See the winners in the latest Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest | CBC News

See the winners in the latest Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest | CBC News

Science

Three photos from two Canadian photographers are part of the 2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, whose winners were announced Tuesday night.

Photos by Canadians Garth Lenz and Mark Williams among winners

Emily Chung · CBC News

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An Arctic fox with three legs is haloed by sunlight

Mark Williams’s photo The Survivor features a three-legged Arctic fox on the tundra near Cunningham Inlet on Somerset Island, Nunavut. It was highly commended in the animal portraits category of the 2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. (Mark Williams/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Three photos from two Canadian photographers are part of the 2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, whose winners were announced Tuesday night.

Mark Williams, a photographer based in Jordan River, B.C., was highly commended in the animal portraits category for photos of an Arctic fox backlit by the sun and a dramatic drone shot of five belugas surfacing among fragments of sea ice, both captured in Nunavut. Garth Lenz of Victoria was highly commended in the photojournalism category for an aerial, early morning shot of the biggest open excavation on Earth, the massive Bingham Canyon copper mine in Utah.

Grand prize winners

The winners of the annual competition were announced at a ceremony in London. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London

The grand prize went to Laurent Ballesta of France for an underwater portrait of a shiny, gold horseshoe crab at Pangatalan Island in the Philippines accompanied by three young golden travellie fish. Ballesta previously won the grand prize in 2021, and is only the second photographer to win twice in the competition’s 59-year history.

A gold horseshoe crab with three small yellow and black striped fish above it

Laurent Ballesta of France won this year’s competition for this photo, The Ancient Mariner, of a tri-spine horseshoe crab moving slowly with a trio of juvenile golden trevallie fish. (Laurent Ballesta/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

The young wildlife photographer of the year prize went to 17-year-old Carmel Bechler of Israel for a photo of barn owls in an abandoned roadside building, behind light trails from passing traffic.

In all, 100 photographs were chosen in 19 categories among 49,957 entries from 95 countries to appear in the exhibition.

In the background is a building with graffiti on the walls and two owls in the window. In the foreground are light trails of passing cars.

In the photo Owl House, two barn owls hide in the window of an abandoned roadside building in Israel. It won the young wildlife photographer of the year award for Carmel Bechler. (Carmel Bechler/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

The Canadian photos

Williams captured his two photos in the summer of 2022 while working as a guide at a lodge called Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge on Somerset Island, which in the summer hosts tourists, researchers studying things like muskox populations and climate change impacts, and, sometimes, cinematographers.

He said he’s excited to share his photos of the region, since not many people get a chance to go up there.

“The beluga one is certainly one of my favourites,” he said from London on Wednesday, where he attended the awards ceremony. But he was surprised that it was chosen by the international panel of judges. “That one is quite arty and out there in my mind.”

Five white belugas are seen from overhead in a dark sea with a few small fragments of white ice.

Belugas Among Sea Ice was highly commended in the animals in their environment category. It was taken in the Northwest Passage, Somerset Island, Nunavut. (Mark Williams/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

The fox photo represented a “rare encounter” he said. He was at a camp on the side of the river around midnight, about to go to bed, when he spotted some movement in the distance that he couldn’t identify with binoculars. He went to have a closer look, and managed to capture an Arctic fox with a ragged blend of winter and summer coats haloed by sunlight. On closer inspection, he realized that it had only three legs. “It comes across as tenacious.” 

Williams hopes the photos help people relate to the Arctic species impacted by climate change. He noted that many may question whether small actions they take to slow climate change make a difference. “It does make a difference,” he said. “I hope that my imagery speaks to that.”

A massive open pit mine sits in the foreground, with mountains in the background.

The photo Humanity’s Bigget Hole is an aerial shot of the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine in Utah. It was highly commended in the photojournalism category. (Garth Lenz/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

William’s photos of the isolated wilderness contrast sharply with Lenz’s image of a giant, open pit mine.

“It’s part of my bigger project on what the Anthropocene looks like,” said Lenz, referring to the proposed geological epoch marked by humans’ influence on the Earth. Lenz’s photos of Alberta oilsands mines have appeared in two previous Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibitions.

This year’s image was taken in 2017, when he opened an exhibition in Salt Lake City, Utah, and hired a plane to photograph the mine. The ride itself was a reminder of the impact on the landscape — thermals rising up from the massive pit cause severe turbulence. “So we were bouncing around a lot in the air,” Lenz recalled. “My head kept hitting the top of the frame of the window, which of course was open as we smacked around.”

Still, he was determined to capture images of the mine.

“I’m really trying to tell the story of our treatment of the planet,” he said. “We have become so disconnected from the environment that we take everything from — that we allow this devastation to actually occur virtually under our noses… it’s a societal problem that we don’t really see our fate as being [as] closely tied to the health of the planet as it actually is.”

Where to see the exhibition

The touring exhibition opens Friday at the Natural History Museum in London.

It makes its North American debut at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on Nov. 25, It will open at the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria on March 1, 2024.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Chung covers science, the environment and climate for CBC News. She has previously worked as a digital journalist for CBC Ottawa and as an occasional producer at CBC’s Quirks & Quarks. She has a PhD in chemistry from the University of British Columbia. In 2019, she was part of the team that won a Digital Publishing Award for best newsletter for “What on Earth.” You can email story ideas to Emily.Chung@cbc.ca.

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