Arctic Seals Resting on Floating Ice Wins Nature Photography Contest

Aerial Photo of Crabeater Seals Resting on Ice

“Above the Crabeater Seals” by Florian Ledoux. Overall Winner & Wildlife Winner.
Aerial view of crabeater seals resting in a group on the ice after feeding at night. The aerial view allows us to better understand how wildlife uses the ice to rest and give birth. (© Nature TTL / Florian Ledoux)

Over 7,000 entries flooded into the inaugural Nature TTL Photographer of the Year 2020 competition, which is sure to become a leading nature photography contest in the years to come. Photographers of all ages from around the world submitted their best work across three categories—Landscape, Wildlife, and Macro. In the end, renowned French photographer Florian Ledoux took home the top prize for his stunning drone image of crabeater seals resting on a piece of ice in the Arctic.

“I am so excited to be chosen as the overall winner, I was never expecting this,” said Ledoux. “For me, it is very important to show the state of the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and to have an image from there win this award is important exposure. It is important that anyone inspired by this style of drone image understands the importance of wildlife and being ethical in your approach. Ensure that your drone does not spook animals.”

Not only did Ledoux win the Wildlife category, but he took home the title of Nature TTL Photographer of the Year, as well as a cash prize of £1,000. Aerial photography proved popular in the Landscape category as well, with Marek Biegalski winning for his clever view of Tuscany. Using a drone, he gives a unique perspective on a flock of sheep using trees to shield themselves from the sun.

The contest also shines a spotlight on young talent, with a special category for photographers under the age of 16. Saptarshi Guyen, a 15-year-old photographer from India, captured a remarkable image of a Black Drongo on the hunt for insects in the midst of brushfires set by farmers. The captivating frame demonstrates that creativity and talent have no age limit when it comes to photography.

See more winning images from the inaugural Nature TTL Photographer of the Year competition.

Aerial Photo of Tuscany with a Flock of Sheep

“Shadow game” by Marek Biegalski. Winner, Landscape.
An aerial image taken in Tuscany in autumn light. The flock of sheep was hiding in the shade from the sun under the shadow of a tree. (© Nature TTL / Marek Biegalski)

Black Drongo Flying Near Wildfire

“Phoenix” by Saptarshi Gayen. Winner, Under 16.
For the last 4-5 years I have seen that, at the end of every winter, farmers of this huge grassland generally burn the grass and reeds to clean the land for upcoming crops.
When the fire spreads across the land, small insects start coming out. Then the brave Black Drongo starts capitalizing on such a moment by eating them and flying above the live fire. The birds usually sit on a branch fearlessly and watch the movements of the insects as the fire spreads into a new area, then it flies close to the fire for the catch. This is a full-frame image, and the calmness of the Drongo reminds me of the Roman Emperor Nero. (© Nature TTL / Saptarshi Gayen)

Aerial View of Scheldt Valley

“Valley of the Scheldt” by Bart Heirweg. Highly Commended, Landscape.
In early autumn the valley of the Scheldt is often filled with a thick layer of fog on clear and windless mornings. When the sun starts to rise the fog slowly disappears revealing the landscape underneath. When seen from above this atmosphere is simply magical. (© Nature TTL / Bart Heirweg)

Jumping Spider in its Nest

“Home Sweet Home” by Jesslyn Saw. Highly Commended, Macro.
Battling the rain and heat and humidity of the tropics, the best time to hunt these spiders was early in the morning and late afternoon. It was on one of these late afternoon jaunts that I saw this colorful jumping spider and discovered a nest nearby. Hoping that the nest belonged to this particular spider, I came back again early the next morning to photograph it in its nest. To my delight, I saw that the nest did indeed belong to this spider. However, it took me another two days of early morning visits to finally successfully photograph the spider in its nest. (© Nature TTL / Jessyn Saw)

Drone Photo of Mountains in Iceland

“Coexistence” by Dipanjan Pal. Highly Commended, Landscape.
This is a scene very close to one of the popular mountains of Iceland. While flying my drone to the mountain with my drone's camera pointed downward, I suddenly noticed this beautiful landscape with the blue river perfectly popping against the black sand. The sun peeking through the clouds added more drama to the scene. (© Nature TTL / Dipanjan Pal)

Tree Dwelling Spider Camouflaged on Tree

“Nothing here but this tree” by Caitlin Henderson. Highly Commended, Macro.
The Lichen Huntsman (Pandercetes gracilis) is an incredible species of tree-dwelling spider from Australia's tropical north. Its astounding camouflage enables it to blend perfectly with the tree bark and lichens, and is near impossible to spot by day.
At night, I went searching for these spiders with a torch, using their reflective eye-shine to dis-cover their hiding places in plain sight. (© Nature TTL / Caitlin Henderson)

Damselfly Perched on Blade of Grass

“Chinese Painting” by Minghui Yuan. Winner, Macro.
I was wearing a piece of waterproof overalls in the stream of Dabie Mountain, waiting to observe this Matrona basilaris (damselfly). Matrona basilaris is the king of the stream here. There is a male Matrona basilaris every 3 meters. They were waiting for the female to fly over its territory; the male chased away a male opponent and then stopped at the tip of the grass.
Against the background of the sky, I discovered the connection between the lines of the grass and the subject. Nature itself is a simple painting. (© Nature TTL / Minghui Yuan)

Badger Surrounded by Bluebells

“Badger Blues” by Dave Hudson. Highly Commended, Wildlife.
I had been putting in the hours watching a number of setts in the area but decided to focus on this particular one due to the abundance of bluebells. I set myself up close to one of the badger tracks, knowing that I would only have one shot and I would need a lot of luck. After a good couple of hours, I began to hear movement. The light was fading fast and I knew that I would not have long before it would be too dark for any pictures.
An adult badger came towards me first, sniffing the air as they often do and heading towards me. It drifted out of shot and into the bluebells, but much to my delight behind it was a cub. He seemed comfortable enough, so I clicked the shutter and got a couple of shots. (© Nature TTL / Dave Hudson)

Collared Dove with Light Halo

“Sleeping the fall off” by Terje Kolaas. High Commended, Wildlife.
A Collared Dove in a garden in mid-Norway takes a break in feeding during a heavy snowfall. A remote street light in the background creates a halo around the bird. As soon as the snow-fall stops it shakes the snow off its shoulders and goes back to the daily routine with collecting wheat from the nearby fields. I tried many different shutter-speeds to vary the movement of the snow, this one is at 1/40s. (© Nature TTL / Terje Kolaas)

Aerial Photo of soda lakes in Hungary

“The Cradle of Life” by Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz. Runner-Up, Under 16.
Late winter in February, the soda lakes are full of life in Hungary. These lakes are the sanctuary a wide variety of water birds.
There is a nice, but unknown, hidden lake between the village of Tömörkény and Pálmonostora which is surrounded and covered with cane and sedge – therefore impossible to observe.
I took this aerial photograph by a remotely controlled drone. I use a special technique to slowly approach the birds from very high altitudes, which is a method also used by conservation experts to count the population of the birds.
In the picture, the wild ducks roil in the muddy water and leave lines in the yellowish-brownish, sometimes purple, watercolored by organic materials coming from the decomposition of cane. The sparkling color pallet of the image is composed of the blue sky and the white cloud reflection on the water’s surface. (© Nature TTL / Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz)

Sunrise in Iceland

“Viking Rainbows” by Alessandro Cantarelli. Runner-Up, Landscape.
I am very attached to this photograph, both because of the technical difficulty and because it took years to make it. Over the last few years, I have found myself dozens of times in Iceland, several of which I was lucky enough to witness incredible conditions on the Vestrahorn.
Seeing such a powerful sunrise on the right was already magical, and the very intense rain made things difficult for me but it gave me a great gift: a double rainbow on my left that perfectly compensated the strong light on the right. 88 layers in Photoshop to create a panorama; 6 shots bracketed. (© Nature TTL / Alessandro Cantarelli)

Baby Owl Perched in Open Window

“Startled Owl” by Paul Holman. Runner-Up, Wildlife.
The baby little owl made an appearance within the window during a burst of the early morning sun. A couple of jackdaws spooked by his presence started dive-bombing him. After a few passes, I noticed the jackdaw's reflection in the adjacent windowpane and decided to try and capture this behavior. The startled look on the little owl's face adds a little humor to the image. (© Nature TTL / Paul Holman)

Great White Pelican Swallowing a Fish

“I'm not going easy” by Robert Ferguson. Winner, People's Choice.
This is the Great white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), struggling with a non-native fish. These wonderful birds are free to roam but have established a large colony on one of the artificial islands in the old Jurong park in Singapore.
I had set up my camera to take some portraits and watch their behavior and noticed one particular bird that had caught one of the big fish from the pond. I watched, intrigued, as the bird swam in circles, dipping his bill, taking water, then raising his beak to attempt to swallow his large prey. But every time the fish extended its sharp spines on its fins – you can see it hooked on the beak here – and lodged itself firmly.
This went on for over 20 minutes, with no sign of either party tiring. I was fascinated to see the intricate veins in the bird’s throat pouch, as the overcast day backlit the thin skin, and I had to move and crouch low to the ground to get the shot. (© Nature TTL / Robert Ferguson)

Brown Bear Backlit

“Breathing” by Bence Máté. Highly Commended, Wildlife.
A brown bear growls a warning of his presence to an interloper, his breath vanishing slowly in the windless forest. (© Nature TTL / Bence Máté)

Fox Peeking Out of Door in a Quarry

“Fox” by Matej Borjancic. Highly Commended, Under 16.
My grandfather took me on a tour of the quarry to see if there were any animals there. We were lucky, and I was photographing a young fox as she looked out of her hiding place. (© Nature TTL / Matej Borjancic)

Mating red-eyed damselflies

“Mating red-eyed damselflies” by Robert Page. Runner-Up, Macro.
I have observed and photographed damselflies on the ponds in my local park in London for years. Last summer, during the July heatwave on an especially hot and muggy but overcast day, I went with the intention of trying to capture some shots using exposure compensation as I'd recently begun experimenting more with it.
The damselflies were out in great numbers all over the surface of the water and due to the lack of direct sunlight I was able to shoot with a bit of positive compensation to leave the water white or near white. It then just became a question of looking for the most photogenic pairing and this group stood out due to the symmetry. This breeding behavior lasted exactly one day, as the next day I went back and the activity had already subsided for another year. (© Nature TTL / Robert Page)

Exhaust plume of a SpaceX rocket

“Flower Power” by Brandon Yoshizawa. Highly Commended, Landscape.
An incredible display of man and nature. The exhaust plume of a SpaceX rocket is lit by the low sun at twilight. The plume takes on the shape of a flower with the trail almost looking like a broken stem as it shoots out from behind the snowcapped Sierra Nevada mountains. I couldn't have asked for a better scene as it shot up over a brilliant display of colorful fall aspens. One of the most incredible things I've been able to witness and capture on a camera.
This shot is comprised of two exposures: one for the sky and one for the foreground without moving the camera. (© Nature TTL / Brandon Yoshizawa)

Firefly Larva at Peninsular Botanic Garden

“Trailblazer” by Christian Wappl. Highly Commended, Micro.
It was past midnight in the forest of the Peninsular Botanic Garden (Trang, Thailand), but a light still shone in the dark. A large firefly larva (Lamprigera sp.) emitted a constant glow from its light organs.
I wanted to capture the scene in a way that celebrated its bioluminescence, and decided on a long exposure with rear-curtain flash. The shot had to be made in near-total darkness, which meant I had to estimate the position of the firefly larva in the frame. (© Nature TTL / Christian Wapple)

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My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Nature TTL.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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