Steve Smith’s image of two sibling adolescent grizzly bears playfighting in the Chilko River in the B.C. Interior earned him best of show at the prestigious Lion’s Gate Celebration of Nature club competition for 2020-21. (Photo by Steve Smith)

Steve Smith’s image of two sibling adolescent grizzly bears playfighting in the Chilko River in the B.C. Interior earned him best of show at the prestigious Lion’s Gate Celebration of Nature club competition for 2020-21. (Photo by Steve Smith)

Victoria Camera Club captures top spot in prestigious nature and wildlife competition

Saanich Peninsula photographers part of award-winning team

Members of the Victoria Camera Club collectively captured first place for the third time in the past five years, winning the 2020-21 annual Lion’s Gate Camera Club Celebration of Nature competition over 23 other clubs from B.C. and Yukon.

Sidney resident Steve Smith led the charge, earning the best in show award and first place in the wildlife category for his shot, entitled Grizzly Cubs Playfighting, in the Chilko River in the Chilcotin last fall.

He described the scene and the environment as he took the shots that included the winning image:

“We were on a jet boat on the river when we came across them,” he said of the bears, adolescents still with their mother. He used a 700-millimetre zoom lens to capture the scene. “It’s very satisfying, but it’s a challenge to get a shot like that when the boat’s moving and the light is dim.”

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On a different day but on the same trip, Smith’s partner and fellow club member Leah Gray snapped a photo of a western grebe taking off from the water that was also used for the competition.

“I was in the front of the boat and it was a really low shot,” she said. “These two birds were there and I happened to catch them when they started to take off as we got closer.”

Saanich photographer Evan Guengerich helped boost the club’s score with his stunning image entitled Epic Struggle, of a seabird doing its best to catch a fish, taken in Costa Rica. The photo earned Guengerich third place for best of show and second, just behind Smith, in the wildlife category.

As chair of the Victoria club’s competition committee, Gray was thrilled to convey the good news about the win to fellow members in a virtual meeting. She said it’s always a challenge to select the club’s best eight images – one each from eight photographers – to enter into the Lion’s Gate competition, a club-only event.

ALSO READ: B.C. photographer takes top Canadian Geographic photo prize

The Victoria group, with 189 points, finished three points ahead of Crescent Beach Photography Club and seven up on Burnaby Photographic Society. The host Lion’s Gate earned honourable mention.

Other Victoria club members whose images were used for the competition were Lois Burton, Christine Hutchins Gallagher, Suzanne Huot, Donna Christie and Nick Delany. View the photos at

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