Grand Prize. Photo: Anup Shah, United Kingdom. “Western lowland gorilla female ‘Malui' walking through a cloud of butterflies she has disturbed in a bai (Gorilla gorilla gorilla).” Bai Hokou, Dzanga Sangha Special Dense Forest Reserve, Central African Republic. December 2011.
After a one-year hiatus, The Nature Conservancy Photo Contest is back. More than 100,000 images were entered into the contest, with acclaimed wildlife photographer Anup Shah taking home the grand prize. His photograph of a female gorilla walking through a cloud of butterflies in the Central African Republic is a more than worthy winner of the contest. Given how strong the competition was, his win is an even more incredible achievement.
“I like photos that keep dragging you in,” commented celebrity judge and musician Ben Folds. As he also notes, it's hard to tell if the gorilla's face is one of tolerance or bliss, which is part of what keeps viewers engaged in the photograph. Another image that is equally intriguing won the People's Choice Award. Prathamesh Ghadekar's photo of hundreds of thousands of fireflies swarming just prior to a monsoon is particularly powerful. At first glance, it appears that the tree is illuminated by small LED lights, but when one realizes that we're actually watching nature at work, the photo takes on new meaning.
“These images are a gorgeous and unforgettable reminder of the vibrancy and awe-inspiring power of nature,” said Meg Goldthwaite, chief marketing and communications officer for The Nature Conservancy. “Year after year, we are amazed, delighted, and moved by these scenes from around the world. They remind us how connected we all are on this planet, and they energize us as we continue the important work of conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends.”
Photographers from Mexico, Bangladesh, Australia, Turkey, and Hong Kong are all represented on the winner's list. This gives The Nature Conservancy's contest a truly global look at nature and harkens back to the non-profit's mission. Since 1951, the U.S.-based charitable organization has been “working to create a world where people and nature can thrive.”
See more winning images from 2021 The Nature Conservancy Photo Contest.
People's Choice Winner. Photo: Prathamesh Ghadekar, India. “Just before Monsoon, these fireflies congregate in certain regions of India, and on a few special trees like this one, they are in crazy quantity which can range in millions. This particular image is a stack of 32 images (30 seconds exposure each) of this tree taken on a tripod. Later the images were stacked in Adobe Photoshop. This image contains 16 minutes of viewing time of this amazing tree.”
Landscape, First Place. Photo: Daniel De Granville Manço, Brazil. “Carcass of a Pantanal alligator (Caiman yacare) in the dry soil on the banks of the Transpantaneira highway, municipality of Poconé (Mato Grosso). The photo was taken with a drone on October 4, 2020, at the height of the droughts that hit the Pantanal that year.”
People and Nature, Second Place. Photo: Tom Overall, Australia. “A guide in the Sahara Desert enduring a sand storm.”
Wildlife, Honorable Mention. Photo: Thomas Vijayan, Canada. “It is a sad sight to watch. We humans could have easily found an alternative option to grow palm trees and could have given a second thought before running the ax over these matured trees and while snatching the habitat of this gigantic ape. Orangutans are accustomed to live on trees and feed on wild fruits like lychees, mangosteens, and figs, and slurp water from holes in trees but we have options.”
Water, Third Place. Photo: Man Wai Wong, Hong Kong.
People and Nature, Third Place. Photo: Sebnem Coskun, Turkey. “New danger to underwater life ‘Covid-19 wastes’ According to a report prepared by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), plastic waste equivalent to 33,880 plastic bottles is being mixed into the Mediterranean per minute. One of the countries hit most plastic waste coming to the shores of Italy and then Turkey. The medical wastes used during the pandemic process we live in reach the seas.”
Landscape, Second Place. Photo: Denis Ferreira Netto, Brazil. “In a helicopter flight through the sea mountain range, I came across this white cloud cover, which resulted in this magnificent image that resembles the head of a dinosaur.”
Water, First Place. Photo: Kazi Arifujjaman, Bangladesh.
People and Nature, First Place. Photo: Alain Schroeder, Belgium. “This picture document the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of Indonesia's orangutan. They are under threat from the ongoing depletion of the rainforest due to palm oil plantations, logging, mining, hunting. The whole SOCP team works together to prepare Brenda, an estimated 3 month-old female orangutan (she has no teeth yet), for surgery.”
Water, Second Place. Photo: Joram Mennes, Mexico. “Three levels of leisure: swimmers, freedivers, and divers enjoy their respective sport/recreational activities in a freshwater mass know locally as the Cenotes.”
Wildlife, First Place. Photo: Buddhilini de Soyza, Australia. “Incessant rains in Masai Mara had caused the Talek river to flood. This unusual coalition of five male cheetahs (Tano Bora – Fast Five), were looking to cross this river in terrifyingly powerful currents. It seemed a task doomed to failure and we were delighted when they made it to the other side. This was a timely reminder of the damage wreaked by human-induced climate change.”
Wildlife, Second Place. Photo: Mateusz Piesiak, Poland. “This year due to a high water level a giant field of sunflowers could not be mown. In winter it attracted thousands of different species of birds, mostly greenfinches, goldfinches, and bramblings.”