UNDERWATER WINNER: “A Whale of a Mouthful”, by Michael AW, Australia. This 50-ton Bryde’s Whale can thank a herd of dolphins for corralling millions of sardines within a curtain of blown bubbles. The shimmering ball of biomass was but a tiny portion of the many billions of sardines that migrate along the southeastern coast of southern Africa, attracting a variety of predators along the way. Michael AW had to combine keen photographic and diving skills in order to (a) capture the moment, and (b) avoid being steamrollered by the hungry 50-foot cetacean!
WINNER AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES: “Still Life”, by Edwin Giesbers, The Netherlands. No, this isn’t a reflection of trees above a rural pond… photographer Edwin Giesbers was actually underwater, clad in a wetsuit, when he captured a male Great Crested Newt from below! The water must have been fairly chilly that April morning but Giesbers had work to do – compiling images to accompany an environmental article documenting the threat facing amphibians from a virulent fungus.
BIRDS CATEGORY WINNER: “The Company of Three”, by Amir Ben-Dov, Israel. Red-footed Falcons are social birds but most observed close relationships usually involve parents with first-year chicks. Not so the curious trio above, consisting of two subadult females and a full‐grown male. Photographer Amir Ben-Dov noticed the odd grouping while watching their home flock pause for rest near Beit Shemesh, Israel, during their annual autumn migration. Camera primed and ready, Ben-Dov clicked the shutter just as the late afternoon sun came out and one female nudged the male to make space on the branch for her gal-pal.
PHOTOJOURNALIST AWARD: “Broken Cats”, by Britta Jaschinski, Germany/UK. It’s been five years since the government of China ordered zoos and animal parks to cease public performances involving wild animals but sadly and inexplicably, the directive isn’t legally binding. Therefore it’s business as usual at the Seven Star Park in Guilin, where photographer Britta Jaschinski photo-documented these de-toothed and de-clawed big cats cowed by trainers in front of a paying crowd. “Attitudes are changing“ maintains Jaschinski. “The potential for change is huge. Despite government control of the internet social-media, messages do get through and can make a difference.” Visual messages like the stark photograph above can only help.
GRAND PRIZE WINNER: “A Tale of Two Foxes”, by Don Gutoski, Canada. When environments collide, there are winners and losers – peaceful coexistence often isn’t in the cards for nature’s creatures. Such was the case when a sub-arctic Red Fox clashed with a smaller Arctic Fox in Canada’s Wapusk National Park. “The guides had heard that the two species will occasionally fight,” related the photographer, “but no one we talked to had ever seen this behavior.” Just after Gutoski got within camera range, the exhausted victor and vanquished prey paused for an award-winning moment now captured for posterity.
“The immediate impact of this photograph is that it appears as if the Red Fox is slipping out of its winter coat,” observed Kathy Moran, jury member and National Geographic magazine’s senior editor for natural history projects. “What might simply be a straightforward interaction between predator and prey struck the jury as a stark example of climate change, with Red Foxes encroaching on Arctic Fox territory. The bottom line is, this image works on multiple levels. It is graphic, it captures behavior and it is one of the strongest single storytelling photographs I have seen.” We’ll second that emotion, Kathy! (all images via WENN)