2020 has been a strange year, but the winning images from the Nature Photographer Of The Year competition should remind us all how much wondrous fauna and flora are present on this beautiful earth. The prestigious contest, which saw thousands of entries from all over countries this year is well regarded in nature photography circles and 2020’s winner was announced as Italian photographer, Roberto Marchegiani.
Roberto took the grand title for his image entitled; Jurassic Park, which was captured in Kenya’s Nakuru National Park. Roberto used a 600mm lens to photograph a group of giraffes passing in front of the forest. Roberto commented; ‘I was rewarded by my stubbornness: the giraffes passed exactly in the right place. The scene reminded me of a Jurassic landscape, with a herbivorous dinosaur in the same position as the giraffe.’
Andreas Geh was the winner of the Birds category for an image entitled; ‘Brambling Togetherness’, which was captured in Germany’s Black Forest using a Olympus OM-D E-M1X paired with a 40-150mm lens. Andreas commented; ‘I was fascinated by the rhythm and coordination of the countless animals in the apparent chaos and I wanted to capture both aspects in the picture. The enormous amount of birds and their movements. After several attempts the exposure time of 1/30s appeared to be ideal for the balance between movement and image.’
This stunning frame from Thomas Vijayan, entitled ‘The World Is Going Upside Down’ was Highly Commended in the Mammals category. Thomas captured the image in Borneo using a Nikon D850 paired with a 8-15mm lens. Thomas commented; ‘After spending a few days in Borneo, I got this frame stuck in my mind. Firstly, to get this shot, I selected a tree that was located in the water so that I could get a good reflection of the sky and its leaves on the tree on the water surface. It created a mirror effect that made the photo look upside down. Then I climbed up on the tree and waited for hours. This is a regular path for the orangutans to cross to a small island on the other side. I was sure to get this frame if I would wait patiently. Hence I waited and waited for a long time and finally, I got this beautiful frame. This frame confuses the viewer at the first glance and that makes the photo unique. It was indeed a tough task but the end result paid it off in double fold.’
Radomir Jakubowski’s beautiful abstract landscape, entitled ‘Dead Forest’, was announced as the winner of the Plants & Fungi category. Captured using a Canon 5DSR paired with a 100-400mm lens, the image shows Germany’s Black Forest and Radomir commented; ‘This image was taken in the National Park of Bavarian Forest. This year is the 50th birthday of the national park. I’ve visited this area for fifteen years now. Around 25 years ago the insect bark beetle killed big areas of this forest. In the last fifteen years I saw how the forest changed from a dead to a more living forest. I took this image during an autumn morning. The height of the fog was perfect, it only covered the forest. So the shape of the dead trees were coming out of the fog.’
Runner up in the hotly contested Plants & Fungi category was Kevin De Vree for his image ‘Enchanted Forest’, which he captured with an Olympus E-M5. ‘Lamington National park is a fairytale forest teeming with waterfalls, gigantic old trees and wildlife. Taking in all this magical beauty, I wondered when the ancient trees would start talking and if the fairies would appear. With many trails flooded due to heavy rains, this waterfall and its moss covered surroundings look lush and green. This fungi stairway captures the magic of this century old, semi-tropical rainforest.’
The winner of the Landscape category was announced as Stanislao Basileo from Italy for his image entitled, ‘Il bosco incantato’ that was shot using a Nikon D5. Stanislao commented; ‘One winter morning in January taking advantage of the spectacle of the frost I went for a walk along the river Po looking for particular situations. At one point I was observing a spectacular situation created by many branches of larches falling to the ground completely covered by frost. It seemed to me an ”Il bosco incantato”.
Highly Commended in the Underwater category was this stunning frame by UK photographer Paul Goldstein. Entitled Big Blue and captured using a Canon 5D Mark III paired with a 15mm fish-eye lens, Paul commented; ‘This image was taken in the East Coast of Trincomalee Sri Lanka. I have guided several wildlife tours to Sri Lanka in the past but my colleague in Colombo had mentioned this East Coast swimming tour to me and it became a staple for a few years. The subjects are super-pods of sperm whales and the occasional blue. There are days with no whales and you are many nautical miles from shore looking for distant blows. It is a long and often hot quest but with small boats and very good local guides. Just being in the water with whales is something close to maritime witchcraft, but when it is a Blue it takes some recovery time, in this case physically and mentally.’
Andrea Pozzi was announced as the winner of the Natural art category for a breath-taking frame entitled; ‘Trapped’. Captured in Siberia using a Canon 6D paired with a 24-70mm lens, Andrea commented; ‘I took this image during a cold winter morning spent on the incredible surface of the frozen lake. Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, containing almost a quarter of the world’s fresh surface water. Moreover it is the world’s deepest lake and considered the oldest. In this picture you see a small fish stuck in the ice that turns into a work of art, like an insect trapped in the amber. Winter temperatures in this area exceed -40°C in the coldest days of January. It’s almost surreal when you think of the dynamics that led this small animal to an almost absurd death.’
One of the most striking images from the year was the winner of the Man and Nature category as was entitled ‘‘Hope in a Burned Forest’ and was shot by Canadian photographer Jo-Anne McArthur using a Nikon D4s. Jo-Anne commented’ As the Australian climate fires raged, I knew that it was a story that I had to document. Specifically the stories of the animals, both domestic and wild, who were suffering and dying as a result of the fires. When the decision was made, I was on a plane less than 24 hours later. Flying in over Australia, I could see a continent smothering in smoke. I spent two weeks working very long hours with a wonderful team to gain access to the burn sites, the rescues, the veterinary missions. It was an honour and pleasure to partner with the organization Animals Australia, who were instrumental in providing access to where I needed to be. This photo was taken in Mallacoota, Victoria. Interestingly, this is the very small town where my father, an Australian, was raised. I even met one of his childhood friends, who was helping provide space for wild animal feed which was being delivered to animals in the area who were at risk of starvation during this catastrophe. When I saw this Eastern Grey kangaroo and her pouched joey, I was about 100 feet away from where I knew I’d be able to get a fantastic photograph. Any photographer can imagine how long those moments were, as I walked slowly to the spot I knew I needed to be, in order to get this shot. I walked slowly and she watched me. I prepared my camera with the settings I wanted and finally reached my spot. I took a few photos. Then I had time to crouch down and take this photo, the one I had envisioned. Then…she hopped away into the burned eucalyptus plantation. She was one of the lucky survivors. An estimated 3 billion animals died from these cataclysmic fires.’
Highly Commended in the Landscapes category was this superb frame by Jie Fischer. Entitled ‘Fly Over’, the image was shot using a Nikon D850 paired with a 70-200mm lens and Jie commented; ‘This image was taken in Lake Magadi in Africa. Lake Magadi is one of the inland lakes at the southernmost point of Kenya, belonging to the Rift Valley area of Kenya, formed by fault subsidence. The area varies depending on rainy or dry seasons. During the dry season, it is 80% covered by sodium carbonate and is well known for its wading birds, including flamingos. The bottom of the lake deposits about 4 meters of natural alkali. In the dry season, there will be salt deposits around the lake, forming colorful patterns, depending on wind and wave. Large numbers of flamingos are often seen by the lake. This unique geographical environment makes them add infinite charm to nature. I had to wait for the right light and angle and find the pattern in the lake with the helicopter to shoot this image. I imagined a photo with somehow a surreal pattern that at a closer look becomes a wildlife photo. Flamingos are best photographed inflight and the lake pattern gives the photograph the right composition of colors and the birds provide a symmetry of geographical pattern.’