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Canon Explorers win awards in photo competitions

Canon Explorers win awards in photo competitions

© Alessandra Meniconzi

January 2013

Two Canon Explorers – Markus Varesvuo and Alessandra Meniconzi – have won awards in recent major photographic competitions. Finland’s Varesvuo has won first place in the Vogelwarte Sempach Awards, a competition for bird photographers held every year in Switzerland, while Swiss-born Meniconzi scooped Gold, Silver and ‘Jury Choices’ medals in the International Global Arctic Awards.

© Markus Varesvuo

Markus Varesvuo’s winning image of a Fieldfare in the 2012 Vogelwarte Sempach awards. Taken on a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II with an EF500mm f/4L IS USM lens; the exposure was 1/250sec at f/4, ISO 500.

Both competitions were hotly contested and Canon photographers featured prominently in the winners and runners-up categories. In fact the top three in the Vogelwarte Sempach awards all used Canon equipment with Tomi Muukkonen (Finland) placed second and Thierry Chatagny (France) in third place.

Speaking of his success in the Vogelwarte Sempach awards, Markus Varesvuo told CPN: “I am honoured to have won. The Swiss Ornithological Institute in Sempach, near Zurich, Switzerland, does great work in conservation and promoting knowledge and awareness of birds. The competition is tough, and lasts a full year, with photographers entering three images every month. A monthly rating by the judges produces 10 winning images each month, and at the end of the year a jury selects the overall winners from the 120 images selected throughout the year.”

Varesvuo added: “It was exciting to follow the monthly competitions, and to see all the images that entered [in total, 5,685 photographs], and to see which ones pleased the judges. My year-long wait to see if one of my images got to the top was worth it!”

Varesvuo’s winning image – of a Fieldfare feeding on berries during snow – was taken on a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II with an EF500mm f/4L IS USM lens. Careful focusing, with the lens set to its widest aperture, meant that the lens’ extremely shallow depth-of-field could be used creatively to blur the background, yet still give the viewer enough information showing two other Fieldfares in the background, remarkably all looking the same way. “It’s all to do with timing!” laughed Varesvuo, as he reflected on his winning photograph.

Meniconzi’s Arctic success

Canon Explorer Alessandra Meniconzi recently made news with her success in the 2012 Travel Photographer of the Year Awards, winning the ‘New Talent Portfolio - Another World’ category, for her images of the Nenet people of Siberia, and finishing runner-up in the ‘Condé Nast Traveller Award - Celebration’ section for an essay on the holy town of Lalibela in Ethiopia.

© Alessandra Meniconzi

This image of huskies pulling a sledge won Alessandra Meniconzi a Gold medal in the Photographic Society of America (PSA) ‘Man and Nature’ section of the Global Arctic Awards. Taken on a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III with an EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens at 15mm; the exposure was 1/500sec at f/10, ISO 100.

Now her Arctic work has been recognised at the highest level in the Global Arctic Awards, with Gold and Silver medals being awarded in the Photographic Society of America (PSA) section of the awards for her images of the Nenet people.

Speaking to CPN, Meniconzi said of her success: “I am absolutely happy about this victory, as it is important for everyone around the world to see these pictures and be aware of the struggles that minority people face. Usually we focus on Arctic nature and wildlife and we forget that also people live there – and with climate change they face a lot of problems.”

Meniconzi explained: “I would travel by sledge or snowmobile through the tundra for up to 12 hours in minus 30 degree temperatures, but my cameras never let me down, I am pleased to say. I kept them warm in my backpack with hand warmers and in the Nenet tents, which were surprisingly warm! I’m so pleased to have been recognised with this victory – I dedicate it to the people of the Arctic!”

Biografia: Alessandra Meniconzi

Alessandra Meniconzi

Canon Explorer Alessandra Meniconzi is a documentary photographer from Switzerland. She has a fascination and strong respect for native people who live and work in the world’s most isolated regions and has recently devoted much effort in documenting the lives of the people in the Arctic circle.

Biografia: Markus Varesvuo

Markus Varesvuo

Born in Helsinki, Finland, Canon Explorer Markus Varesvuo has been fascinated with birds since childhood. He has now won himself a deserved reputation for the high quality of his photography, often sitting in remote hides in freezing temperatures for days at a time to get the perfect image.


Second place in the Vogelwarte Sempach awards went to Tomi Muukkonen of Finland for this image of a common Cuckoo. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens; the exposure was 1/2656sec at f/4, ISO 3200.