Current Issue #488

Fire in the dark wins Nature Photographer of the Year prize

Ben Blanche
Overall winner: Border Fire Mt Barney

Queensland photographer Ben Blanche’s striking shot of the 2019/2020 bushfire season has taken out the top prize at this year’s Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition.

Blanche’s winning image of fire combing over Mount Barney National Park was taken in November 2019, when dry conditions and lightning strikes combined to incendiary effect.

“The fire was rather slow moving and took some hours to move across the mountain, luckily I had a local telling me what the fire conditions were like leading up to the day so I could plan,” Blanche said of the shot.  “I got to the location with ample time before the sun had gone down so I could form a rough idea of when the balance of fire and ambient light would be right.”

The 2019/20 fire season spawned no shortage of viscerally memorable images, with professional photographers and mobile phone-toting eyewitnesses alike capturing viral images of cities cloaked in smoke, wildlife fleeing through smoldering ruins, and children escaping fire-fronts by boat. In capturing from afar the glowing, golden line of a fire-front sweeping through the park, Blanche’s certainly captures the scale and foreboding of bushfires.

“This image really depicts the reality of bushfire season in Australia, capturing the scale and ferocity of the damage fires can cause,” South Australian Museum director Brian Oldman said of Blanche’s photograph, which topped a field of 1796 entries in this year’s competition. “I think all Australians will connect with this image and take a moment to pause and reflect on the impact bushfires have on our environment.”

Richard Robinson
Our Impact winner: The Wreck of the Penguins

Other memorable winners include Kiwi photographer Richard Robinson’s The Wreck of the Penguins, which took out the ‘Our Impact’ category, Western Australian photographer Mat Beetson’s Landscape winner Bolt on Stormy Ocean and an up-close portrait of a Tasmanian Devil by Queensland’s Jasmine Vink – one of just two women in this year’s crop of winners.

“It’s rather unreal and I feel incredibly lucky,” Blanche says of his win. “I have entered this competition many times since the inaugural competition and the standard of work is extraordinary and very competitive. It is a great achievement that I will cherish and really helps solidify that all the hours and photos that haven’t worked over the years were worth it.”

The South Australian Museum will host a public exhibition of all the finalists from Friday 28 August – Sunday 15 November.

Landscape winner: Bolt on Stormy Ocean
Mat Beetson
Botanical winner: Enchanted Forest
Kevin De Vree
Monochrome winner: Phil's World
Charles Davis
Animal Behaviour winner: A Fever of Cownose Rays
Alex Kydd
Animal Habitat winner: Storm Dragon
Jari Cornelis
Threatened Species winner: Tasmanian Devil
Jasmine Vink
Our Impact winner: The Wreck of the Penguins
Richard Robinson
Overall winner: Border Fire Mt Barney
Ben Blanche

Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition 2020 winners

Animal Portrait:
Leopard Anemone, Richard Robinson (NZ)

Animal Behaviour
A Fever of Cownose Rays, Alex Kydd (WA)

Animal Habitat
Storm Dragon, Jari Cornelis (WA)

Botanical
Enchanted Forest, Kevin De Vree (Belgium)

Landscape
Bolt on Stormy Ocean, Mat Beetson (WA)

Monochrome
Phil’s World, Charles Davis (NSW)

Junior (photographers under 18 years of age)
Graceful and Green, Tess Poyner (NSW)

Our Impact (depicting human impact on nature)
The Wreck of the Penguins, Richard Robinson (NZ)

Threatened Species (threatened, rare, vulnerable or endangered species)
Tasmanian Devil, Jasmine Vink (QLD)

Portfolio Prize (best portfolio of six or more images)
Ethan Mann (QLD)

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer, editor and broadcaster living on Kaurna Country. His work has appeared in Rip It Up, Broadsheet, The Saturday Paper, The Guardian Australia, The Thousands, dB Magazine, Jetstar Magazine and Royal Auto. 

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