Winning a National Geographic Award

Hayden Rossignol Interview: Winning a National Geographic Award At 12

Professional Wildlife Photography with Hayden Rossignol

Something about nature and viewing life through the eyes of the other creatures who call earth home is both breathtaking and eye-opening. But couple those powerful emotions with the perspective of someone who hasn’t even had their 13th birthday yet, and the world seems to become a better place.

As the oldest of three and a mother of two, my eyes are constantly being opened by those vastly younger than me. As we age, we often think that we have all this knowledge to impart when really, we can learn so much from the viewpoint of those half our age.

When I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with a professional wildlife photography expert, my mind instantly took me to someone I know very well.

His name is Hayden Rossignol, he’s a National Geographic Award winner, and he’s only 12 years old.

Oh yeah, and he’s my brother.

It’s a proud big sister moment to be sure. But more than that, my curiosity was irrevocably piqued.

I had the chance to chat a bit with Hayden about his award, where it wound up, and his photography as a whole.

professional wildlife photography - Hayden Rossignol Photography

When did you first start getting interested in photography, and why?

One day my mom went outside to take pictures of a hummingbird. For some reason, at that moment, I wanted to try and so when I took some pictures of the birds.

My mom and dad really loved the pictures and how they turned out so they encouraged me to pursue it.

The reason I do professional wildlife photography is that I just really love taking pictures.

professional wildlife photography - heavily centered on nature

Your photography is heavily centered on nature (although I know you do portraits and other weddings, as well). What was it that prompted you to start in that area of photography instead of something else?

Honestly, I just love being outside and being able to get so close to the birds and animals in nature.

I can show people things that they can’t usually get to see. Spiders and bees are things that people don’t like to get close to, but they’re creatures that are really cool to me.

Being able to take a photo of these things and show them in their natural environment helps people to appreciate them. There are details that you can get with photography that we can’t get just with your eyes. It’s fun to be able to see animals and things in nature in their clearest details.

Talking with Hayden About His Nat Geo Award

professional wildlife photography - Award Winning Photograph

Okay, let’s move on to the topic everyone really wants to know about: Hayden’s National Geographic winning picture.

Few people can lay claim to an award from National Geographic.

Obviously, as his sister and a fellow photographer (and a writer with the chance to interview him), I was both thrilled and curious about how this possibility even presented itself.

Many are likely familiar with the National Geographic Magazine and brand. But few may know the kids side of the worldwide acclaimed brand.

National Geographic Kids is a segment of the better-known publication that is popular among the younger age group. However, it still reflects the same level of quality when it comes to its images and its photography contests.

The website runs something called the My Shot contest.

In this contest, others from the community can submit photographs that they believe are worthy of the win. From there, users can vote on which photos they want to see win.

The prize?

Winners of the My Shot contest not only receive the My Shot VP award, they also get to have their winning photographs hung in the Vice President Biden’s (U.S.A) residence in Washington D.C.

The award and the recognition would be enough to get anyone excited about keeping up their photography. But Hayden’s photo did much more than that.

The VP’s Wife, Dr. Jill Biden, gave him a shoutout on Twitter. That then sparked the local presses and led to Hayden being interviewed by a popular news channel in Portland, Oregon U.S.A.

professional wildlife photography - shoutout on Twitter

When I asked Hayden about it initially, he said it was both exciting and nerve-wracking (and who could blame him with that huge camera in his face?!)

After that, we talked a bit more about his winning photo.

 

professional wildlife photography - Hayden’s Winning Photograph birds

Where were you when you took that photo? 

I always love taking pictures while I’m at the beach so when my family and I went to Cannon Beach (a popular spot on the coast of Oregon).

We travel there often and I always go prepared with my camera in tow.

I started taking pictures of the seagulls and that’s how I got that shot.

 

professional wildlife photography - Hayden’s Winning Photograph future

You’re just about to turn 13, nevertheless, you’ve managed to accomplish a lot. What has photography taught you and where do you want to take things in the future?

Patience.

Professional wildlife photography has taught me patience, which isn’t something that come naturally to — no matter their age.

With my photography, sometimes you have to gain the trust of an animal in a very short period of time. Other times, you have to be very still for a very long time to wait for the clouds or the sun to be in a specific spot and wait for your window of opportunity to create that perfect snapshot.

I’ve done baby photography, group shots, and one wedding. For my photography, I want to expand into those areas and just keep on learning.

professional wildlife photography - Haydens

Let’s talk about a few fun things while we’re at it. What cameras do you own? What is your favorite and why? What is your favorite setting to shoot in?

I have a Canon rebel T3i and a little Nikon point-and-shoot.

I like them both for different reasons. I like my Canon because there are a lot more options there for getting that perfect photo. I have a lot of different lenses, and love using my macro lens for close up shots.

The point-and-shoot is that you can you have a zoom and wide angle built into it without changing lenses and it’s a lot lighter.

All and all, I prefer shooting in manual mode it gives me more control.

Lessons I Think Every Aspiring Photographer Can Take To Heart

professional wildlife photography - Portland Oregon 10

After talking with Hayden and watching him “work”, there were quite a few things that I took away.

First of all, age isn’t something that we should ever use to define skill or success. Just because someone is young doesn’t mean that they are less likely to accomplish big things when pursuing their passion in life.

Professional wildlife photography has of way of capturing the beauty of a moment or the awesomeness of an animal or insect. Great photos evoke great emotion, and you don’t have to be a seasoned photographer to get the photo that has “it”.

Lastly, we should encourage children to express themselves. We should support them in the hectic and bustling journey that is this life.

If you’d like to see more of Hayden’s work and support him in his professional wildlife photography, be sure to follow him on Facebook.

All images are owned by Hayden Rossignol.