Nature inFocus Photography Awards 2020 winners and finalists

Winners and finalists were announced for the latest annual Nature inFocus Photography Awards. Due to the pandemic, the festival was cancelled and selections were shared via a live announcement on YouTube. More than 1,600 photographers submitted roughly 14,000 images from around the world.

A 5-member jury, including nature photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee, picked winners and finalists. Yashpal Rathore won for his image depicting a bad frozen against an urban landscape in Bangalore, India. A Special Jury Award was given, for the very first time, to Magnus Lundgren as 3 of his photographs were selected – 2 are featured in this slideshow.

The Nature inFocus Photography Awards aims to recognize photographers whose work helps preserve our natural history and raise awareness around conservation. A full gallery can be viewed here.

Winner, Wildscape & Animals in Habitat & Nature inFocus Photograph of the Year: The Dark Knight’ by Yashpal Rathore

Location: Bangalore, India

Artist Statement: A Greater Short-nosed Fruit Bat drops out of a Singapore Cherry tree on the walkway of a busy street in the capital city of Karnataka. The headlamp streak of a speeding vehicle, the neon lights of business hoardings – the long-exposure shot perfectly captures the dynamism of city life.

The ever-growing city has seen these nocturnal winged mammals adapt to the chaos of the urban environment. Though vilified by much of the human population, bats play a vital role in our ecosystem as seed dispersers and pest-controllers. The photographer used a laser trigger and low-powered flashlights to freeze the bat in its flight.

Winner, Creative Nature Photography: ‘A Mirage In The Night’ by Nayan Jyoti Das

Location: Manas National Park, Assam

Artist Statement: Occasionally, nature surprises us with moments so dramatic and beautiful, like right out of a fairytale. Caught in the warm embrace of a posse of fireflies, a family of wild elephants huddles together under the night sky, mirroring the asterism of Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka of Orion above.

Special Mention, Creative Nature Photography: ‘Order in Chaos’ by Jayesh Joshi

Location: Vadodara, Gujarat

Artist Statement: Rosy Starlings perch on the edge of a parapet like substitute players on the bench, waiting to join in the action. The long exposure shot captures the frenzy of the murmuration above, hundreds of starlings swooping across the sky in intricately coordinated patterns.

Runner-up, Animal Portraits: ‘The Boxer’ by Mofeed Abu Shalwa

Location: Qatif, Saudi Arabia

Artist Statement: The Red Palm Weevil is a species of snout beetle, recognised by its distinctive long snout and geniculate antennae. First reported on coconut trees in Southeast Asia, they have since gained a foothold on date palms in several Middle Eastern countries and have spread to Africa and Europe through the movement of infected planting material.

Special Mention, Animal Portraits: ‘Monsoon Matchmaking’ by Ripan Biswas

Location: Cooch Behar, West Bengal

Artist Statement: Pre-monsoon storms known as ‘Kalboishakhi’ in Bengali bring the first rains after months of the dry season. The skies open up with thunder and lightning, announcing the arrival of the mating season for amphibians. This single exposure image of a Fejervarya sp. was made by shifting focus initially from the frog and then on to the clouds.

Winner, Animal Behavior: ‘The Hitchhiker’ by Magnus Lundgren

Location: Balayan Bay, Luzon, Philippines

Artist Statement: The Brown Paper Nautilus is an argonaut, a free-swimming octopus of open ocean habitats. A species that is widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, the Brown Paper Nautilus is known to cling to objects floating on the surface of the sea, including other argonauts. Here a female nautilus is seen surfing on a free-floating medusa.

Though the relationship is not fully understood yet, the nautilus is believed to use its host as a food source and as a defensive weapon. When the nautilus was photographed, it used the medusa as an active form of protection by turning it towards the camera, which it presumably perceived as a potential predator.

Second Runner-up, Animal Behavior: ‘Water Wars’ by Chaitanya Rawat

Location: Jhalana Forest, Jaipur

About this Photo: On a hot day in the forests of Jhalana, with temperatures touching 45ºC, the photographer waited under the shade of a tree near a man-made waterhole. His patience was rewarded when a leopard slid down the rocks like melted wax and strolled towards the waterhole.

His camera zoomed in on the spotted, ochre and black coat as he watched the gorgeous feline drink its fill. Suddenly, the scene turned electric as a Striped Hyena made an appearance, unaware of the presence of the cat. Expecting the hyena to quickly slink away, the photographer was surprised to watch it go on the offensive and chase the leopard up a tree. The hyena then drank its fill and moved away.

Special Mention, Animal Behavior: ‘Breed The Red’ by Varun Thakkar

Location: Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Artist Statement: A Southern Ground-hornbill, the largest hornbill species on Earth, feeds its young one. Found in grasslands, woodlands and open savannas of southern Africa, they are recognizable by their jet black feathers and the bright red throat wattle in males. Juveniles instead have yellow patches on the face and throat. Pollution, logging and agricultural expansion which often destroy nesting habitats are the primary threats for this species.

Winner, Conservation Issues: ‘Circle Of Death’ by Srikanth Mannepuri

Location: Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh

Artist Statement: Fishermen surround the lifeless body of a Mobula Ray at a fish landing site in Kakinada as they determine its value in thousands of rupees. The winner of the auction will then prepare the fish and trade it illegally to Southeast Asian countries for high-profit margins. The gill rakers of the Mobula Ray is believed to hold medicinal properties.

Second Runner-up, Conservation Issues: ‘Plastic Surfer’ by Magnus Lundgren

Location: Balayan Bay, Luzon, Philippines

Artist Statement: A male paper nautilus rides a piece of plastic in the pelagic zone. In the ocean, plastic debris injures and kills fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Marine plastic pollution has impacted at least 267 species worldwide, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species and 43% of all marine mammal species.

Winner, Young Photographer: ‘Dust To Dust’ by Sitara Karthikeyan

Location: Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand

Artist Statement: A majestic tusker walking head-on towards the photographer showers himself in dust sprayed from his trunk. Elephants dust bathe to keep their skin healthy and to keep parasites at bay. It also helps them to cool down their bodies.

Second Runner-up, Young Photographer: ‘Harmony In Faith’ by Abhikram Shekhawat

Location: Jaipur, Rajasthan

Artist Statement: A large population of Rhesus Macaques rules the Aravalli landscape, which is also home to the renowned Galtaji temple. Though these monkeys create a lot of nuisance, they are treated respectfully by the devotees who visit the temple to worship the monkey god, Hanuman. Photographed here is a female Rhesus Macaque sitting in front of the glorious temple edifice.

Special Mention, Young Photographer: ‘Catch The Sun’ by Sumit Adhikary

Location: Indian Ocean, Maldives

Artist Statement: A breaching Spinner Dolphin casts a striking silhouette against the light reflecting off the deep blue ocean from the setting sun. Breaching is a very common activity among cetaceans, and though there are a number of hypotheses, scientists still really don’t know why they do it.

Second Runner-up, Wildscape & Animals in Habitat: ‘Cinderella Of The Ghats’ by Mandar Ghumare

Location: Coorg, Karnataka

Artist Statement: A terrestrial snail endemic to the Western Ghats, Indrella ampulla is the only species in the monotypic genus, Indrella. The species is polymorphic – the visible soft parts of the snail show great colour diversity, ranging from pale yellow to red like in this particular individual. The wide frame showcases the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats which it calls home.

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