Artist in Focus - Wink Gaines


Wink specialises in bird, wildlife and nature photography. Her photographic specialty allows her to combine her passion for the outdoors with the creative pursuit of digitally capturing wildlife and natural habitats.

A self-taught naturalist, Wink recognises the ecological association of animals and habitat. She understands the importance of all living beings and the need to conserve vital areas of habitation for wetland birds and the diverse wildlife found near her home in Western North Carolina and her favourite coastal habitats near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Extensive travels with her husband, Dennis, give Wink varied and numerous opportunities to extend her understanding and to photograph exceptional aspects of Nature.

Wink is an advocate for the instructional and conservation efforts of the National Audubon Society and various North Carolina and South Carolina national wildlife refuges where many of her photographs are taken. Her photograph of a flying Ibis, taken near Cape Lookout on the outer banks of North Carolina, was selected as one of the 2011 Top 100 bird photographs of the year by the National Audubon Society and Nature's Best Photography Magazine. A second Audubon Top 100 Award was given to Wink in 2012 for her photograph of a nesting Great Egret. In 2015, a third Top 100 was awarded in the professional division for her portrait of a Great Horned Owl.


For someone discovering your work for the first time, can you paint them a picture of your background and your style?

Realism and the natural world go hand in hand. My style is to let nature be rather than to disturb the energy of the moment. Nature creates the picture. My camera is a way to hold that moment.


What do you want people to think or feel when they see your work? 

I would like for viewers to see the dignity and beauty in each wild animal or natural scene. I'd also like for people to feel transported to the animal's realm and to have empathy when confronted by the real dangers of climate change, habitat loss, and human insensitivity.


How did you learn your craft?

I studied the techniques of several noted photographers that I admired and poured over camera instruction manuals and volumes on mastering light, understanding exposure, and artistic composition.


What is your creative process - how to you begin a new piece of work?

Before I travel to any photo venue, I familiarise myself with the wildlife in the area and how I can find my animal subjects. Before I take my first photograph of any wild animal, I have already visualised the image that I want. I don't always obtain my goal but I prepare myself to do so.


What exhibitions have you seen that have stayed with you?

I rarely get to attend exhibitions due to my travel schedule. Nature exhibits herself daily to me and that is memorable.


What else would you love to do or achieve in your career?

To travel and photograph with the B.B.C.


If you were not an artist, what do you think you would be?

A Biologist or an Ornithologist.


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