WA photographer named overall winner of the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2019 competition
31 August 2019
West Australian photographer, Mat Beetson has been named overall winner of the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2019 competition. An exhibition of the finalists is now on at the Powerhouse Museum, in partnership with the Australian Museum, until 20 October 2019. The exhibition, produced by the South Australian Museum, includes Beetson’s winning image – Fin Whale’s Demise. As the overall winner, Beetson prize includes $10,000 cash and an expedition cruise to Papua New Guinea or the Spice Islands with Coral Expeditions.
Captured by Beetson while on a photographic trip with a friend, the photograph taken in Cheynes Beach in Albany, WA, with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone, shows a beached fin whale being circled by sharks. The photograph is the competition’s first drone picture to be chosen as the overall winner, and was selected by a panel of judges from a selection of over 2,000 submissions.
“I was actually in the Great Southern region of WA to photograph the beautiful beaches but a turn in weather with a crazy storm made it a little tough to fly a drone," Beetson said. "We heard from some locals that there was a beached whale at Cheynes Beach.
"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. 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.”
Competition judges Justin Gilligan, Glenn McKimmin, and Tui De Roy said: “Despite seeing millions of nature photographs over the decades, we have never seen anything that remotely resembles this image. Unique and exciting, it reveals incredible beauty in death. Rather than being an inanimate scene, the image is given life by the circling shark, which in turn reminds us of the ecological function of the dead whale, providing food and energy to the living organisms around it. The image surprises by revealing such a shocking scene in a beautiful setting, and speaks volumes of the new dimension the latest technology has opened up for photographers.”
Of the win, Beetson said: "“It’s amazing. I’m still in disbelief…it’s such a huge honour. I was really excited just to be shortlisted in my category, but to take out the overall award, amongst an exceptional standard of entries in such a prestigious competition – it’s a really big thrill”.
Winners and runners-up
Animal Portrait Winner: Decorator Crab, Ross Gudgeon (WA) Runner-up: Bride in the Bath, Melissa Christi (QLD)
Animal Behaviour Winner: The Heat Run, Scott Portelli (NSW) Runner-up: Evil Cousin, Pete McGee (NSW)
Animal Habitat Winner: Small but Mighty, Richard Smith (UK) Runner-up: Spider on Ice, Raoul Slater (QLD)
Botanical Winner: The Ghost of the Forest, Marcia Riederer (VIC) Runner-up: Pandani at Lake Oberon, Jarrod Castaing (NSW)
Landscape Winner: Barron Falls, Neil Pritchard (QLD) Runner-up: Through the Curtain, Nick Monk (TAS)
Monochrome Winner: Texture, Tracey Jennings (UK/MYS) Runner-up: King Pair Conversation, Andrew Peacock (QLD)
Junior (photographers under 18 years of age) Winner: In the Dark, Floyd Mallon (NSW) Runner-up: Under the Spikes, Isaac Wilson (SA)
Our Impact (depicting human impact on nature) Winner: The Watering Hole, Melissa Williams-Brown (SA) Runner-up: End of the Line, David Stowe (NSW)
Threatened Species (threatened, rare, vulnerable or endangered species) Winner: Curious Encounter, Etienne Littlefair (NT) Runner-up: Just Hanging On, Neil Edwards (SA)
Portfolio Prize (best portfolio of size or more images) Winner: Charles Davis, (NSW)