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Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2022

The Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2022 results are in, with Western Australian photographer, Ashlee Jansen, winning the top prize for her photo, Nature’s Prey.

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), and Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier). Photo: Ashlee Jansen.

The underwater photo was captured in June 2021 at Coral Bay with a Sony a7R II and Canon EF 8–15mm f/4 and underwater housing. It shows a well-fed tiger shark swimming nearby a sub-adult humpback whale carcass.

‘A humpback whale carcass found on the ocean floor, stripped clean of its flesh by surrounding sharks,’ Jansen’s description says. ‘This sub-adult whale died while making the annual migration north along the Ningaloo Reef. A harsh act of Mother Nature, but an important part of the natural ecosystem.’

Jansen works as an underwater photographer for a Ningaloo reef tour boat company, which among others had been keeping an eye on the sick whale.

‘Tour boats had been watching the young whale for days as it slowly moved through the bay, appearing sicker and slower with more shark bites over its body day after day,’ Ashlee told Australian Photography. ‘Friends had spotted an oil slick on the surface caused by the fallen whale. As they got closer, they were hit by the distinct smell and knew that they had found the location of the carcass resting on the ocean floor.’

Jansen joined the her friends at the whale’s resting place and jumped in the water to kind the young humpback’s skeleton on the ocean floor, with several species of ‘well-fed sharks’ hanging around.
‘This unforgettable experience is a reminder of how harsh nature and the food chain can be, yet such an important part of the natural ecosystem. One animal’s sacrifice can provide so many nutrients to so many other species of wildlife for years to come.’

Judges described the image as speaking to the ‘circle of life’. ‘one death supports the renewal of other ocean communities,’ they said. ‘The beauty of the image lies in its artful circular composition, seen in the curves of the whale’s skeletal ribs mirroring the patterns in the sand, keeping our eye within the frame moving between the living and the dead.’

The Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition consists of 10 categories. The awards are open to all photographers, with the only requirements being the pictures show natural flora and fauna within the ANZANG biosphere – Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the New Guinea region.

The competition is operated by Australian Geographic and South Australia Museum, where an exhibition of finalist images is showing until October 30. Here are the category winners:

Animals In Nature

‘Each spring, the Great Dividing Range is treated to a magical event. After sunset, bioluminescent fireflies emerge from the darkest corners of the forest for a short time. However, they’re not entirely safe. Insectivorous dusky leaf-nosed bats leaving their roost capture fireflies mid-flight, displaying a stunning acrobatic aerial battle.’ Photo: Jannico Kelk.

Astrophotography

‘A beautiful dead tree stands above the rest as the fog lingers over Lake Toolondo and the Milky Way lines up horizontally across the night sky. When I saw this scene that night, it was as if the tree and the Milky Way were somehow connected despite the distance.’ Photo: Jason Perry.

Botanical

‘Darkness rolls over Lake Crosby adding an eerie element to the smooth pink salt. All that falls on the lake is slowly preserved as the wind-driven tide ebbs and flows, leaving a little more salt every time. Objects mar the lake’s alien texture and the lake mars them in return.’ Photo: James Dorey.

Junior

‘My image ‘Impermanence’ was captured at my local beach after harsh winds had uncovered numerous objects beneath the surface. It depicts a decaying seabird stretched out amongst the sand and is indicative of the dangerous and unstable nature of life amongst the coastal elements.’ Photo: Cian O’Hagan.

Landscape

‘My image ‘Impermanence’ was captured at my local beach after harsh winds had uncovered numerous objects beneath the surface. It depicts a decaying seabird stretched out amongst the sand and is indicative of the dangerous and unstable nature of life amongst the coastal elements.’ Photo: Yan Zhang.

Threatened Species

‘A whale shark engulfs a bait ball of fish on the Ningaloo Reef. Little is known about this behaviour, as it is so rare only a handful of records exist. The sharks are too slow, so must rely on the efforts of other predators such as tuna to catch them.’ Photo: Jake Wilton.

Monochrome

‘A school of critically endangered grey nurse sharks hover almost motionless in front of the 24m-deep entrance to Fish Rock Cave. It’s such a privilege to see this number of sharks in one place, and whilst ominous in appearance, these incredible animals are generally considered harmless unless provoked.’ Photo: Matt Krumins.

Urban Animals

‘The abandoned tunnel is illuminated by thousands of glow-worms (Arachnocampa richardsae). Glow-worms typically live in damp sandstone crevices, but this tunnel is home to a particularly large population. The site is closed to the public, so I took this photo through an iron gate, standing in a puddle of mud.’ Photo: Zichen Wang.

Our Impact

‘While trying to jump fences, kangaroos sometimes get their feet snagged on the wire. Their upper body flips toward the ground, tangling their legs in the wires. Known as ‘fence hanging’, the individual has no way of getting up or freeing itself and usually dies, unless a human can free it.’ Photo: Alan Kwok.

 

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