GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015: Richard Peters -Shadow walker-
Taken in my back garden, the image shows the shadow of an urban fox on its nightly patrols. To give context to the image, I placed the camera up high enough to show the neighbouring house, and using a 30-second exposure setting, I also captured the stars in the night sky. I did not plan to include the upstairs light in the neighbour’s house, but it helps connect the human and wild elements of the image, giving context to the story. The camera was triggered by a light barrier when the fox walked by.
Winner Birds: Juan Carlos Muñoz – Fishing in the Evening in Hula Valley
This photograph was taken at a fish farm in Hula Valley, which is part of the Galilee region in Israel. In the soft evening light, circular puddles stood out against dark muddy areas at the bottom of a drained fish pond. They formed the perfect backdrop for a black winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus) that was searching for food in the shallow water. The Hula Valley is an important resting ground for all kinds of wading birds and, thanks to longterm conservation programmes, a balance has been achieved between economic use and wildlife protection.
Runner-up Birds: Bernt Osthus – Capercaillie
Over the course of the years I have often witnessed how the sun moves across the ridge where the capercaillies would carry out their mating ritual. So I had a pretty good idea where to pitch my hide to take a photograph in which the backlight filtering through the trees would make the bird appear as a silhouette. All I needed now was fair weather and one of the capercaillies in the right position. The long lens and open aperture softened the fore- and background. I took this photo in the woods not far from the village where I grew up.
Winner Mammals: Bence Mate – Night star
I have always tried to explore new fields in nature photography. I especially like photographing animals at night, which has its very own unique challenges. This photo was made using a remote control camera that I had put in an old fish box. It was difficult to estimate in advance the necessary balance between the flash light and the natural light from the stars. I also hoped that I would not scare away the animal as the wild boars in our area are extremely shy. Luckily, it stood still during the shot.
Runner-up Mammals: Audun Rikardsen – Humpback whale under the Arctic moon
For a number of years, massive shoals of herring have gathered during the dark winter months in the fjords near the town of Tromsø (Norway). They are followed by numerous humpback whales that chase the herring in the dark, often only lit by moonlight. To document this kind of behaviour, I used a selfbuilt flash system. But even locating the whales in the dark was quite a challenge. Every whale‘s tail has its own individual characteristics, which can be used to differentiate one animal from the other. This also enables scientists to follow their migration routes across the oceans, and this is how nature photography can contribute in yet another case to research and the protection of species.
Winner Other Animals: Quentin Martinez – Peace at the stream
Young caimans (Paleosuchus palpebrosus) spend their days in shallow water well hidden by dense vegetation that protects them from numerous predators. Only at dusk do they emerge from their hiding places to search for food. I knew a very good spot where many young caimans lived. There was no cloud in the evening sky on that day and the sun‘s diminishing light reflected on the water of the river. To blur the moving current of the water, I had to stop down a lot and use a tripod because of the necessarily long exposure time.
Winner Plants & Fungi: Radomir Jakubowski, GDT – Phantom of the night
I have been fascinated by local orchid species since childhood. The lady‘s slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus) in particular is my favourite orchid in Germany, and every year I spend several days photographing this plant species exclusively. One morning, I tried to convey my feelings in an artistic photo by merging the cold morning mood with the dark gloom of the forest in one photo.
It was a lovely day in October, exactly the right kind of weather for a long walk around the village of Ain (France). I had already been walking for an hour when I noticed the flower heads of some wild teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), which seemed to glow in the low backlight. To photograph them, I stood behind a bush and focused through a gap in the foliage. I like the contrast between the hard and prickly flower heads and the soft dissolved background.
Winner Landscape: Esa Pekka Isomursu – Snow-laden trees under a full moon, halos and northern lights
A very special night in Syöte National Park (Finland): the full moon hung over spruce trees deeply covered in snow and there were ice crystals in the air; just enough so that halos would form (including a rare 9° ring), but so few that the stars were still visible. While I was photographing this light phenomenon, a curtain of polar lights suddenly appeared. For a short moment they danced above the halos, just long enough for me to capture this magic moment in a photograph.
Winner Under water: Edwin Giesbers – Dark future
Between mid-March and June, amphibians migrate to ponds and lakes to reproduce. I photographed this great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) in a small pond in the Netherlands by putting the camera underneath the animal. The photo is part of a story on endangered amphibians, which I shot on commission for the Dutch edition of „National Geographic“ in 2014. In only a few years time, the Dutch population of fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) will be completely wiped out. This is caused by a fungus that most probably was accidentally introduced through Asian salamander species. Scientists fear that it is only a matter of time before many populations of amphibians throughout Europe will be wiped out.
Runner-up Under water: Wahrmut Sobainsky, GDT – Intruder
The American crayfish (Orconectes limosus), an invasive species in our country, was introduced from North America to Central Europe around 1890. It not only drives out the local crayfish species in frightening measures, but also passes on the crayfish plague to which it is immune. This predominantly nocturnal species is mostly found sitting on visually unattractive sand or mud; much to the photographer‘s joy, this one here obviously prefers the greenery of a German lake among tiny water snails.
Winner Man and nature: Jasper Doest – Landfill lightshow
This photo was taken at a small recycling centre in southern Spain, where numerous white storks and black kites gather to search for food among the municipal waste. This source of food is reliably available all year and so there is no need for the birds to move on. As the waste degrades, strong acids are formed that are diluted by spraying water over the waste. Seen against a backlight, it is a beautiful spectacle, even though it has a vile smell and is, in any case, altogether questionable.
Winner Nature’s studio: Antje Kreienbrink, GDT – Sprint at the edge of the forest
This photo was taken at „Sielmann‘s natural landscape reserve Wanninchen“. For decades, this was an open-pit mining area. Today the region is characterized by lakes and forests and provides a habitat for many species. One morning, the tree trunks were flushed with sunlight. I was so captured that I took a few shots. Suddenly, a hare dashed along the edge of the trees. I hit the shutter three times before the animal disappeared. What fascinates me about this photo is that the forest seems to move while the hare is frozen.
Runner-up Nature’s studio: Fran Rubia – The forest
A small puddle of mud at the end of Vatnajökull glacier (Iceland) produces these amazing textures by filtering melt water. The funny thing is that there are hardly any forests on Iceland, so this one is something very special. It is a living pattern, a forest that continuously reshapes itself. At night in March, when temperatures fall below freezing, it stops growing, because the water freezes; the next day, when the sun returns, it blossoms again, branches and roots reappear and the forest returns to life. I especially like the powerful expression of this photo: abstraction as a source of inspiration, a photo that can be freely interpreted, but dominates by means of its aesthetic attitude, a composition that can only be achieved by nature.
Winner Youth to 14 years: Corentin Graillot Denaix – Grid
My father and I had left early that morning to be at the hides of Le Teich bird sanctuary (France) in time for the best morning light. The black winged stilt was in direct backlight so all I could do was capture its silhouette. It was right in front of a wire fence that protects its breeding place from predators. The backlight, the fence and the starshaped reflections on the water were the components for this graphic image.
Winner Youth 15-17 years: Marius Luca Bast, GDT – Silhouette
I took this image of an Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) on the last evening of our holiday in the Bernese Oberland in the summer of 2014. After travelling to Africa in 2010 and 2012, my parents and I wanted to visit a completely new region where we would be able to observe and photograph entirely different species. After some research and discussions, we opted for the Bernese Oberland. Unfortunately, the weather was rainy and grey for most of our two-week holiday. Therefore, the backlight in the evening and the ibex‘s silhouette formed a highlight of the whole holiday that made up for the somewhat disappointing days before.
Cover of the contest catalog Tim hunt – Crested guan
This photo shows a crested guan (Penelope purpurascens) in the cloud forests of Costa Rica as it pauses while foraging on a lone branch. Due to the clouds that are so typical for this habitat, I could often only photograph the bird‘s silhouette against a grey sky. But then, for a short moment only, the sun broke through the clouds, and I overexposed the image by over two stops in order to blow out the background and allow this beautifully marked bird to stand out.
The whole text about the winner of the 2015 GDT EWPY
Richard Peters from Great Britain comes out European Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“The image shows the shadow of an urban fox on its nightly patrols. To give context to the image, I placed the camera up high enough to show the neighbouring house, and using a 30-second exposure setting, I also captured the stars in the night sky. I did not plan to include the upstairs light in the neighbour’s house, but it helps connect the human and wild elements of the image, giving context to the story. The camera was triggered by a light barrier when the fox walked by.”
Richard Peters is an autodidact, who taught himself the relationship between shutter speed, aperture and film speeds. He also played with depth of field and came to appreciate the creative possibilities it offered. In doing so, light came to play an increasingly important role, often taking priority over subject matter. Over the course of years, Richard experimented with a lot of different subjects, but wildlife continued to capture his imagination most.
His work has gone on to be widely published as well as being awarded in multiple international competitions. Recently, in an effort to step out of his comfort zone and experiment with different techniques, Richard has begun exploring the use of flash and camera traps by embarking on a long term project to document the wildlife that visits his back garden at night. A project that his winning photo Shadow Walker stems from.
Patron Prof. Dr. Beate Jessel of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation: “This fox stands for many more European animal species that are conquering new habitats in our constantly growing cities. Increasingly, foxes, wild boars and others are finding better living conditions in urban settlements than in the desert-like agricultural landscapes of the surrounding areas. Nowhere else are so many diverse habitats available for wild animals as in towns and cities. And for this reason, there is a surprisingly high diversity of species compared to the surrounding countryside. But cities are also a habitat for people and, because of this, it is important to increase our focus on linking urban nature conservation with city development and planning. Urbanisation does not work for every species; some depend on unspoiled spaces or well-structured landscapes. Protection and development of true wilderness and a diverse cultural landscape will, therefore, continue to be important goals for nature conservation.”
The competition “GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year” is run annually by the Society of German Nature Photographers (GDT). With almost 17 300 submissions from 36 European countries, this year’s competition can report a new record regarding the number of participants, emphasizing the competition’s great reputation. Once again, the award-winning photographs show the exceptional quality of European wildlife photography.
Photographs can be entered in eight different categories as well as the Fritz Pölking Prize and Fritz Pölking Junior Prize. The top-class jury consisting of Orsolya Haarberg (NO), Keith Wilson (GB), Gunther Riehle (DE), Klaus Tamm (DE) and Michael Lohmann (DE) did not take their decisions easily.
Keith Wilson for the jury: „Now, looking back on the winning images that were decided on that Sunday in May, I feel the same degree of confidence, pride and excitement about the finalists in each of the categories. To reach the final stage of judging from more than 17 000 images is an incredible achievement, especially when you consider the overall high standard. Aesthetics and technical expertise were in abundance, but what I remember more are the imaginative and innovative interpretations of the natural world that have become the signature of this exciting competition.
The late great W. Eugene Smith may not have been a nature photographer, but his photographs reveal an awful lot about human nature. He once said: “What use is having a great depth of field if there is not an adequate depth of feeling?”
I think these words – depth of feeling – apply to many of the images that define this competition: it is there to be witnessed and felt, thereby provoking the viewer to share their own response with others.
In my humble opinion, the “GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year” is the most influential of the world’s great wildlife photography competitions. Others may attract more entries or be longer established, but when it comes to setting trends or championing particular styles, is there a more influential competition than this? Furthermore, the resulting exhibition from this year’s competition displays an astonishing array of photographic skill and stands as a remarkable testimony to the expertise of the photographers who created these works.
Talking about the winning image, Wilson says: “In Richard’s photograph the idea of the fox is made fact by the reality of its shadow. This moment, perfectly framed, recalls a verse from T. S. Eliot’s poem, The Hollow Men:
Between the idea And the reality, Between the motion And the act
Falls the shadow.
Simply by reading Eliot’s words alongside Richard’s photograph, no further explanation is needed.”
This nomination wins Richard Peters the Canon-sponsored award with a prize money of 3000 Euro. . His image succeeded in a field of nearly 17,300 entries by photographers from 36 countries. The Society of German Nature Photographers (GDT) awarded this prize for the 15th time, which is open to professional and non-professional photographers from all over Europe.
The international special award Fritz Pölking Prize with a prize money of 2 000 Euro, which the GDT presents in cooperation with Tecklenborg publishing house, was awarded to Bruno D’Amicis for his story on the “Fennec, little ghost of the dunes”, a gripping story on a charismatic animal from the deserts of northern Africa which was hardly ever photographed in the wild before.
The Fritz Pölking Junior award went to young Canadian Connor Stefanison. His portfolio “Mountain Goats” introduces us to the life of these graceful animals in their high-mountain habitat with intense portraits and photos of their behaviour.
Winners of the individual categories
The category “Birds” was won by Juan Carlos Muñoz from Spain with the image of a black winged stilt in the Hula Valley in Israel. The image of a wild boar at night by Bence Mate from Hungary convinced the jury in the category “Mammals”. “Peace at the stream” is the name of the winning image by French photographer Quentin Martinez in the category “Other Animals”. Radomir Jakubowski from Germany won the category “Plants & Fungi” with his image “Phantom of the night”. In the category “Landscapes” Esa Pekka Isomursu from Finland succeeded with “Snow-laden trees under a full moon, halos and northern lights” and the category “Under Water” was won by Edwin Giesbers from the Netherlands with “Dark future”. “Landfill lightshow” called Jasper Doest, also from the Netherlands, his winning image of white storks and black kites on a rubbish dump in the category “Man and Nature”. With “Sprint at the edge of the forest” Antje Kreienbrink from Germany succeeded in the category “Nature’s Studio”.