Interview with the Photoion Awards 2016 first place winner – Dolores Mateo

One of the best things about releasing these award books is learning more about our students. Finding out what pushes them to pursue photography, and how they got started on their journey is always fascinating. This year we sat down with our 1st place winner, Dolores, to learn about their photography journey.

Why did you pick up photography Dolores? How did you fall in love with it?

Like most of the best things in life, I truly do not know why my love story with photography happened, it just happened and it caught me by surprise! At a time when I felt a strong need to learn how to create beauty, I found myself with an entry-level DSLR in my hands. I have always loved nature and a recent visit to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition inspired me on how little you need from Mother Nature to create beauty. I put the two things together and a new passion was born.

How long have you been practising photography?

I cannot believe it is just over one and a half years since I first held a DSLR at the beginners’ course with Photoion in September 2015.  I had never taken meaningful pictures before and did not really have an artistic sense or photographic eye. The Photoion beginners’ course was truly eye opening and it only left me wanting to practice and learn more. I learnt the basic technical aspects of photography and most importantly as Ion says, I learnt how to “take pictures with my eyes”. This means knowing how to look at me and be able to know how my surroundings would look through the lens and how to play with the light. I have not stopped since.

Is there a particular photographer whom you find inspiring? (They don’t have to be famous)  

My most inspirational photographer is Marina Cano who achieved finalist status at the Wildlife Photographer Competition in 2015. I love how her images capture feelings as well as beauty. She stands out in the male crowd of professional wildlife photographers and is remarkably bold and determined.

However, my daily inspiration is nature itself and its amazing creatures. I love the uniqueness of each moment with light and elements combined in a way that will never be repeated. If you blink you might miss the shot!

Is there one picture in the world (taken by you or someone else) that truly makes you think – that’s why I’m doing this, that’s why I’m learning this?

I have to pick two, one mine and one from someone else.

There is one picture that told me “look at what you can find around you, go and get it!”. That was “The mouse, the moon and the mosquito” by Alexander Badyaev. This image was the winner in the mammal’s category on Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014. I remember walking into the exhibition and being drawn to the image which was pure simplicity turned into beauty. There was no need to travel the world or shoot with super expensive zoom lenses, beauty could be hiding in our back gardens. There is something I did not know at the time and I know now: this image combines flashlight with “magic hour” light. That is technology shaking hands with nature!

The other picture is my “Zebra” (the winning image). I took this picture when I had been into photography for less than 6 months. I had been left by myself at the end of a photography workshop in Cabarceno Nature Park and I was looking at a group of zebras, working out what to do with the scarce post- sunset light and their mesmerising stripes. I looked through the viewfinder and everything I had learnt from my teachers came together. Suddenly, I knew what I wanted and I knew how to get it. Almost instinctively, I adjusted my focal length, held my breath and clicked the shutter. There was no need to crop and no need for more than minimal post processing. My zebra has a preferential wall in my living room. It reminds me every day that we can achieve anything we want if we put our heart to it.

If you could capture an image of anyone, past or present, who would you choose, and what type of image would you take? And why?

I would like to capture an intimate moment of animal behaviour that has not been photographed or even observed before. By intimate, I do not mean of sexual nature, but the kind of interaction that happens privately and