Inaugural Nature TTL Photographer of the Year 2020 winners

The winning entries for the inaugural Nature TTL Photographer of the Year 2020 competition were recently announced. Over 7,000 images were submitted from wildlife, landscape, and macro photographers in 117 different countries. French photographer Florian Ledoux received the £1000 grand prize and title of Overall Winner for his image ‘Above the Crabeater Seals.’ If it looks familiar, it’s because this photo, captured in Antarctica, was also a Drone Awards 2019 winner.

‘It was a quiet morning and the sun was just about to rise. When I saw all the ice drifting alongside the sailboat in the fjord where we were anchored, with lot of crabeater seals resting on the ice, I immediately knew from previous experiences that this would give me a blast and really graphic and stunning images telling the story of how they use the ice to rest after night feeding,’ Overall Winner Florian Ledoux explains to DPReview about how he pre-planned his capture.

‘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 or disturb them, and always conduct yourself within accordance of local regulations,’ Ledoux told Nature TTL when he learned of his win.

‘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 or disturb them.’

Wildlife cameraman, and organizer of the competition, Will Nicholls said, ‘Florian’s image provides a unique angle that is not often seen in wildlife photography. The judges had a tough choice to make, but the detail and strong composition of the seals surrounded by the broken ice made it stand out from the crowd.’

The Landscape category winner, Marek Biegalski, also used a drone to show a flock of sheep resting in a tree’s shade. The Macro category was won by Chinese photographer Minghui Yuan for his simple, two-tone image of a damesfly resting on a blade of grass. The Youth category winner, 15-year-old Saptarshi Guyen from India, depicts a drongo searching for insects fleeing grassland fires.

Thousands voted for the People’s Choice category. Robert Ferguson’s intricate image of a pelican struggling to swallow a fish received the most votes. This is the first of what Nature TTL says is many annual photography competitions to come. Nature TTL offers photographers of all skill levels free tutorials and features that can be found here.

Overall Winner (& Wildlife Category Winner): ‘Above the Crabeater Seals’ by Florian Ledoux

Taken in: Antarctica

About this photo: ‘Aerial view of crabeater seals resting in a group on the ice after feeding at night. The aerial view allow us to better understand how the wildlife use the ice to rest and give birth.’

Equipment used: Phantom 4 Pro+

Runner-up, Wildlife Category: ‘Startled Owl’ by Paul Holman

Taken in: United Kingdom

About this photo: ‘The little baby owl made an appearance within the window during a
burst of 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.’

Equipment used: Canon EOS 7D II, Canon EF100-400mm Mark II lens

Highly Commended, Wildlife Category: ‘Sleeping the Fall Off’ by Terje Kolaas

Taken in: Norway

About this photo: ‘A Collared Dove in a garden in mid-Norway takes a break in feeding during a heavy snow fall. A remote street light in the background creates a halo around the bird. As soon as the snowfall stops, it shakes the snow off its shoulders and goes back to the daily routine with collecting wheat from the nearby fields. Tried many different shutter- speeds to vary the movement of the snow, this one is at 1/40s.’

Equipment used: Nikon D850 + 600mm f/4 lens

Highly Commended, Wildlife Category: ‘Breathing’ by Bence Máté

Taken in: Romania

About this photo: ‘A brown bear growls a warning of his presence to an interloper, his breath vanishing slowly in the windless forest.’

Equipment used: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II; 400mm lens

Highly Commended, Wildlife Category: ‘Badger Blues’ by Dave Hudson

Taken in: United Kingdom

About this photo: ‘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.’

Equipment used: Nikon D3s with Nikon D3s with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sport lens

Winner, Landscape Category: ‘Shadow Game’ by Marek Biegalski

Taken in: Italy

About this photo: ‘Aerial image taken in Tuscany in autumn light. Flock of sheep was hiding in the shade from the sun under the shadow of a tree.’

Equipment used: DJI Mavic Pro 2

Runner-up, Landscape Category: ‘Viking Rainbows’ by Alessandro Cantarelli

Taken in: Iceland

About this photo: ‘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.’

Equipment used: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV + Samyang 12mm f/2.8 fisheye lens

Highly Commended, Landscape Category: ‘Valley of the Scheldt’ by Bart Heirweg

Taken in: Belgium

About this photo: ‘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.’

Equipment used: DJI Mavic Pro 2

Winner, Macro Category: ‘Chinese Painting’ by Minghui Yuan

Taken in: China

About this photo: ‘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.’

Equipment used: Nikon D7000, Tamron 180mm f/3.5 macro lens

Highly Commended, Macro Category: ‘Nothing Here but this Tree’ by Caitlin Henderson

Taken in: Australia

About this photo: ‘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 discover their hiding places in plain sight.’

Equipment used: Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro lens

Highly Commended, Macro Category: ‘Trailblazer’ by Christian Wappl

Taken in: Thailand

About this photo: ‘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.’

Equipment used: Canon EOS 5DS, Canon EF 16–35mm f/4L lens

Highly Commended, Macro Category: ‘Home Sweet Home’ by Jesslyn Saw

Taken in: Malaysia

About this photo: ‘While on holiday at my family home in Malaysia, I set out to document as many different types of jumping spiders as possible in a fortnight.

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.’

Equipment used: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, 60mm f/2.8 macro lens

Winner, Under 16 Category: ‘Phoenix’ by Saptarshi Gayen

Taken in: India

About this photo: ‘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.’

Equipment used: Nikon D7100, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR lens

Runner-up, Under 16 Category: ‘The Cradle of Life’ by Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz

Taken in: Hungary

About this photo: ‘Late winter in February, the soda lakes are full of life in Hungary. These lakes are the sanctuary of wide variety 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 altitude, 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, water colored by organic materials coming from decomposition of cane. The sparkling color pallet of the image is composed by the blue sky and the white cloud reflection on the water’s surface.’

Equipment used: DJI Phantom 3 Standard

Winner, People’s Choice Award: ‘I’m Not Going Easy’ by Robert Ferguson

Taken in: Singapore

About photo: ‘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 birds 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.’

Equipment used: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, 200-400mm f/4 lens


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