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Mat Beetson wins Australian Geographic Nature POTY

The South Australian Museum has announced that Western Australian photographer, Mat Beetson, is the grand prize winner of the 2019 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Mat’s winning photo, Fin Whale, was captured with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro Drone and shows an aerial view of a beached whale and hungry sharks at Cheynes Beach in Albany, WA.

Fin Whale, Balaenoptera physalus. ‘The fin whale is sighted regularly in this region; seeing one beached, however, is rare. The whale sits less than 5 metres from shore and 100 metres from residential homes, giving whale researchers access to an unusual occurrence for this species. Bronze whalers and great whites feasted over the remains before removal.

‘It was unreal, arriving at a peaceful coastal town with a pristine beach and then seeing this huge whale not even five metres from shore – we then noticed the thrashing close by and realised that a few sharks had also stopped by,’ Mat said. ‘I launched the drone to see the aerial view and captured a sequence of photographs, this shot was one of the last ones I took and I was very lucky that the shark came back for a look.’

Mat is a Perth-based family photographer, who has worked in several different segments of the Australian photographic industry since 1991.

It was the first time an image captured with a drone has won the contest, which was judged by Australian photographers Justin Gilligan and Glenn McKimmin, as well as Belgian-born Galapagos Islands-based photographer, Tui De Roy.

Mat won the $10,000 cash prize, and a Coral Expedition cruise.

Scott Portelli, The Heat Run, Animal Behaviour winner. The heat run is the ultimate wildlife encounter – multiple whales competing for a female. The chase can last for hours or even days and males can display bubble netting, open mouth gulping, physical contact, loud acoustic sounds, and breaching. Even after 16 years documenting humpback behaviour in the region, it is still truly heart-thumping and adrenaline-pumping action.Tonga, South Pacific.

Over 2200 images were submitted to the contest, which aims to ‘celebrates the natural heritage of the Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea bioregions each year’. There are nine categories, as well as a bonus portfolio prize.

The South Australian Museum is showing an exhibition of finalist images in Adelaide until November 10. The exhibition is also showing simultaneously in Sydney, at Powerhouse Museum, until October 20.

We’re working on a winners’ gallery, for now the images can be seen here.

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