Sydney photographers wins Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition
Sydney-based underwater and nature photographer Scott Portelli has taken out top honours in the 2021 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition with his image of a leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques) camouflaged in the shallow reefs of the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia. The image, Leafy Night, was captured in March 2020, shortly after the announcement of COVID-19 restrictions impacted his year-long journey around Australia, leaving him stuck in a small campground in the Fleurieu Peninsula. Portelli says that it “ended up being a blessing in disguise” as he was able to dive regularly and become familiar with the terrain.
Portelli, who’s been a photographer for over 20 years, said that he became acquainted with the resident dragons of Second Valley, and that’s how he managed to get the shot. “After several encounters with one particular seadragon, it appeared to become unperturbed by my presence and I was able to compose a shot that tightly captured its eyes, features, and appendages front on,” Portelli said.
As Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Portelli receives a cash prize of $10,000 and a Coral Expeditions holiday. He says that taking out the top prize is a highlight of this his photographic career, and one of his proudest moments. This year, the competition received a total of 2,206 images entered.
The 2021 competition judges included Narelle Autio (international award-winning outback and coastal photographer), Trent Parke (internationally acclaimed photographer and the first Australian member of the prestigious Magnum photographic agency), and Stavros Pippos (celebrated South Australian landscape photographer). About the winning image, the judges stated: “The backlighting has transformed the seadragon from a tiny sea creature into the illusion of a mythical beast. Beautifully framed, the dragon emerges from the darkness, glowing with a sense of fire within.”
Chrissie Goldrick, Editor-in-Chief, Australian Geographic said: “The restrictions experienced by us all in the lead up to the competition haven’t impacted the quality and breadth of the photography on display in this year’s exhibition. In fact, the winning photo came about as result of the pandemic, so the photographers have shown great resourcefulness, and their photos once again demonstrate the raw beauty and power of the natural history of our biogeographic region.”
Competition winners and runners-up
Winner: A White-capped at Sunset, Doug Gimesy (VIC)
Runner-up: Howling at the Moon, Mike George (NSW)
Winner: Next Generation, Tammy Gibbs (WA)
Runner-up: Dreaming, Franco Tulli (Italy)
Winner:A Tree Dreaming, Christian Spencer (VIC)
Runner-up: Stilted Reflections, Georgina Steytler (WA)
Winner: Ghost Mushrooms, Callie Chee (NSW)
Runner-up: Swamp Secrets, Paula McManus (SA)
Winner: Forest of Reflection, Hayden Cannon (WA)
Runner-up: Beneath the Surface, Ashlee Karas (WA)
Winner: Incoming, Jeff Freestone (VIC)
Runner-up: King of the Cape, Matt Wright (QLD)
Junior (photographers under 18 years of age)
Winner: You Can’t See Me, Georgia McGregor (QLD)
Runner-up: Cockatoo, Aidan Cimarosti (NSW)
Our Impact (depicting human impact on nature)
Winner: Bound, jammed inside, and posted, Doug Gimesy (VIC)
Runner-up: Single-use Drifter, Justin Gilligan, (NSW)
Threatened Species (threatened, rare, vulnerable or endangered species)
Winner: Declining Species, Scott Portelli (NSW)
Runner-up: In the Shadows, Tom Svensson, Sweden
Portfolio Prize (best portfolio of six or more images
Tim Wrate (NSW)
An exhibition of all the finalists will be on display at the South Australian Museum from 27 August to 31 October. The Australian Museum in Sydney will also host the exhibition from October 2021 until January 2022.
Head to the South Australian Museum website to check out the entire gallery.
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