Cochrane's own Jacquie Matechuk has clinched the prestigious title of Commercial Photographer of the Year.

Her photograph titled 'I'll See You Through the Darkness' not only secured the Best in Class award in the Animals category but also earned a spot in the esteemed 2024 Loan Collection.

Matechuk said capturing the image was a was a once-in-a-lifetime shot. 

"I had an opportunity to just watch this young owl hunting. He was spectacular. He was right on point. He had come out of the woods and flew straight towards me then pivoted a 90 degree shot, turned his body and pivoted back towards me, which is when that image happened and then he was gone."

"I can remember thinking wow, he just looked right at me. I wonder if I caught that and I went through and looked in the back of the camera and just about fell over. I was so excited, it was such a neat moment."

The photograph of the owl was taken one evening near Cochrane. 

"There's no way you can capture that motion, or stop that motion in darkness without a flash and I'm never going to take a flash into the wild. That's not natural to the animals and doesn't institute a comfortable or an ethical environment for them. So I was able to catch it in the late evening and was able to tone down the brightness of it and really bring out that beautiful golden eye that he shared between those wingtips."

The award winning photographer said she is humbled to be recognized by the Professional Photographers of Canada. 

"There were so many photographers that I met when I started that I was blown away by it and just I wanted with every fibre of my being just to be close to comparison to it and what they performed and how they created their artwork. I've been able to learn from artists across the country and to now be standing next to some of these people that I hold in such high regard is just so shocking and humbling and I'm just really grateful." 

The Cochrane has won numerous other awards for her photography including picking up Nature Photographer of the Year for 2023 for a photo of a rare Spectacled bear.

Matechuk's photo 'Ice Ice Baby' was also selected for the 2024 Loan Collection and will be on display for the next 12 months in various locations.

Ice Ice, Baby 'Ice Ice Baby' was also selected for the 2024 Loan Collection. (Photo credit Jacquie Matechuk)

"The Ice Ice Baby was an editorial image taken while I was working with Adventure Canada, up in the Arctic, so just a great way of being able to capture a storytelling image. To be a Commercial Photographer of the year you have to have a variety of award winning images in different genres, so it was a very tremendous honour to again be even on that list of artists that are my heroes."

'I'll See You Through the Darkness' made the top ten World Cup list for Wildlife photos and Matechuk said she will travel to Texas at the end of April. 

"There's about a dozen others from Canada heading down together to that event, and there's all different genres. So hopefully it does well again."