This stunning picture of a school of fish fleeing predators has seen Malaysia-based Tracey Jennings named the 2018 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year:
The picture was selected from 2,288 entries. Jennings took the winning photograph underneath Arborek Jetty in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.
“I’d seen images on social media previously shot under this jetty which inspired me to travel to Raja Ampat,” she said.
“I dived the site over several days; land based and then again a week or so later on a liveaboard trip.”
Jennings said she spent “about 6 hours” all up at a depth of less than 5m under the small jetty, only leaving when she finished her second air tank, way after sunset.
“This picture actually lay unloved on my hard drive for almost a year,” she said. “When I did finally go through my images, this one jumped out at me.
“I love how the light plays through the fish, and how it really describes the essence of the feeling I experienced when below the jetty where life and death plays around you.”
Jennings also won the honour of being the first individual woman to win the competition. Her prize is $10,000, plus a holiday.
The judges said Jennings photo had “a huge amount of energy with a rich cacophony of shapes and an explosion of tonality”.
“Removing colour from the image allows us to focus on the subject. The vortex of fish draws us in and makes us want to be there, to take up underwater photography so we can experience the situation.
“A great shot with significant wow factor.”
Here are the winners in each category, plus a statement from the photographer.
Winner: The northern leaf-tailed gecko, Northern leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius cornutus), Igor Mikula (Slovakia)
This northern leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius cornutus) was found and photographed during a night walk around the Lake Eacham.
Winner: Posing black-fronted dotterels, Black-fronted dotterel (Elseyornis melanops), Dan Giselsson (QLD)
These two black-fronted dotterels seemed to want to pose for me, but I think they might have had something else in mind.
Winner: Enchanted, White’s Seahorse (Hippocampus whitei), Matty Smith (NSW)
Low evening sunlight backlights White’s seahorse. Many of this species can be found living on the shallow shark nets beneath the boardwalk in Mosman, Sydney Harbour.
Winner: The refuge, Red mangroves (Rhizophora stylosa), Andy Lewis (QLD)
Red mangroves (Rhizophora stylosa) grow in a sheltered corner of Lizard Island Lagoon. Their tangled roots provide shelter to many species of fishes from the nearby coral reefs, including this school of tropical anchovies that streamed past my camera.
Winner: Early elation, Dylan Fox (WA)
On arrival at Bluff Knoll there was a clear sky, so my expectations were low. Within minutes the peaks created their own clouds, as they are known to do, and just in time for sunrise created this stunning scene.
Winner: Junction falls – after, Peter Hill (NSW)
In a matter of seconds, Junction Falls went from a trickle to a roaring wall of thundering stormwater on a wet afternoon. I was fortunate to be there to capture the amazing transformation. Shortly after this shot, the embedded log completely disappeared from view.
Junior (photographers under 18 years of age)
Winner: Running Wombat, Common wombat (Vombatus ursinus), Floyd Mallon (NSW) aged 16
I came across a wombat while hiking, and as soon as it saw me it ran between my legs and off into the distance. Fortunately, I was able to take a photo as it ran past me. The slower shutter speed helped to highlight the running wombat and added a sense of movement to the image.
Our Impact (depicting human impact on nature)
Winner: Left Behind, Kangaroo (Macropus sp.), Ben Goode (SA)
Coming across this kangaroo during a shoot in the Adelaide Hills really brought home how fast and intense Australia’s bushfires can be. The man made fire which destroyed this forest was one of the scariest South Australia had experienced in a while and a harsh reminder of the precautions that need to be taken during summer.
Threatened Species (threatened, rare, vulnerable or endangered species)
Winner: Maybe 2 in a 1000, Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Matty Smith (NSW)
As the sun sets over the Bismarck Sea two newly hatched hawksbill turtles swim past my waiting camera. They have a long hard struggle ahead of them to reach maturity; only one in a thousand will survive.
Portfolio Prize (best portfolio of size or more images)
Winner: Matty Smith (NSW)
Smith also collected the portfolio prize, which included this image, “Australian Sea Lion Family Portrait, Australia sea lion (Neophoca cinerea)”:
The endangered Australian sea lion is one of the most playful of all the pinnipeds. I waited until all the other snorkellers had exited the water and the high energy games calmed down. The sea lions settled and became comfortable with my presence enabling me to shoot this intimate family portrait.
The Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition is owned by the South Australian Museum, where the images are on display right now. There’s more information on that here.
If you can’t make it to Adelaide, you can see the rest of Smith’s portfolio and the runners-up here at National Geographic.
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