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The key to capturing wildlife images? Patience, says Canadian Geographic’s Photographer of the Year

Windsor, Ont.-born photographer Brandon Broderick drives tens of thousands of kilometres each year, crisscrossing the backwoods of British Columbia and capturing photos of beautiful, but elusive, wild animals.  

All of that hard work paid off this week when Broderick was named the Canadian Geographic’s Photographer of the Year for 2023. 

“My knees buckled. I almost fell to the floor. It was quite an email to receive,” said Broderick, 37. “When I got that email that said I won the whole thing, that was surreal. It still doesn’t feel real. It’s a really weird situation to be in. I’m not used to this.”

Brandon Broderick was named the Canadian Geographic Photographer of the Year for 2023. (Brandon Broderick)

Broderick has spent the last 14 years living and working in B.C. and is currently based in Tumbler Ridge, though he often spends time travelling in search of the perfect shot.

In last year’s Canadian Geographic photography competition, he was a runner-up in the landscapes category. 

He said he knew he was a finalist this year about a week before he got the news he’d won. But given the photos they had picked were wildlife shots, he thought he had won in the “wildlife in action” category. 

A bear in a foggy field
Broderick, who shot this bear photo, says he practises ethical wildlife photography, which means making sure his presence and behaviour doesn’t impact animals. (Brandon Broderick)

“Every year, our team is blown away by the talent and passion of our photography community,” said Alexandra Pope, editor in chief of Canadian Geographic. “Although they all portray different locations and subjects, these images have one thing in common: they made us stop and say, ‘Wow.'”

Broderick said he started taking photos in 2007, and he and a few friends began using them as computer backgrounds as he honed in on wildlife photography. 

“It’s a great way to spend time and, you know, do as a living now,” he said. 

Wildlife photography can take plenty of patience, he said. Depending on the kind of photo he hopes to capture, he can sit in the same spot all day. For others, he’ll drive — at least 40,000 kilometres a year — looking for animals. 

“That allows me to cover lots of ground because these animals can move quick — their job is to just feed. If I’m just sitting somewhere and hoping for the best, I need to know that my time is spent well in that spot,” he said. 

A handful of mountain goats on a hill
Mountain goats photographed by Broderick. (Submitted by Brandon Broderick)

“So I like to just keep moving and and cover ground, especially now that there’s finally snow on the ground. I can track animals better … that’s how I do it.”

Broderick said he practises ethical wildlife photography, which means making sure his presence and behaviour doesn’t impact animals. When it does, he said it’s time to leave. 

Of the photos that won him the award, Broderick looks back on the one of the lynx — one of the times, he said, when he knew “there’s something really good coming.” He said he had about five or 10 minutes with the animal, which seems quick — but for a lynx, it’s a lot of time. 

“I pulled over and sat in my truck for a bit, just kind of watching what it did. It had moved into the forest and kind of started paralleling the highway,” he said. “It was really thick, thick forest, but eventually it came to this little … snowy, mossy-covered piece of dirt, and just sat there and stared at me for a bit.

“Every once in a while, one, you know, in the moment, you know you’re getting something good.”

Two crows in the snow
Broderick says photographing wildlife, like these birds, takes plenty of patience. (Brandon Broderick)

He said he would love to photograph wolverines and polar bears. In fact, he said, last weekend he missed wolverines by about six hours. 

“I know I have a zero per cent chance of seeing anything if I’m sitting at home, so I just try to put the time in,” he said. “A lot of people ask me how to find stuff, and you just have to go out and spend time out there.”

Broderick’s photographer of the year feature will be in the March/April issue of Canadian Geographic, available later this week.

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