Capturing this dramatically unequal encounter beneath the surface has won well-known US underwater photographer and expedition-leader Amos Nachoum the title of World Nature Photographer of the Year and the competition’s $1,000 Grand Prize. He was competing against entries covering every type of wildlife photography.
“For hours, I waited for the low tide to arrive along a shallow lagoon on a remote island off the Antarctic Peninsula,” said Nachoum of his winning image Facing Reality. “Like clockwork, the leopard seal arrived in the lagoon just before low tide. It put its head in the water and looked just like a rock sitting in the receding water.
“The young Gentoo penguins only dare to enter the water when it is shallow and when they got close enough to the seal it turned its head at lightning speed, catching one of the penguins by its feet and taking it to deep water.
“Once the seal reached open water, I followed it and swam parallel to it, observing its actions. To my surprise, it let go of the penguin twice. Each time, the seal chased after the penguin again, as if it was enjoying the game.
“The terrified penguin tried to escape as the game continued. But soon, the end came.”
Nachoum’s shot won gold in Behaviour – Mammals, one of the competition’s 14 categories.
A mono topside shot of a humpback whale tail won Matthijs Noome from the USA a gold in Urban Wildlife: “Finally I got the shot I wanted: a humpback’s fluke with the New York City downtown skyline in the distance,” he said.
“As water-quality measures and conservation efforts have started to show real results over the last years, humpback whales are becoming a common sight more and more in New York waters.”.
Other underwater photographers had to be content with second and third places in their chosen categories. An arresting image of an American crocodile in Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen won silver for Italian diver Massimo Giorgetta in Behaviour – Amphibians & Reptiles.
In the People & Nature category divers took both runner-up places: Austria’s Mike Eyett was awarded a silver for Capturing the Motion, a scuba diver with a school of mackerel in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, while Dr Gaetano Gargiulo of Australia scored a bronze for a blenny nesting in a discarded beer-bottle in Chowder Bay, New South Wales, Australia.
Another American diver, Celia Kujala, won silver for her juvenile California sea-lion maw in Animals In Their Habitat; In Nature Art Gabriel Barathieu of Mayotte took bronze for a lettuce coral in Raja Ampat, Indonesia; and in Nature Photojournalism a sad note was struck by Ukrainian photographer Alexej Sachov, who was awarded silver for his graphic depiction of ocean pollution via a hotel sewage pipe, True Maldives.
The UK-based World Nature Photography Awards were set up to celebrate the world’s best nature photographers while showcasing nature’s beauty to a wider audience, say the organisers. They also undertake to plant a tree every time someone enters the competition, to show their commitment to the planet.
An “early-bird” entry fee of US $25 enables a photographer to enter six images in the 2022 competition, which is now open – this offer applies until the end of March but the overall deadline is 30 June. Find out more about the competition and how to enter here.