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Nature Like Never Before

By REDIFF NEWS
Last updated on: November 28, 2023 14:17 IST
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Extraordinary award-winning photographs from more than 20,000 images from all over the world.

The Nature Photographer of the Year competition, organised by Nature Talks, showcases the artistry of capturing nature's beauty.

Photographers from all levels submit their work, judged on technical proficiency, creativity, emotional impact, and composition.

Winners receive recognition, rewards, and exposure, while the event celebrates nature's magnificence and inspires environmental stewardship.

From more than 20,000 images which came from all over the world, it was a tough job for the judges who saw the most amazing images, some sad and cruel, some full of wonder.

It was clear that nature photography is alive and kicking in all its forms.

Here are the winners that we feature today. For more details and more entries, please see Nature Photographer Of The Year 2023 (external link).

OVERALL WINNER & Category (Mammals) Winner

 

Jacquie Matechuk: 'He Looks to the Heavens

Nationality: Canada

Occupation: Full-time sports and wildlife conservation photographer

The Spectacled Bear is a unique species found in the Andean mountains of Ecuador.

Jacquie embarked on an 11-day trek to observe these bears in their natural habitat.

Jacquie's guide, a local farmer, has dedicated his life to studying and protecting this endangered species.

With the guide's intimate knowledge, Jacquie was able to observe the bears closely without disturbing them.

In this image, a large male bear named Tony is seen resting on a fig tree.

Jacquie describes the moment as 'He Looks to the Heavens'.

 

CATEGORY WINNER BIRDS

 

Hermis Valiyandiyil: 'Dawn's Whispers: Graceful Hoopoe Silhouette at Sunrise

Nationality: Country Of Origin: India; Country Of Residence: UAE

Occupation: I am a full-time photographer

This picture of Hoopoe was taken in Dubai from the Al Qudra lakes.

Hermis spends most of his weekends taking pictures of the birds in the Al Qudra lakes.

Hermis wanted to test his new Nikon Z8 camera. So, a friend and he travelled to the lake where he noticed a Hoopoe occasionally catching its prey in the air and at other times on the ground.

Additionally, Hermis observed that each time it caught a prey, it flew in the same direction to a nearby tree.

Hermis spent a few days photographing this bird, and when he got home and looked over the pictures, he got the idea to photograph the bird against a background with light and dark sides to represent the dark and light sides of existence.

The following day, he arrived a little earlier at the same location and waited for the ideal shot to occur.

 

WINNER CATEGORY OTHER ANIMALS

 

Imre Poty&oacute: ;December Moth'

Nationality: Hungary

Occupation: Imre is an environmental educator in The Danube-Ipoly National Park, Hungary.

'We can find mushrooms not only in autumn, but some of them - for example, this antler-shaped fungus -- also turn up in winter,' Imre says.

The top of the 3-5 cm tall mushroom (Xylaria hypoxylon) branches multiple times, just like antlers.

'I have been taking photographs of spore clouds for 9 years. My picture 'December Moth' was taken last November in Börzsöny hill, Hungary.

'On a cold evening, I photographed this beautiful bouquet in flash backlight, when after dark -- at only 1-2 degrees -- the December moth (Poecilocampa populi) suddenly fluttered around me in the litter.

'They just woke up and landed near my equipment and then on top of an antler-shaped fungus.

'Flashes flashed and he was walking and flapping his wings on the antler formations in backlight.

'The spores are spread by the currents, and from these, reaching further, new mushrooms can grow. These are unforgettable and tense moments for me.

'I believe that we can draw attention to the natural beauties with our impressive photos.'

 

WINNER CATEGORY PLANTS AND FUNGI

 

David Maitland: 'Star Spangled;

Nationality: UK

Occupation: Profession nature/science photographer and author specialising in small and microscopic forms

Blue auto-fluorescing Star-shaped defensive hairs (Trichomes) covering the surface of a Deutzia leaf are silhouetted against the leaf's red-fluorescing chlorophyll-packed cells.

When exposed to invisible Ultraviolet light (but visible to insects etc), plant Chlorophyll fluoresces bright red.

All green plants fluoresce red while photosynthesizing, but its presence is too faint to be seen in broad daylight.

Measurable fluctuations in this fluorescence indicate the plant's health and ability to fix carbon.

Environmental stress (heat waves, dry spells, flooding) brought on by climate change can severely impair a plant's ability to photosynthesise, and in turn, will impact crop productivity and food production.

 

WINNER CATEGORY LANDSCAPE

 

Thomas Vijayan: 'Austfonna Ice Cap'

Nationality: Country of Origin: India; Country of Residence" Canada

Occupation: Photography is my passion and not my profession. I am an entrepreneur by profession.

The Austfonna Ice Cap ranks as the third largest in the world, situated on Nordaustlandet Island within Norway's Svalbard archipelago.

It spans an expansive 8,000 square kilometres and faces a disturbing rate of melting due to global warming. This accelerating thaw contributes significantly to rising sea levels, a grave concern for our planet's future.

'During a recent visit to the Austfonna Ice Cap, I had the privilege of capturing a remarkable image of a waterfall formed by the melting ice,' says Thomas.

'Despite having been to this location previously, it was disheartening to observe the sea ice had already vanished in June, allowing us to access the ice cap by ship.

'This year, the ice cap began melting earlier than usual, giving rise to this captivating waterfall.

'While the scenery held an enchanting allure, it simultaneously served as a stark reminder of the ice cap's diminishing state, likely to vanish within a few years.

'This image is a composite of 26 frames, artfully stitched together to immortalize the transient beauty of this natural wonder.'

 

WINNER CATEGORY UNDERWATER

 

Renee Capozzola: 'Paper Nautilus Rider'

Nationality: USA

Occupation: I am now a full-time photographer but until 1.5 years ago, I worked full-time as a biology teacher at Nautilus Rider.

This image of a paper nautilus with jellyfish was shot off Anilao in Balayan Bay, Batangas, Philippines with a 60mm lens during a Blackwater dive.

During this type of dive, which is performed over very deep water at night, divers search for tiny critters with handheld torches while circling a lit downline.

'Towards the end of my dive at approximately 10-15 metres of depth, I spotted this paper nautilus or Argonaut, which is often seen riding on the back of a jellyfish,' says Renee. 'This paper nautilus is a female as it features a thinly secreted coiled shell or egg case which resembles a hat.

'These unique cephalopods rise towards the surface at night to feed and in this case, aerate their eggs.'

 

HIGHLY COMMENDED CATEGORY NATURE ART

 

J Fritz Rumpf: 'Fields of Dreams'

Nationality: Born in Venezuela, now live in the USA (moved here 42 years ago)

Occupation: I am a full-time photographer

'On one of my first wild mushroom foraging outings, in the White Mountains of Arizona, USA, I went with a friend who taught me how to identify two types of edible mushrooms (Boletes and Caesars), I walked by this mushroom who was lying upside down on the ground,' says Fritz.

'The stunningly vibrant colors of the gills caught my attention. I proceeded to set up my tripod, and using my photo backpack as a base, took several photo stacks, using the beautiful natural soft forest light.'

 

WINNER CATEGORY HUMAN AND NATURE

 

X J Toh: 'The Sad Poncho'

Nationality: Singapore

Occupation: I am the principal photographer of UglyCarrot Studio based in Singapore.

'We are a comprehensive photography studio providing commercial photography services, specialising in beauty and skincare portraits, as well as product photography,' says Toh.

'We have recently expanded our offerings to include underwater photography, a service inspired by my deep interest and passion for the aquatic world.

'Nautili are grabby little creatures known to latch onto passing jellyfish in the ocean.

'Based on my research, they do this as a mode of travel or for more devious reasons, like sneakily siphoning the jellyfish's food for themselves.

'I did a double-take at how cartoonish this Nautilus looked when I first saw it. But it's initial silliness hides a sobering truth: Somehow, this Nautilus -- despite living more than 20 metres underwater -- had found this plastic packaging.

'I spoke to a few locals in Anilao (Philippines) about my experience after my dives, and this was what was shared with me.

'Families would dump their trash on a nearby mountain because of the inaccessibility of trash points.

'And when typhoons arrive, these heaps of plastic bags, styrofoam cups, food wrappers, and so on would be scattered by the winds into the ocean... and what was once used to store bread and treats for humans would be mistaken by these Nautili as their own food sources, not realizing that they've latched onto an empty inedible bag.'

 

WINNER CATEGORY BLACK AND WHITE

 

Jodi Frediani: 'Heads or Tails'

Nationality: United States

Occupation: I retired 10 years ago from 35 years as an environmental consultant working to protect forested watersheds, primarily redwood forests, and anadromous fish, such as steelhead trout and coho salmon.

'I have been photographing whales, dolphins, and other marine species for the past 22 years and currently pursue my photographic passion semi-professionally, while also conducting whale research, both as a scientist and as a photographer,' says Jodi.

 

WINNER CATEGORY ANIMAL PORTRAIT

 

Jonathan Lhoir: 'The Pen And Inkwell

Nationality: Native from Belgium; living in France.

This image of a pink flamingo was taken in the Camargue last winter.

At certain times of the year and in certain places, the water level drops and the substrate becomes denser. Despite this, Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) like to come and look for food in this muddy water.

It's a great opportunity to observe and photograph them, because when they lift their heads out of the water, a thin film of mud clings to their plumage for a few seconds.

'It's an image I'd been hoping to capture for a long time,' says Jonathan, 'and on this particular day, all the conditions were right: Clear skies, light cloud cover, backlighting and, of course, the flamingos and the right level of water!'

'Naturally, I called this image 'the pen and inkwell'.'

 

WINNER CATEGORY LAGE LANDEN

 

Alex Pansier: 'Big Wing'

Nationality: The Netherlands

Occupation: I'm a full-time nature photographer

'For a long time, the black woodpecker was on my wishlist,' says Alex. 'I find the graphic bird with its red accent absolutely stunning!

'The challenge for me was to find one, and by chance, I stumbled upon a nest next to a bike path in the De Maashorst nature reserve in The Netherlands.

'Night after night, I stood at a respectful distance to see if there was any activity.

'The nest was quite high up in the tree, so I needed the distance to take a shot that gave a feeling of eye level -- an intimate shot. That's why I chose to use a 1.4x teleconverter on my 400mm lens.

'After a few evenings, I already had some fantastic shots, but I felt like something was missing.

'At the same time, I noticed that the sun was shining precisely between the leaves on the tree, as it was still early in the year and the trees weren't fully covered in leaves yet.

'How beautiful it would be to play with the shadows that would blend perfectly into the black woodpecker.

'Now, the challenge was to time it so that the sun would illuminate just the head of the woodpecker without shining on the edge of the nest hole. That way, I would get a mysterious shot where only that lovely red cap, his eyes, and beak would be visible.

'Using my TPE (The Photographer's Ephemeris), I was able to gauge the sun's position, so I went a bit earlier in the following days. The exact moment should be at 16:51.

'Now, I just had to hope that the woodpecker would come out then. And luckily, a few days later, it happened.

'Around the scheduled time, a parade of cyclists passed by, after which the woodpecker curiously peeked his head through the hole. That was the moment I was able to take this photo. I was thrilled!

'When I got home, I immediately checked the catch on my computer. Yes, it was also sharply focused! And then, I also noticed the shadow on the light portion of the tree.

'It looked like a wing of the woodpecker. That was an extra bonus. That's why I chose to name the photo 'Big Wing.

 

WINNER CATEGORY YOUTH

 

Őrsi Ákos: 'Walk on the hill'

Nationality: Hungary.

Occupation: Őrsi is a hobby photographer and studying in high school.

'During a bird-ringing trip with my friends to the Hungarian Tápióság, I saw these roe deer on the top of a hill next to us,' says Őrsi.

'As the sun was setting, my immediate thought was to capture a backlit photo, with very high contrast.

'There was not much time to make it happen, as in a few minutes all the light disappeared. The deer started walking around from one group, but they split up very soon.

'Just as I thought I missed the opportunity for an interesting photo, they regrouped again for a few moments.'

 

WINNER CATEGORY FRED HAZELHOFF PORTFOLIO AWARD

 

 

 

Fernando Constantino Martínez BelmarL 'Balam, the endangered king of the Mayan jungle"

Nationality: Mexico

Occupation: Full-time photographer

The jaguar is a highly valued and ecologically important species in Mexico. It is an endangered species due to illegal hunting, habitat loss, and conflict with humans.

Despite these challenges, conservation efforts are underway to protect jaguars and their habitat.

These images, taken in the Yucatan peninsula, show jaguars in both their natural habitat and human settlements, highlighting the need for human-jaguar coexistence says Fernando Constantino Martínez Belmar.

 

Published with permission from Nature Photographer Of The Year (external link)

Photographs curated by Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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