Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2022
September 6, 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.
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: