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Urban Wildlife

This assignment ran from Nov 8 to Nov 30, 2015.

The term wildlife brings to mind an image of a charismatic creature in pristine nature, and most of us associate wildlife photography with capturing images in the wild. So did I, until I was forced to challenge this idea during my stint in a research laboratory. It was this confined phase that made me explore the backyard, the garden, and even the lake in my city. That is when the real meaning of "wildlife photography" struck home.

Urban wildlife is defined as wildlife that can live or thrive in urban environments. By this definition, isn’t the butterfly in our garden, the mantis in our backyard, and the bird chirping outside our window part of wildlife? If we take a closer look, we're all surrounded by wildlife sharing space with us in our urban environment. The challenge is to find a new perspective. It's to highlight the ignored and ignore the routine. It is when the photography becomes more than the gear or the subject—it becomes completely about the perspective. It's about how a photographer sees a subject in its surrounding habitat.

In this assignment I want you to explore your backyards, gardens, parks, lakes, garbage dumps, and any other place that has wildlife inside your city and, with images, bring back a completely fresh perspective of urban wildlife for us. Show us coexistence, adaptations, positive and negative interactions, and any other relations that wildlife shares with the urban environment. The images submitted in this assignment should be technically perfect, as the quality of the images is as important as what you're photographing. The images should NOT be more than five years old and should clearly show that they are from urban environments, with an adjoining story in the form of a well-written and descriptive caption. Fresh perspectives of wildlife from captive environments such as zoos and animal sanctuaries are welcome, but images of pets and domesticated animals are prohibited and will be disqualified.

So use this opportunity and photograph those ants, raptors, chipmunks, raccoons, and mountain lions that walk inside your city.

This assignment ends on November 30, 5PM EST.

Curated by:

Prasenjeet Yadav
Photographer & National Geographic Explorer
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

    Completed assignments—with our favorite photos included—will be published online. Learn more.
  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Dec 11, 2015.
Thank you for your contributions!

Thank you

Posted nov 29, 2015

The Urban Wildlife assignment has been extended to Monday, November 30th, 5PM EST!

The last two weeks were really exciting for me as I spent most of my time looking at your ‘Shots’. Frankly speaking, such a huge response to this assignment was unexpected and I am thankful to all of you for being part of this challenge and for making it big. What I really appreciate is that besides some photos being from the archive, some images were created specifically for this assignment. There are more than 13,000 entries so far, that signifies more than 13,000 instances when people spotted and documented wildlife in their backyard which is very cool.

Your images brought out some amazing examples of interactions and adaptations of wildlife in an urban environment and I am looking forward to highlighting those in the final story. While curating these images, I personally learnt a lot about the wildlife around the world and would like to thank you all for that.

What I enjoyed the most is the engagement with the entire community in the discussion section. Your enthusiasm and passion has been very visible in your comments and discussions. It was very heartwarming to see how you all patiently helped each other. This is of great help to all the newcomers and I hope this process of helping each other continues, this is what makes this forum Your Shot.

Stay tuned for the final story and good luck to all of you.

Considering Zoos

Posted nov 23, 2015

Once again I am overwhelmed by the huge response to this assignment and the appreciation that has been shown. It has been highly gratifying to see so many of you engaging so keenly with this challenge. A lot of the questions in the discussion section have been regarding zoos and why they're part of this assignment. I would like to address this issue here.

Most of us have visited zoos at some point in our lives. As kids, it was exciting and fun, but as we grew older it became a bit disappointing. Seeing those animals caged is not a good sight for anyone. The thought that most of these animals will remain captive forever is disturbing. Unfortunately, some zoos are not well maintained and animals suffer in small, confined spaces. Yes, animals do live a longer life in zoos, but studies have shown that animals are stressed when kept in a captive environment.

Having said that, I still think well-maintained zoos have an educational purpose and should exist. I certainly do not favor capturing animals from the wild to keep them in zoos, but there are already thousands of animals around the world that are bred in captivity and cannot be rehabilitated. Zoos are ideal places to create awareness about animals and are probably the first exposure to wildlife for many kids. Not everyone has the time or resources to visit a wildlife park, and that's where zoos play a vital role. They generate curiosity, impart knowledge, and at the same time act as buffers to the wildlife parks.

Animals present in zoos are not domesticated, they are captive—a bit habituated, but wild. The main reason behind including images from zoos in this assignment was to bring out both the positive and negative aspects of zoos. To make people understand and explore zoos and know how these animals survive in captive environments. I think you have done a wonderful job in bringing up these issues, and I would like to highlight some of those with example images here:

These are two wonderful examples depicting the life of animals in a captive environment. A nice story along with a balanced composition made these images stand out for me.

Photograph by Stanislava Ilarionova

Photograph by Renee Perran

This is a perfect example of getting creative and frame abstract shots of animals in captive environment.. I kept looking at this image for a while to completely absorb it.

Photograph by Wout S.

One of the most powerful images that I have come across so far is this. Wonderful compostion with a brilliant message of enlightenment. A good example of positive aspect of zoos.

Photograph by Justin Carrasquillo

Keep up the great work and good luck as we close this assignment on Nov 30, 5PM EST

Wildlife and Beyond

Posted nov 12, 2015

I must say that I am really amazed by the huge response that this assignment is getting. I am glad that you are enjoying this challenge and sharing all of your incredible images with us. I think there is some confusion about what counts as “urban wildlife” and what I am looking for in this assignment, so I would like to take this chance to clarify some points here.

To start, domestic cats, dogs, cows, goats, and others do not qualify as wildlife. The domesticated dog is a result of hundreds of years of human training, so even stray dogs are excluded from this assignment. (Exceptions are the Australian dingo and New Guinea singing dog, which are accepted as wildlife if they are not pets.) In the case of small cats, it’s a little difficult to draw this line. There is lot of ambiguity between wild and domestic cats due to hybridization. To make things simple, I would exclude all domestic and stray cats from this assignment. Having said that, if you have an image of a free-ranging cat that you strongly consider as wildlife, you can submit it with a justification as why it should be considered.

I am not rigid about the definition of rural and urban settings. As long as the image is taken within the boundaries of human settlements and not inside a wildlife park, the image will be considered for this assignment.

Once the image meets the above criteria, it will be evaluated for the following:
• Composition—To me, this is the relative placement of different elements in the image and how they complement each other. One suggestion as you continue with your submissions: Please take a step back before you frame an image for this assignment. Throw urban or human elements into the image when you compose it.
• Lighting—Beautiful and unconventional use of light makes an image interesting, be it natural or studio lighting. Use lighting to your advantage to create an aesthetically beautiful image.
• Creativity—The best way to stand out is to be creative. Show us how you see wildlife in an urban environment, how wildlife sees you in an urban environment. Be simple but creative.
• Story—I think we are all learning something about the wildlife in our backyards in this assignment. We all are curious and want to know more about the story behind your image. Please share that, too!

Remember that these points are not mutually exclusive; all these elements together will make winning images.

Last but not the least, the images should follow all the Your Shot guidelines to be considered as an entry. In this particular assignment, there is also a temporal deadline, so the image should not be older than five years from the day the assignment started. This rule applies even for the editors’ favorites and for the final published story. If your image does not give EXIF preview information, I would request you to mention the year and date it was taken in the image description.

Once again, I would like to compliment you all on the beautiful images that you have contributed so far. I am looking forward to all the entries to come. If you have more questions, you can find me in the discussion section.

Prasenjeet Yadav

Prasenjeet Yadav

Photographer & National Geographic Explorer
Prasenjeet Yadav is a molecular ecologist turned photographer and a National Geographic Explorer. Early in his scientific career, he realized that his real passion lay in storytelling. He now combines his research experience with his photography skills to tell stories about science, exploration, and conservation. Under his explorer's project, he produced a story on the evolution of species in the Shola Skyislands of the Western Ghats. He is represented by National Geographic Creative and is currently working on a film about the Skyislands of India.