Author of the article: Howard May
Publishing date: Jan 27, 2023
Photo by: Jo-Anne Oucharek
After eight hours of waiting for the lives of a bear and a salmon to intersect at Brook Falls, Alaska last fall, Jo-Anne Oucharek pushed the shutter on her camera at – she hoped – the exact moment she had visualized.
The float plane that was there to pick her up along with her best friend and fellow photographer Jacquie Matechuk was leaving in five minutes to bring them back to camp when the sought-after “Yes!” moment fell into place.
The fish jumped, the bear’s jaws opened, and the shutter was released, all at the same instant.
“I thought ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe that just happened,’” the Cochrane-based wildlife photographer said.
Although she wasn’t sure at the time if she’d captured it or not, she found out last week she had bagged the Best of Nation Award in the World Photographic Cup (WPC).
Reflecting on the moment the shutter was pushed, Oucharek said she had been visualizing a certain photo for some time before it actually took place.
“It was all day, waiting for that image,” she said.
So out of all the photographs in the competition in all categories (not just nature) her shot of the Alaskan brown bear in Katmai National Park was named the top photograph in Canada.
Oucharek was surprised by a visit from her son Mitchell on Jan. 23, who showed up unannounced at her home with his girlfriend and a bottle of champagne to watch the announcement on a Zoom call with photographers from around the world.
The usually reticent Oucharek had to be told by her son that this was a big deal.
“You made it on Team Canada, c’mon, give yourself some credit,” he said.
All the Team Canada members on the Zoom call sported Canadian colours, waving flags and cheering each other on. The WPC has been likened to the Olympic Games for photographers.
“It was a fun night,” Oucharek said.
Just like athletes in the Olympics, the team aspect and the camaraderie and support were what stood out in Oucharek’s mind.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for a photographer in every genre, to be part of that,” she said.
Photographers and judges from 32 countries and five continents have been involved in the weeding-out process for months.
In Canada, entrants from B.C. to Newfoundland submitted photos. From those, 24 were selected in eight categories to enter into the world-wide competition.
Oucharek isn’t preoccupied with laurels.
“It’s what I love to do. I get to be out in nature and see amazing things. And every once in a while, you get that shot and go ‘Wow,’” she said.
Oucharek offers a one-on-one course she calls Photography 101 for novice shutterbugs looking to understand their cameras betters. To learn more about the offering, go to natureinmybackyard.ca
“It’s what I love to do. I get to be out in nature and see amazing things. And every once in a while, you get that shot and go – Wow”
The brown bears in Katmai National Park in Alaska have some mad fishing skills. Only the dominant bears fish at the top of the falls, and this mama bear was fierce. Not only did she hold this prime spot, but she was also teaching her cub fishing techniques. After eight hours of waiting, and with the float plane ready to leave, the fish jumped, the bear’s jaws opened, and the shutter was released, all at the same instant – literally the last image of the day in Brooks Falls.
The ‘Best of Nation’ is awarded to the top scoring image from each Nation participating in the World Photographic Cup.