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Belfast Zoo photography competition: Architect laps up praise for stunning image of thirsty lioness

Amateur photographers shine in zoo's annual competition

By David Young

Published 24/10/2016

1st prize in category C, best black and white picture - Barbary lions by Peter Lennon
1st prize in category C, best black and white picture - Barbary lions by Peter Lennon
Belfast Zoo (1) Overall winner and 1st prize in category A, best photograph taken by a club photographer - Barbary lion by Gareth O'Cathain
Belfast Zoo (10 )Highly commended in category B, best photograph taken by a zoo visitor - Sumatran tiger by Katie Price
Belfast Zoo (12 )Highly commended in category B, best photograph taken by a zoo visitor - capaybaras by Susan Wenlock
Belfast Zoo (15) 3rd prize in category C, best black and white picture - white-tailed sea eagle by Joe Beattie
Belfast Zoo (11) Highly commended in category B, best photograph taken by a zoo visitor - pied tamarin by Fiona Beattie
Belfast Zoo (14) 2nd prize in category C, best black and white picture - Colombian spider monkey by Gareth O'Cathain
Belfast Zoo (21) Highly commended in category D, best funny caption '‘I can’t wait till she is old enough for school' - Andean bears by Daniel Marshall
Belfast Zoo (2) 2nd prize in category A, best photograph taken by a club photographer - Temminck's golden cat by William Allen
Belfast Zoo (20) Highly commended in category D, best funny caption '‘Go on, give us a kiss- Not likely with a beak like that.’' -flamingoes by Gwyneth Sergeant
Belfast Zoo (17) Highly commended in category C, best black and white picture - Sumatran tiger by Joe Beattie
Belfast Zoo (4) Highly commended in category A, best photograph taken by a club photographer - Lola the Andean bear cub by Stephen Haydon
Belfast Zoo (5) Highly commended in category A, best photograph taken by a club photographer - Western lowland gorilla by Raymond Hughes
Belfast Zoo (3) 3rd prize in category A, best photograph taken by a club photographer - Rothschild's giraffe by Robert Sergeant
Belfast Zoo (16) Highly commended in category C, best black and white picture - Asian elephant by Robert Sergeant
Belfast Zoo (8) 2nd prize in category B, best photograph taken by a zoo visitor - capaybaras by Philip Hutton
Belfast Zoo (19) 1st prize in category D, best funny caption '‘Air guitar, 2016 world champion' -Baako the Western lowland gorillla by Joe Beattie
Belfast Zoo (9) 3rd prize in category B, best photograph taken by a zoo visitor - Western lowland gorilla baby by Gemma Vennard
Belfast Zoo (6) Highly commended in category A, best photograph taken by a club photographer - Qays the Barbary lion by Gareth O Cathain
Belfast Zoo (18) Highly commended in category C, best black and white picture - African pygmy goat by Fiona Beattie
Belfast Zoo (7) 1st prize in category B, best photograph taken by a zoo visitor - Temminck's golden cat by Philip Hutton
Belfast Zoo (22) 1st prize in category E, best picture taken by someone under 16 - Barbary lion by Alexander Allen
Belfast Zoo (21) Highly commended in category D, best funny caption '‘I can’t wait till she is old enough for school' - Andean bears by Daniel Marshall
Belfast Zoo (23) Highly commended in category E, best picture taken by someone under 16 - blesbok by Fiona Beattie
Belfast Zoo (24) Highly commended, best picture taken by someone under 16 - meerkats by Caleb Wenlock

It took just 30 seconds for amateur photographer Gareth O'Cathain to capture two award-winning images in this year's Belfast Zoo photography competition

And now the Belfast architect is the toast of the town for his beautiful candid portrait of Barbary lioness Fidda (right).

Architect Gareth (42) is a member of the Belfast Photo Imaging Club, and is more used to taking pictures of buildings than kings of the jungle.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, he revealed how he captured the shot chosen as overall winner of the competition, which has been running for 33 years.

"I took the image during feeding time at the zoo. That's when the lions are at their most lively," he said.

"I was positioned outside the lion enclosure, with the keeper next to me. We were chatting away about the lions, and as we talked, Fidda the lioness started padding towards us.

"She stopped her head to take a drink, and I spotted her reflection as she began to lap at the water. I thought it would make a nice shot."

Another of Gareth's photos won a 'highly commended' prize.

"It was taken just about 30 seconds after the one of the lioness," he said.

"I think I got lucky! It's brilliant. It's a really good feeling to be a winner."

Barbary Lion by Gareth O’Cathain, which was overall winner in the competition
Barbary Lion by Gareth O’Cathain, which was overall winner in the competition
Pied Tamarin by Fiona Beattie
Air Guitar, 2016 World Champion by Joe Beattie
Temminck’s Golden Cat by William Allen
Belfast Zoo (9) 3rd prize in category B, best photograph taken by a zoo visitor - Western lowland gorilla baby by Gemma Vennard
Belfast Zoo (19) 1st prize in category D, best funny caption '‘Air guitar, 2016 world champion' -Baako the Western lowland gorillla by Joe Beattie
Belfast Zoo (8) 2nd prize in category B, best photograph taken by a zoo visitor - capaybaras by Philip Hutton
Belfast Zoo (16) Highly commended in category C, best black and white picture - Asian elephant by Robert Sergeant
Belfast Zoo (3) 3rd prize in category A, best photograph taken by a club photographer - Rothschild's giraffe by Robert Sergeant

Gareth said he had dedicated the image to his parents, Anne and Francie.

Although he's only been photographing for five years, Gareth also won the Belfast Zoo photo competition in 2013.

Remarkably, despite his obvious prowess, wildlife photography is not one of his main photographic interests.

"I started out doing pictures of buildings - architectural photography," he said.

"Being an architect myself, that's my main thing."

He took up photography five years ago, after watching professional lensmen take pictures of buildings.

"I reckoned I could do better," he laughed.

"But I do love going up to the zoo, looking to capture something different."

Gareth said that photographing the lions can be very challenging.

"They are photographed a lot, so it can be difficult to get something fresh, get a shot that no else has got before," he said.

"But this year Fidda gave me something different - an intimate, action shot, looking away from the lens.

"She didn't seem to know that I was taking a photo of her.

Belfast Zoo
(24) Highly commended, best picture taken by someone under 16 - meerkats by Caleb Wenlock
Belfast Zoo (24) Highly commended, best picture taken by someone under 16 - meerkats by Caleb Wenlock
Belfast Zoo (23) Highly commended in category E, best picture taken by someone under 16 - blesbok by Fiona Beattie
Belfast Zoo (21) Highly commended in category D, best funny caption '‘I can’t wait till she is old enough for school' - Andean bears by Daniel Marshall
Belfast Zoo (22) 1st prize in category E, best picture taken by someone under 16 - Barbary lion by Alexander Allen
Belfast Zoo (7) 1st prize in category B, best photograph taken by a zoo visitor - Temminck's golden cat by Philip Hutton
Belfast Zoo (18) Highly commended in category C, best black and white picture - African pygmy goat by Fiona Beattie
Belfast Zoo (6) Highly commended in category A, best photograph taken by a club photographer - Qays the Barbary lion by Gareth O Cathain
Belfast Zoo (5) Highly commended in category A, best photograph taken by a club photographer - Western lowland gorilla by Raymond Hughes
Belfast Zoo (4) Highly commended in category A, best photograph taken by a club photographer - Lola the Andean bear cub by Stephen Haydon
Belfast Zoo (17) Highly commended in category C, best black and white picture - Sumatran tiger by Joe Beattie
Belfast Zoo (20) Highly commended in category D, best funny caption '‘Go on, give us a kiss- Not likely with a beak like that.’' -flamingoes by Gwyneth Sergeant
Belfast Zoo (2) 2nd prize in category A, best photograph taken by a club photographer - Temminck's golden cat by William Allen

"It was a very candid shot, almost like street photography."

The Belfast Zoo competition is sponsored by HB and challenges budding and amateur photographers to creatively photograph the animals and scenes of the zoo, capturing the wonder of nature, exhibiting photographic excellence, displaying high quality skills - and a great eye for a photo.

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