The Royal Photographic Society Associateship Distinction award (ARPS) – September 2013

On a more postive note – I received an e-mail last week from the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) in the United Kingdom (UK) informing me that my panel of 15 images was accepted for their Associateship Distinction award (ARPS). I received the award after the first round (1st application) with the assistance of my wife (who received her ARPS award  earlier this year) who assisted me with the selection of the 15 images as well as the introductory statement.


Just a bit of background information on the honours award – quoted from the RPS documentation:

The Associateship is the second level of The Society’s Distinctions and is a significant step up from the first level, the Licentiateship. Whilst in the Licentiateship we are looking for a basic competence and skill, to be successful at Associateship level you need to provide evidence of creative ability and the development of a personal style. You also need to be able to show that you are in complete control of the technical aspects which allows you to produce quality which is entirely ‘fit for purpose’ i.e. it suits the subject. Your work should be consistent and make a statement of a strong personal style. A high standard of presentation is expected.”


I decided not to apply for the Licentiateship honours but apply directly for the Associateship honours which is allowed. When you apply for the honours award, you need to submit your work in one of the several categories – so I decided to submit my panel in the Natural history category. Here are some of the requirements for the mentioned category:

This category covers any of the various branches of natural history, including zoology, botany, meteorology, astronomy and palaeontology. Each image should be correctly identified and, as well as your statement of intent, you should include with your application a list in the order of presentation, with both a common name and a scientific name. In general, subjects should be free and unrestricted, in a natural or adopted habitat, although in some circumstances, subjects photographed under controlled conditions may be permissible. No kind of manipulation that alters the truth of the photographic statement is permissible, except for the removal of minor distractions or blemishes. Your panel should fit your statement and provide clear evidence of a genuine interest and involvement in this type of photography. Each individual subject should be shown in an illustrative way, which is of interest to a well-informed naturalist, but should be
clearly seen to be relevant to the submission as a whole. It should at the very least accurately depict what the subject looks like, although it might, to your advantage, show some aspect of its life-cycle or behavioural pattern as well. If you are submitting prints, you should present them so that they appear coherent and visually well-balanced in terms of subject matter, print size, format, colour, contrast and mounting. A submission of prints displayed in an unplanned, haphazard manner is unlikely to impress. Your submission should demonstrate that:
i) you are able to produce consistently sharp and correctly exposed pictures, with image sizes appropriate to the subjects being shown.
ii) you have the ability to control depth of field in such a way that all your images have backgrounds appropriate to the type of
subject being shown; whether that subject is being depicted in close-up or within the wider context of a particular habitat.
iii) you have a good understanding of how to use light effectively, whether natural or artificial.”


The last comment from the RPS documentation:

“Your submission should be of a consistent standard throughout and of a high technical standard, as well as providing evidence of creative ability and the development of a personal style. The way you present your portfolio is equally important – the Panels expect a high standard of presentation.”


After reviewing my portfolio of images of the past three years, I decided to use the wildlife to be found on the riverside of the Chobe River as my theme for my ARPS panel. I already visited the Chobe River four times with Lou, Veronica and Henri Coetzer (on their specially designed photography boat) and I do have a wide variety of images.  It was so difficult to decide which images to include in the panel and in which order to put them. I was a bit worried about some of the images (e.g. Image #7, #8 & #15) because it was not my top 15 images. The reason for not selecting my top 15 images was because the requirements for this honours panel – it is a panel and it should not just be 15 different images putting together. All the images were taken from the Coetzer’s boat on the Chobe River.

Here is my introductory statement:



The names of the animals/birds in my panel:


And then the panel – in order it was presented to the judges:



1. Hippo yawn 1 W_____________________________________________________________________


2 Hippo playtime 4 W_____________________________________________________________________


4 Grey headed gull dropping fish W_____________________________________________________________________


24. African darter with fish in air_____________________________________________________________________


5 Fish eagle in full W_____________________________________________________________________


7 Fish eagle landing ground W_____________________________________________________________________


02. African jacana sprinter_____________________________________________________________________


Jacana with eggs 1 1080 800k 300d sRGB noise 2 W_____________________________________________________________________


Pied kingfisher with fish 2_____________________________________________________________________


Malachite kingfisher with fish 1024 500k 72d sRGB W_____________________________________________________________________


12 Little erget flying W_____________________________________________________________________


Yellow bill stork flying_____________________________________________________________________


11 Lapwing with butterfly W_____________________________________________________________________


Elephant mudd bath 4_____________________________________________________________________


Elephant pair


Message to take home:

Posting my images of my panel, I was thinking of something I’ve learned during my three years as a wildlife photographer. During my first few visits to parks/nature conservation areas, I just wanted to see and capture the Big Five. Then I realise there is more than just the Big Five in nature. Then I decided: “Think outside the box when it comes to wildlife photography” – which was not very easy for me.  When you are out in the field, forget about the salons and judges – remind yourself not just to think what the judges want to see and taking images for the judges. Try to see what nature has to offer – the smaller interesting things in life – and capture those images as well. The smaller things right next to our car or hide – often those are the WOW images. Do not try to get a close-up shot every time. It is important to consider taking photos to show the reader the animal/bird in its nature environment. More important – ENJOY while you are doing it.


Until next time – be on the lookout for the smaller things in life and keep on shooting!!!





  1. #1 by on September 18, 2013 - 6:47 am

    Dear Willem,

    Beautiful images and a very right message; in the end it’s all about enjoyment of nature, of the moment itself. Congratulations on the award!

    Looking forward seeing more…


  2. #2 by bessie on September 18, 2013 - 2:10 pm

    If you are good…….you are good! Congratulations.

  3. #3 by Willem on September 26, 2013 - 2:54 am

    Hi Bessie & Maurice, thanks for the kind words

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