Fergus Kennedy photographs the Milky Way


World Photography Day 2020: celebrating the year’s highlights

Richard Shepherd
Richard Shepherd

Professional Product Marketing Senior Manager at Canon EMEA

World Photography Day offers the chance for us to celebrate the big developments in the photo world of the past 12 months. Despite the Covid-19 lockdown (and sometimes because of it), the past year has been packed with powerful and boundary-pushing photography that deserves to be celebrated. Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights.

A black-and-white self-portrait of a woman taken with a fisheye lens
Wanda Martin used lockdown to perfect her portrait techniques

1. Lockdown changed how photography was done

Lockdown rules severely limited how photography could be conducted, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Some photographers found ways to shoot remotely, such as Tim Dunk, who captured portraits of his clients by extracting still images from video calls. British Vogue swapped its usual cover models for scenes of nature, photographed by the likes of Martin Parr and Alasdair McLellan. There was a surge in socially distanced doorstep photography, with many pros taking to the streets to capture family groups who wanted a record of these unusual times. Others stepped away from shooting altogether and sought new ways to pay the bills: selling prints, launching courses and offering new services – proving that the best freelance photographers are nothing if not adaptable.

2. The community came together

Covid-19 meant cancelled contracts and lost income for photographers around the globe. But the way the community came together, as it often does, was inspiring. Photographers quickly set up Slack channels and hashtags to give moral and practical support, and pros, photo clubs and societies shared everything from editing advice to portfolio reviews on video calls and social media. Innovative quarantine-friendly photo competitions even lightened the mood. Many Canon Ambassadors got in on the action, making videos to provide fellow shooters with inspiration and ways to stay creative while stuck at home. Meanwhile, the huge wave of fresh support for Black Lives Matter led to some incredible photojournalism documenting global protests, as well as trending hashtags and lists highlighting the work of black photographers.

Dafna Tal films one of the subjects of her video project
A Dafna Tal project combining stills and video

3. More photographers started shooting video

The trend for photographers to add video to their skillset has been growing for some time now, led both by technological improvements and the need to appeal to clients by offering a hybrid shooting business. Israeli creative artist Dafna Tal is increasingly recognised for her multifaceted installations mixing photography, video and sound, while wedding photographers Julia & Gil say they are receiving more and more requests from clients for video as well as photos. Helping creatives to deliver professional video is the rise of 8K tech, which means that even if your final footage will be in 4K, shooting in 8K gives you the ability to crop your shots and maintain the highest resolutions.

An aerial landscape of still turquoise waters dotted with islands
Ulla Lohmann says mirrorless is redefining her photography

4. The mirrorless revolution leapt forward

Another big story has been the rise of full-frame mirrorless cameras. What’s most exciting about these new devices is that photographers no longer have to compromise between speed and resolution: you can now genuinely have both. The veteran landscape and travel photographer David Noton told us how the ability to work in extremely low light and more spontaneously is changing the way he shoots, adventure photographer Ulla Lohmann described how improved image stabilization is helping her to redefine her technique, while enhanced face-tracking AF enabled fashion photographer Wanda Martin to achieve stunning results while photographing ballet dancers in Sicily.

Wings outstretched, a great grey owl swoops through the forest
Markus Varesvuo’s shot of a swooping great grey owl in flight

5. DSLRs thrived for action and wildlife

A source of hot debate among camera enthusiasts was mirrorless vs DSLR, with many (particularly wildlife and action) photographers keen to espouse the unique benefits of DSLRs in certain situations: a case of the right tool for the right job. The strengths of DSLRs in fast-paced shoots and challenging environments shone through in Markus Varesvuo’s twilight owl shots, among others.

6. Clearer skies offered new opportunities

A good thing to come out of lockdown was plane-free skies and a reduction in light pollution. This, in the year when Comet Neowise came to visit, meant photographers filled our social media feeds with breathtaking shots of the night sky. Pro photographer Fergus Kennedy has shot the stars from locations around the globe, and dazzled us with his astrophotography on the EOS Ra.

A surfer rides inside the barrel of a wave
Ben Thouard’s surf shoot with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

7. Action shooters upped the ante

We’ve seen some truly eye-popping action shots over the past 12 months. Surf photographer Ben Thouard captured an awe-inspiring sequence of images shot in Teahupo’o, Tahiti, the most dangerous break in the world; while Richard Walch captured phenomenal shots of wakesurfers at night, illuminated only by the glow of lit flares. Rugby World Cup and other exhilarating sporting fixtures captured our imaginations, with awards such as the British Sports Journalism photography awards celebrating the best images from those events. Indeed, even the tentative return to sport behind closed doors has led to some fascinating reimagined sports stories.

Three wild honeybees drink water
Ingo Arndt’s shot of honeybees drinking water on a hot day

8. Wildlife photographers gave us shock and awe

Whether it was thanks to concerns about climate change, brought into sharp focus by the Australian wildfires, or a yearning for nature while we were confined to our homes during lockdown, interest in wildlife photography has grown even more than ever over the past 12 months. Some incredible imagery included Marina Cano’s low-light shot of an elusive pangolin, Thorsten Milse’s night shots of ocelots and Tim Flach’s project capturing more than 50 bird species. Impressively, Ingo Arndt recorded never-seen-before bee behaviour and Audun Rikardsen even used his photo equipment to rescue a trapped whale. Not content with taking incredible shots, photographers from around the world, including Jonathan and Angela Scott, Brent Stirton, and Chris Packham have teamed up to create the New Big 5 project. This project celebrates wildlife by asking people to nominate their five favourite animal species, and raises awareness of endangered species by asking people to ‘shoot’ with cameras, not guns.

To my mind, what all this means is that while things might be tough right now, photography continues to inspire and bring joy. From wildlife to portraits, night skies to sports, over the past year we’ve seen photographers find new and exciting ways to capture the world. Over the next 12 months, as countries hopefully ease out of lockdown, we’re likely to see even more imaginative and wondrous images. And that really is something to celebrate.

Tiles of different Canon Ambassadors with their cameras

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