Greater Victoria resident Peter Koelbleitner snapped this photo of a sea lion and her pup sleeping on a beach in the Galapagos Islands. Koelbleitner was awarded first place in the mammals category for the image as part of the Lion's Gate Celebration of Nature Photographic Competition.

Greater Victoria resident Peter Koelbleitner snapped this photo of a sea lion and her pup sleeping on a beach in the Galapagos Islands. Koelbleitner was awarded first place in the mammals category for the image as part of the Lion's Gate Celebration of Nature Photographic Competition.

Photographer wins top prize at prestigious competition

Standing on an island in the Galapagos, Peter Koelbleitner had an interaction with wildlife that he’s never experienced before.

Standing on an island in the Galapagos, Peter Koelbleitner had an interaction with wildlife that he’s never experienced before.

During a day-long excursion, which involved jumping between a number of islands via boat while on vacation in theGalapagos in the Pacific Ocean, Koelbleitner eventually ended up on a beach surrounded by roughly two dozen sea lions.

Koelbleitner was standing under the warmth of the sun, when a curious sea lion pup waddled over to Koelbleitner andrested his head on his sandals. He fell asleep for about 10 seconds on his feet and then waddled back to his mother whowas sleeping a few yards away.

In that moment, Koelbleitner pulled out his camera, walked over and snapped a photo of the sleeping sea lion and her pup.

“The animals absolutely are not afraid of human beings. You normally see sea lions in pictures or from a distance, veryseldom do you have a chance to stand over them and shoot straight down,” said, Koelbleitner, who has been taking photographs since he inherited his first camera roughly 60 years ago.

“They weren’t bothered at all You have to watch out that you don’t step on them. It was fascinating.”

It was that photo that recently earned Koelbleitner first place in the mammals category of the Lion’s Gate Celebration ofNature Photographic Competition.

The 11th annual competition, which is one of the premiere natural history contests in the province, is open to camera clubsand photographic societies. This year there were more than 220 entries from 28 clubs from B.C. and the Yukon.

Photographers James Kissinger won second place in the mammals category and third place in the best in show category,with a photo of a grizzly bear and her cub wandering the Tundra, and Neil Boyle picked up honourable mention in themammals category with his photo of a vampire bat.

The Victoria Camera Club also came in first place in the competition overall, with eight entries from local photographers,including Margarita Huang, Suzanne Huot, Carrie Cole, Leah Gray and Hanna Cowpe.

In the past, the club has finished in the top six, however, this is the first time it has claimed the top spot.

“That was amazing. The talent we have in our club, it’s amazing,” said Koelbleitner, whose photograph also took secondplace in the best in show category.

The Victoria Camera Club was founded in 1944, as a result of a union between the Victoria Photographic Society and theCivil Service Camera Club. Currently, the club has 250 members, who participate in weekly meetings, outings andworkshops to advance their photography skills.

To view the club’s award-winning images visit victoriacameraclub.ca.