Nature is Picture-Perfect

05 October 2012

The South Australian Museum has unveiled an exciting gallery of the best wildlife and wilderness photography of 2012.

The annual Australian Geographic ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year competition (photos from Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the New Guinea region) invites photographers from around the world to submit their images of native plants, animals and landscapes within this bioregion. The combination of improved technology and determination result in an exhibition of an astonishingly high standard. Entrants go to extraordinary lengths to capture their subject and this year's overall winner is no exception.

West Australian scuba diver and underwater photographer Wayne Osborn has won the overall prize for his photograph, Squid School (header image above), taken in Fiabacet Reef, Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Judges in this year's competition said the photograph was "beautifully composed with a lovely diagonal line. The photographer has allowed us to see a natural phenomenon that is unlikely to be seen firsthand by the majority. Bioluminescence has been captured spectacularly against the dark background, while the subjects really engage the camera, turning the observer into the observed."

A thrilled Wayne Osborn accepted the prize remotely as he holidayed in Singapore. He says, "it is a surprising but wonderful privilege to be recognised in this way. However, I think the real winners are our flora and fauna which all entrants take such painstaking care to photograph and present in a manner which builds awareness of their unique beauty and promotes the need to protect species and habitat. I congratulate the South Australian Museum and its partners for the inspiring way in which this competition showcases our region's wildlife."

Mr Osborn says he enjoys photographing the richly biodiverse and remote Raja Ampat region. He has a long term interest in whale conservation and visits Exmouth in Western Australia each year to document the Humpback whale southern migration. Wayne donates his images of humpback and sperm whales to scientists in order to assist their research. In 2004, he was appointed an International Fellow of the New York-based Explorers Club in recognition of his long term interest in the marine environment.

The first ever ANZANG Nature Photography was developed in 2004 by Perth surgeon Dr Stuart Miller. A few hundred entries were submitted at the West Australian Museum. The prize came to the South Australian Museum in 2009, after which we saw a significant increase in submissions to more than 1000 a year.

The ANZANG Nature Photography competition includes 10 different categories: Animal Behaviour, Animal Portrait, Botanical, Black and White, Underwater, Wilderness, Threatened Species, Our Impact, Interpretive, and Junior — as well as a special Portfolio Prize for a collection of six photographs or more.

The South Australian Museum runs this prestigious prize to encourage excellence in photography, but more importantly, to raise awareness of conservation and inspire audiences to appreciate science.

Of the 1364 photographs submitted this year, judges have narrowed down their list to 99 images from 69 photographers. Entries came from eight different countries. Other winners and finalists demonstrated the beautiful and awe-inspiring wildlife of the bioregion, as well as the impact of human behaviour on the natural environment.

Justin Gilligan of New South Wales took this photograph on Christmas Island earlier this year. He says, "The phosphate carrier MV Tycoon ran aground on Christmas Island in January 2012. It spilled tonnes of oil, diesel and phosphate onto the island's shore and pristine coral reef. Christmas Island deserves its place in the news due to its unique biodiversity, not because of maritime and refugee issues." The photograph is a finalist in the Our Impact category.

The South Australian Museum congratulates all entrants for their stunning and thought-provoking works, and we look forward to seeing the calibre of this international competition grow over the coming years. All winners' photographs can be seen on the ANZANG Nature Photography website.