Every year for the last four years, CONABIO (National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity) has invited the public to participate in a nationwide photography contest celebrating Mexico’s extraordinary richness in flora, fauna and natural wonders.
This year, 9,566 photographs were entered by professional and amateur photographers hoping to win prize money of up to 25,000 pesos. Taking pride of place among this year’s finalists are Jalisco photographers Jesús “Chuy” Moreno and Alejandro Prieto.
Last week, the 73 best photographs were put on display at the Rejas de Chapultepec open-air gallery in Mexico City, where Moreno traveled to participate in a tour of the selected images.
During an introduction to the exhibit, Moreno elaborated on his photo of a tequila bat eating the pollen of an agave.
“When it comes to photography I’m something of a maniac,” he said. “I spend a lot of time to get to know the animal and its environment. What does it like to eat? What time does it arrive? I spent so much time working on this particular photo that the bats got used to me. They would fly behind me, in front, everywhere. Here I used a telescopic lens with a macro. I had my camera on a tripod with three or four flashes that went off at once. Half the night I was out there taking picture after picture, a lot of them! Only afterwards did I realize that the bat in this particular photograph was not drinking nectar, but was actually eating the pollen.”
Bats, Moreno told me later, are among the most misunderstood creatures in the world. Because they only come out at night, move much faster than most birds, and are never seen, people’s imaginations run wild and they see bats as dangerous, dirty and devilish, while in reality, all of them are fastidiously clean and
most of them are not only beneficial to humanity, but essential for our future survival.
The bat photographed by Jesús Moreno is, in fact, the only pollinator of the tequila agave, as well as a host of other desert plants whose flowers open only at night, which puts bats on a par with bees in nature’s scheme of things.
Prieto, whose prize-winning photos have appeared in magazines such as Zoom, BBC Wildlife and National Geographic, has spent years devising ways to photograph the elusive Mexican jaguar. It is therefore not surprising that five of his images on display in the capital are related to that theme.
“These photos are related to the story of the jaguar in Mexico,” he told me.” One of them shows a jaguar in its natural environment in the Sierra de Vallejo in the state of Nayarit. Another shows a woman holding two orphaned jaguar kittens. She is participating in a program to protect and rehabilitate these animals and return them to the wild. In another photo we see over 1,000 persons all wearing jaguar masks. I saw this scene in Chilapa de Álvarez in Guerrero where they hold this festival every year on August 15, petitioning the heavens for rain.”
The outdoor expo of nature photos will be on display until July 16, at which time the winners will be announced.
Fortunately, you don’t have to hop a bus to Mexico City to see the incredible images. All of this year’s entries to the contest automatically go into Conobio’s ever-expanding data base of Mexican nature photos, which is easily accessed at Mosaiconatura.net. Just click on “Ganadoras” to see this year’s best photos, as well as the finalists from the past three years.