it,” she said.
The most memorable excursion her photography has taken her on was a trip to Africa.
“I always wanted to go to Africa and photograph the animals, and so we were there for five weeks. We did five different countries. And that was just amazing,” she said.
MacEwen said this award validates her craft for her. It has also opened a lot of doors.
“I’ve got some royalty deals on the go. I hope to do a book at some time point in the near future as well … It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said.
She also plans to keep taking nature photos and exploring, following that passion wherever it may take her.
“If I had any words of wisdom for any photographers going forward, it’s just to keep following your passion and keep believing, because you just never know where it’s going to take you.”
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