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Australian photographers dazzle at Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Australian photographers feature prominently amongst Winners and Highly Commended finalists in a showcase of the world’s best wildlife photography at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Seven Australians number among the world’s best in the prestigious exhibition, represented in categories including Photojournalism, Plants and Fungi, Animal Behaviour and Natural Artistry. Over 100 images are on display, showcasing the world’s best wildlife photography, capturing rare insight into the fragility and wonder of the natural world.

Winner of Plants and Fungi category, Justin Gilligan, brings a seaweed forest to the surface, with his image of a marine ranger in a tropical reef off Lord Howe Island, where he is based. He said that the recognition helped to inspire people’s awareness of the natural world and bring the focus to critical issues of conservation.

‘Rich reflections’ by Justin Gilligan, Winner, Plants and Fungi – Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Gilligan says, “It’s humbling to be recognised in this prestigious competition and exhibition. I’m excited to be among the winners, particularly because my image celebrates a thriving marine ecosystem. Seaweed forests support hundreds of species while capturing carbon and producing oxygen for our planet. But, just as warming water threatens our coral reef systems, it is also threatening our fragile seaweed forests.

“Being recognised in this competition provides an important platform to inspire and educate thousands of people around the world about critical conservation issues. Everyone will get something out of attending this exhibition.”

Christian Spencer (main story image) focuses on the feathers to reveal a shimmering magical moment.

A black jacobin hovers in front of the morning sun and as the light penetrates its wings the feathers become “filled with rainbows”. Christian used the high clouds as a secondary filter to reveal this prism effect, otherwise invisible to the naked eye.

Hummingbirds have the fastest wingbeats in the bird world – up to 90 beats per second. As light passes through the narrow gaps in-between feathers, it is split – or diffracted – into the colours of the rainbow, creating a shimmer.

‘The great swim’ by Buddhilini de Soyza, Highly Commended, Behaviour: Mammals – Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

When the Tano Bora coalition of male cheetahs leapt into the raging Talek River in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, Dilini feared they would not make it. Unseasonable, relentless rain (possibly linked to the changing climate) had, by January 2020, caused the worst flooding local elders had ever known. Cheetahs are strong (if not keen) swimmers, and with the prospect of more prey on the other side of the river, they were determined. Dilini followed them for hours from the opposite bank as they searched for a crossing point.

“Suddenly, the leader jumped in,” she says. Three followed, and then finally the fifth. Dilini watched them being swept away by the torrents, faces grimacing. Against her expectations and much to her relief, all five made it. They emerged onto the bank some 100 metres downstream and headed straight off to hunt.

Two Highly Commended images from Melbourne-based conservation and wildlife photojournalist Doug Gimsey highlight the impact of extreme heat on local bat colonies, encountered close to his home. “My Grey-headed Flying- fox images were all taken within 25km of Melbourne’s CBD; most people don’t have to go far from home to see some incredible wildlife if they know where to look and take the time.

“Competitions and exhibitions like Wildlife Photographer of the Year are so important, as they help shine a spotlight on critical issues that otherwise may go unnoticed by many people – such as the impact of climate change driven heat stress events have on our gorgeous and vital flying-foxes. My hope is that the images I take and the information I share will inspire people to stop, think, and treat the world with greater kindness.”

A caring hand by Douglas Gimesy, Highly commended, Photojournalism – Wildlife Photographer of the Year. After a feed of special formula milk, an orphaned grey-headed flying-fox pup lies on a ‘mumma roll’, sucking on a dummy and cradled in the hand of wildlife-carer Bev.

“Eggs of life and death” by Caitlin Henderson, Highly Commended, Behaviour: Invertebrates; “Elephant in the room” by Adam Oswell, Winner, Photojournalism; and “Mushroom magic” by Juergen Freund, Highly Commended, Plants and Fungi are the other Australians in the award line up.

Tanya Bush, Interim Director of the Australian National Maritime Museum, says, “The museum is thrilled, once again, to host this extraordinary exhibition. Part of the joy of these images is the microcosmic perspective they give, into an astonishing and beautiful natural world.

“When we are brought so close to these creatures and plants, we are reminded of both the diversity and vulnerability of life on Earth. These photographers have each captured something wonderful and powerful; it is up to each of us as to how we are moved to respond.”

Judges of the 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year fielded a record-breaking number of entries, with over 50,000 submissions from professional and amateur photographers in 95 countries. Each entry is anonymously assessed by an international panel of industry experts, applying complex criteria – including creativity, originality, and technical excellence.

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The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, developed and produced by the Natural History Museum (NHM) London, is on loan from NHM and exhibited at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour Sydney, until March 2023.

See https://www.sea.museum
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