Winners of the Nature TTL Photographer of the Year 2021 competition
Winners of the annual Nature TTL Photographer of the Year competition were recently announced for 2021. Over 8,000 images were received from around the world. Canadian photographer Thomas Vijayan received the grand prize for his image ‘The World is Going Upside Down’ depicting an orangutan looking at his reflection in a body of water below the tree he’s climbing.
‘Thomas’ image is really unique, and immediately stood out to the judging panel,’ said Will Nicholls, Founder of Nature TTL. ‘It’s one of those photos where you can’t skim past it. The unique perspective and composition means you are immediately trying to figure out what exactly you are looking at.’
‘This image means a lot to me because presently the orangutan population is reducing at an alarming rate. Deforestation and humans are the key causes behind this. Trees over 1,000 years old – which are a major asset to our planet — are being cut down for palm oil plantations. As humans, we have a lot of alternative choices to replace the oil, but the orangutans don’t have any options other than losing their home. I am very happy to see this image be successful, as it gives me an opportunity to spread the issue to the wider world,’ says Vijayan of his winning image.
All winning and runner-up images can be viewed in this gallery. Nature TTL also provides free tutorials for nature photographers.
Category Winner & Overall Winner, Animal Behaviour: ‘The World is Going Upside Down’ by Thomas Vijayan
Artist Statement: After spending few days in Borneo, I got this frame stuck in my mind. To get this shot, I selected a tree that was in the water so that I could get a good reflection of the sky and its leaves on the tree. The water formed a mirror, making the image look upside-down.
Then I climbed up on the tree and waited for hours. This is a regular path for the orangutans to use, so patience would surely pay off.
Gear and Specs: Nikon D850 with 8-15mm lens. 1/400th, f/4.5, ISO 5,000.
Runner-up, Animal Behaviour: ‘Fish Caught by Surprise’ by Johan Wandrag
Artist Statement: Taken in South Africa, a fish is caught in the moment it is snapped up by a crocodile. The look of surprise really made this shot stand out to me.
Gear and Specs: Canon 7D Mark II with Sigma 150-600mm lens. 1/3,200th, f/ 8, ISO 400.
Highly Commended, Animal Behaviour: ‘Dust Bath’ by Bence Máté
Artist Statement: Wild dog pups play in the dust seen rising from the bone dry soil. I tracked them for 5 weeks, and photographed them in some fascinating situations in South Africa.
Gear and Specs: Nikon D5 with 200mm lens. 1/1,000th, f/2, ISO 4,000.
Highly Commended, Camera Traps: ‘Starry Night’ by Bence Máté
Artist Statement: The shadow of fallow deer sketches in front of the starry skies. Within the 45 seconds this image was taken, the movement of the deer covered different parts of the skies, resulting in a ghostly effect.
Gear and Specs: Nikon D800 with 15mm lens. 45 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 1,250.
Category Winner, Landscapes: ‘Tree of Life’ by Jay Roode
Artist Statement: Suspended in time; a sense of waiting pervades this valley where nothing seems to have happened for a thousand years. The shadow of an ancient Camel Thorn tree reaches out, like a blackened hand to the delicate tracings of the Tsauchab River; yearning for the life that once was.
Gear and Specs: Canon 5D Mark III with 100-400mm lens. 1/800th, f/9, ISO 250.
Highly Commended, Landscapes: ‘The Way to Rùm’ by Luigi Ruoppolo
Artist Statement: On the island of Eigg at sunset, with beautiful colours and stunning clouds moving over the mountains of Rùm island, Scotland. I was quite far from the shoreline, following the patterns left in the sand by the tide and shooting at 90 seconds exposure to get as many reflections as possible.
Gear and Specs: Nikon D850 with 21mm lens. 90 seconds, f/16, ISO 64.
Runner-up, Small World: ‘Nature’s Pitfall’ by Samantha Stephens
Artist Statement: Researchers at the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station recently discovered that juvenile Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) are being trapped by Northern Pitcher Plants, as they make their fall migration from aquatic hatching grounds across a bog mat to find over-wintering sites beneath the forest floor. This is the first discovery of salamanders being regularly caught by Northern Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia purpurea)—and more than 20% of the plants in this Algonquin Park population are capturing salamander prey!
This phenomenon has not been recorded for any other population of Northern Pitcher Plants. What researchers haven’t figured out yet is how the salamanders are becoming trapped. Although many pitchers lie flush with the surface of the bog mat, ready to catch those that take an unlucky step during their journey, some pitchers stand erect, almost 15 centimeters above the moss. Spotted Salamanders have long been recognized as important nutrient cyclers, and this discovery expands our understanding of that role.
On the day I made this image, I was following researchers on their daily surveys of the plants. Typically, pitchers contain just one salamander prey at a time, although occasionally they catch multiple salamanders simultaneously. When I saw a pitcher that had two salamanders, both at the same stage of decay floating at the surface of the pitcher’s fluid, I knew it was a special—and fleeting—moment. The next day, both salamanders had sunk to the bottom of the pitcher.
Gear and Specs: Canon 5D Mark III with Laowa 15mm macro lens. 1/100th, ISO 1250.
Category Winner, The Night Sky: ‘The Eye’ by Ivan Pedretti
Artist Statement: On Uttakleiv beach, in Norway, these particular rocks looked like an eye. The shot is set against the beautiful colours of the Northern Lights above.
Gear and Specs: Sony A7R II with Sony 16-35mm lens. 20 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 1,600.
Highly Commended, The Night Sky: ‘Under Aurora Bridge’ by Yevhen Samuchenko
Artist Statement: Aurora borealis with an unusual arc shape above Kirkjufell mountain in Iceland.
Gear and Specs: Nikon D750 with Nikon 16mm lens. 10 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 4,000.
Category Winner, Underwater: ‘Manta Space Ship’ by Grant Thomas
Artist Statement: Manta rays are filter feeders, sustaining their huge size by consuming large amounts of plankton and small crustaceans, like krill. The Maldives is one of the only places in the world where you can dive with these majestic animals at night time.
For this image, I was positioned flat on the sand, watching one Manta looping around and around whilst feeding on a cloud of planktonic creatures which had gathered. After some time, the manta drifted closer and closer to me until eventually I was able to capture this shot.
Gear and Specs: Canon 5D Mark IV with Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens. 1/50th, f/11, ISO 320.
Highly Commended, Underwater: ‘My New Toy’ by Celia Kujala
Artist Statement: Play is very important in the development of young Steller sea lions and they love playing with anything that they find in their environment. When I was diving at Norris Rocks off Hornby Island in Canada, I watched this young sea lion play with a starfish.
As I watched her, she swam over to me to show me her beautiful toy. I was able to capture the image just as she was presenting the starfish to me.
Sadly, Steller sea lions are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. By observing their playful nature, I hope people will feel a connection with them and want to protect them and their environment.
Gear and Specs: Nikon D500 with Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens. 1/250th, f/11, ISO 500.
Highly Commended, Urban Wildlife: ‘The Door’ by Jose Luis Ruiz Jimenez
Artist Statement: A barn owl peeks out the door of an old abandoned house.
Gear and Specs: Nikon D4S with Nikon 600mm f/4 lens. 1/100th, f/4, ISO 2,500.
Category Winner & Young Overall Winner, Under 16: ‘Spoilt for Choice’ by Thomas Easterbrook
Artist Statement: This photo was taken while we were watching a starling murmuration. This peregrine came out of nowhere to attack the murmuration and I was pleased to capture it at work!
Gear and Specs: Nikon D7500 with Nikon 18-300mm lens. 1/640th, f/6.3, ISO 800.