2019 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Winners

The South Australian Museum has announced the 2019 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year and also shared the winning images from each of the ten categories offered in this year’s contest.
In total, 2,219 images were submitted and judged by Justin Gilligan, Glenn McKimmin and Tui De Roy. In the end, the 2019 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year award was handed out to Mat Beetson of Western Australia for the above image of a beached Fin Whale being circled by sharks on Cheynes Beach in Albany, Western Australia. The winning image was captured with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone, marking the first time a drone-captured photograph has won the competition.
‘It was unreal, arriving at a peaceful coastal town with a pristine beach and then seeing this huge whale not even five metres from shore – we then noticed the thrashing close by and realised that a few sharks had also stopped by,’ Beetson told the Southern Australian Museum about the capture. ‘I launched the drone to see the aerial view and captured a sequence of photographs, this shot was one of the last ones I took and I was very lucky that the shark came back for a look.’
Beetson received a $10,000 cash prize as well as a Coral Expeditions cruise for winning.
The remainder of the images in this gallery are the ten winners in each of this year’s categories.
You can find out more information about the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition and the South Australian Museum by visiting their respective websites.
Above Image:
Overall Winner
Fin Whale, Balaenoptera physalus
The fin whale is sighted regularly in this region; seeing one beached, however, is rare. The whale sits less than 5m from shore and 100m from residential homes, giving whale researchers access to an unusual occurrence for this species. Bronze whalers and great whites feasted over the remains before removal.
Location: Cheynes Beach, Albany, Western Australia
Gear: DJI Phantom 4 Pro Drone, 24mm, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 100, 118m high, filmed with permission DPAW
Photographer: Mat Beetson, Western Australia

Photo credits: Images owned by their respective creators, used with the permission of the South Australian Museum.
Winner, Animal Portrait

Decorator crab, Achaeus spinosus
Typically, decorator crabs attach pieces of sponge and seaweed to themselves to camouflage and hide from predators (which makes them very poor photographic subjects). However, Achaeus spinosus attaches stinging hydroids to itself to ward off potential predators (making it a very attractive subject for photography).
Location: Lembeh Strait, North East Sulawesi, Indonesia
Gear: Canon EOS 7D Mk II, Canon EF 100mm, f/2.8 macro USM, 1/250, f/16, ISO 200, INON Z240 strobe with Retra Pro light shaping device, handheld
Photographer: Ross Gudgeon, Western Australia

Winner, Animal Behaviour

Humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, Dolphins, unidentified species
The heat run is the ultimate wildlife encounter – multiple whales competing for a female. The chase can last for hours or even days and males can display bubble netting, open mouth gulping, physical contact, loud acoustic sounds, and breaching. Even after 16 years documenting humpback behaviour in the region, it is still truly heart-thumping and adrenaline-pumping action.
Location: Tonga, South Pacific
Gear: Canon 1DX Mk II, Canon 8–15mm fisheye, 1/320, f/8, ISO 200
Photographer: Scott Portelli, New South Wales

Winner, Animal Habitat

Commensal amphipod living in solitary ascidian
I was searching for miniature pygmy seahorses on the reefs of West Papua when I happened across this tiny amphipod crustacean. Just 0.5–1cm long, this male is sitting at the mouth of the sea squirt to guard the females and young within. According to an amphipod expert, this is likely a new species.
Location: Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia
Gear: Nikon D800, Nikkor 105mm macro, 1/125, f/14, ISO 100, twin INON Z240 strobes, handheld, Subal underwater housing
Photographer: Richard Smith, United Kingdom

Winner, Botanical

Ghost fungus, Omphalotus nidiformis
The elusive ghost mushroom show starts after dark, when the green light of its bioluminescence glows across the pine forest on the Bellarine Peninsula. It seems like magic but the glowing works to attract insects that then help disperse the spores and spread the mushroom.
Location: Ocean Grove, Victoria
Gear: Canon 5D Mk IV, Samyang 14mm, 30, f/2.8, ISO 3200, Manfrotto tripod
Photographer: Marcia Riederer, Victoria

Winner, Landscape

When Barron Falls (Din Din) is in flood, the usually tranquil scene is transformed into a tumultuous cataract as huge volumes of water make their way to the coastal plain below. The sheer violence of this display, coupled with the deafening roar, makes it an unforgettable experience.
Location: Barron Falls, Kuranda, Queensland
Gear: Pentax X-5, 28.3mm, 1/320, f/5, ISO 100, handheld
Photographer: Neil Pritchard, Queensland

Winner, Monochrome

Honeycomb moray eel, Gymnothorax favagineus Maze coral, Leptoria sp.
I came across this amazing juxtaposition of a honeycomb moray eel and a textured brain coral. It screamed monochrome to me, but one of the significant disadvantages of shooting underwater is that you cannot just change your lens to suit the subject. Still, I slowly moved as close to the eel as possible, increased the depth of field, and adjusted my strobes to light up the coral and the eel.
Location: Banda Sea
Gear: Nikon D850, Nikonos 13mm RS, 1/200, f/16, ISO 400, Seacam housing, Ikelite 161s strobe
Photographer: Tracey Jennings, United Kingdom/Malaysia

Winner, Junior

This night was the most amazing display of lightning that I have ever seen, with constant flashes of lightning lasting hours. For the composition, I decided to focus on a man standing at the edge of the water with an umbrella to add a sense of scale to the image.
Location: Fingal Bay, New South Wales
Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mk lll, Canon 17–40mm f4 L, 15, f/4, ISO 200, tripod
Photographer: Floyd Mallon, New South Wales. Age 17

Winner, Our Impact

The Menindee Lakes were deliberately drained in 2016–17 and New South Wales has experienced a lengthy drought. Animals and birds desperately seek food and water and there is very little left due to these human-made and natural events. Lake Cawndilla is now just a drying lakebed scattered with the remains of our native animals.
Location: Cawndilla Creek, Menindee, New South Wales
Gear: DJI Phantom 3 Advanced, 20mm, 1/640, f/2.8, ISO 200, ND4 filter
Photographer: Melissa Williams-Brown, South Australia

Threatened Species Winner

Winner, Threatened Species
Mertens’ water monitor, Varanus mertensi
Mertens’ water monitors are highly inquisitive. This extremely bold specimen ostentatiously approached me to investigate the good-looking lizard in my dome port while I observed another nearby pair engaged in courtship – sadly for him he was staring at his own reflection, not the mate of his dreams.
Location: Adelaide River, Northern Territory
Gear: Olympus OMD EM-1 Mk II, Olympus 8mm f1.8, 1/125, f/11, ISO 64, two Sea & Sea YS-D2 strobes, manual flash output, handheld, Nauticam underwater housing
Photographer: Etienne Littlefair, Northern Territory

Portfolio Prize

Portfolio Prize (best portfolio of size or more images)

Artist: Charles Davis, (NSW)

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