A 17-year-old North Vancouver photographer has received an international accolade for capturing the hauntingly beautiful image of a whale beached on White Rock’s shore.
Martin Gregus Jr. told Peace Arch News Friday that when he woke up on June 12 to the news that a young humpback had been found on White Rock beach, he knew it was a chance he couldn’t pass up.
“I’m putting my pants on and I’m getting dressed and I thought, even if it’s an hour to get there, I’m really going to regret this if I don’t do it – so, let’s go and do it,” he said. “Once I got there, I was completely focused. When I’m going for the perfect shot, I’m completely unaware of the puddles around me. It was just like adrenaline. Whale. Take pictures.”
The avid photographer submitted the shot, which shows a large crowd gathered around the humpback – that died from starvation after fishing line was found tangled from its mouth to tail fluke – to the Gesellschaft Deutscher Tierfotografen (GDT) Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards.
The photo, entitled “Final Performance,” which includes the small bouquet of flowers one of the crowd had placed on top of the whale, was awarded the runner-up position in the Man and Nature category.
Gregus received the news in June while travelling back from Kelowna, where he and his father – also a photographer – had been taking photos of loons. Upon receiving cell service near Merritt, Gregus opened the email informing him of the win.
“I opened it up and saw that I had won,” he said. “I just read it and was staring at it. So, I sat back down in my seat and looked at the road and read it a couple more times, and I looked at my dad and said, ‘Dad, I won.’
“It’s a really amazing feeling.”
Gregus was unable to publicize the win until after the photography organization’s ceremony last month.
The high school student has been capturing images since he received his camera as a present from his father on his first Christmas in Canada, after immigrating from Slovakia in 2004.
“My dad actually got me into photography. In Slovakia, he was a commercial fashion photographer and when we got here, he didn’t have a job immediately, so we spent so much time together, and I would just watch him as a kid, holding the camera and walking around and taking pictures of cruise ships and downtown Vancouver.”
While Gregus Jr. has submitted his images to a number of youth photography contests, the win marks the first time he submitted a shot in the adult category.
“It’s a weird feeling competing amongst photographers that are so much older than you and have so much more experience, who shoot for National Geographic, and you’re just somebody just getting into the adult category, it’s a really amazing.”