Alan Poelman from Atikokan, Ontario has been awarded the prestigious title of “Canadian Photographer of the Year 2022” and the grand prize of $5,000 by Canadian Geographic, the magazine of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. One of his submitted images—a lynx staring straight at the camera—has caught national media attention.
More than 6,400 photography entries were submitted from which 12 images were selected as the best in four categories: Epic Landscapes, Wildlife in Action, City Life and Weather, Seasons and Sky. This year’s judges were the magazine’s editorial and design staff, Canadian Geographic photographer-in-residence Scott Forsyth, wildlife photographer Mark Raycroft and Weather Network’s Kim MacDonald.
According to Canadian Geographic, the title of Canadian Photographer of the Year 2022 was to be awarded to a single photographer for outstanding work submitted in any category in the competition who has submitted at least three images in the competition. Judges look for a photographer who demonstrates all-around excellence in their craft.
In a Canadian Geographic news release, editor-in-chief Alexandra Pope wrote “Great photography comes down to a combination of location, timing and skill. Each of the winning images tells a compelling story and is a testament to the talent and passion of our photographic community.”
In an email, Poelman wrote, “This was the first photo competition I’ve ever entered actually. There were multiple photos that I entered and the competition was gauged on all of them, not just the lynx photo.”
For his lynx image, he used a Sony a9ii with a 200-600 mm lens. “The lynx was encountered during a spring time cruise down the backroads of Atikokan. It leaped across the road and laid nicely in the cedar trees as I took pictures of it for some time. The lynx was just an amazing encounter—not typical.”
Poelman, who is a therapist/manager at the Atikokan General Hospital, has been doing photography for several years as a hobby, and a means to unwind and be present. He began to take photography more seriously while attending Algoma University and has spent hours practicing with the camera and watching YouTube tutorials. Today, his images have been used across Canada, including tourism boards in Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
While his wildlife and landscape photos have brought Poelman national recognition, he actually likes taking images of urban environments. “I think it is because I don’t often get to photograph city life that makes it appealing to me. Something fun and different.”
When I asked about his creative process, Poelman told me, “I’m not too sure really. I spend hours editing down to the slightest detail, but try to make the images as natural and vibrant as I possibly can—it’s a process that often gets overlooked.”
His advice for beginning photographers? “The biggest tip I could give is to be analytical. Find photos that you like and try to dissect what makes them good, then use your own techniques/style and combine what you’ve learned to put into practice.”