Southern Alberta 12-year-old recognized internationally for wildlife photography

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Southern Alberta 12-year-old starring in photography
A 12-year-old southern Albertan is proving to be one of the top young photographers on the planet. Matt Battochio reports – Nov 9, 2017

Thursday morning on a trail just west of Blairmore, Alta., John Launstein and his 12-year-old son Josiah walk with snow crunching beneath their feet. This isn’t their usual spot, but they’ve been here before.

“I think I saw something up ahead,” Josiah said to his dad.

They continue on. These walks and hikes are regular habit for the two. Josiah carries a camera while his dad has a tripod hung over his shoulder.

They know this is a good spot to photograph birds and they headed out Thursday hoping to see a few feathers on their short excursion.

“I really love being out in the wilderness and I love these animals,” Josiah said.

Josiah and his dad didn’t capture any images they were pleased with on Thursday’s walk, mainly because a Global News television crew was tagging along. But the pair often finishes their trips with a good selection of photos. Even though he is only 12 years old, Josiah is often the one bringing home the gems.

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“Right out of the gate he was doing some pretty good work,” John said with a smile. “At age seven he was taking pictures he shouldn’t have been able to take.”

Josiah started wildlife photography when he was seven, and ever since he picked up a camera, he’s been not just a natural, but a phenom.

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Many of his photos have been featured in magazines and museums. He’s even been named the international Young Outdoor Photographer of the Year.

His photographs earned Josiah a trip to Thailand where he did a feature with Nikon.

“I had lots of fun there. It was way too hot though,” Josiah said with a laugh.

Even in the heat, Josiah was able to snap a photo of a monkey moth caterpillar. The image earned him the prestigious honour of being awarded in the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition — the only Canadian to do so.

Josiah Launstein’s photo of a monkey moth caterpillar which earned him a finalist award in the 11-14 category of the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Josiah Launstein

“It was just so cool as a dad and a photography mentor to see his mind working,” John said. “Starting with a concept and then get down and find the angle to silhouette this caterpillar and figure out how to use the limitations of his equipment to get the job done.”

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Josiah’s talent isn’t by chance — his three sisters, mom and dad all share a love for wildlife and the arts.

“Oh yeah! It’s definitely a family affair,” laughed John. “It really wasn’t designed that way though, we did not coerce our kids into wildlife photography. It happened pretty naturally.

“My wife and I are wilderness and wildlife nuts. So my kids, from birth onwards, experienced being in the wilderness.”

The family’s work is showcased in their two wildlife photography stores in Blairmore and Waterton.

Looking through a photo gallery in Blairmore, John half-jokingly said to his son, “we can’t help it if yours [photos] keep selling out, eh.”

It’s a unique family bond — they share the same passion and have the chance to experience the same moments and memories.

“We have a definite blessing. We get to share so many remarkable experiences,” John said. “Even in our own backyard, we’ll spot a fox coming through and we’ll jump out together. It’s pretty cool to do it together.”

Here’s a list of a few of Josiah’s awards:

  • Youngest ever to be named international Young Outdoor Photographer of the Year in 2014 (age 10)
  • Only Canadian to be awarded in 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year
  • Two images awarded in 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year
  • Awarded in 2017 Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice International Photography Awards
  • Awarded in 2016 Bird Photographer of the Year
  • Awarded in 2017 Bird Photographer of the Year

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