French underwater photographer Greg Lecoeur really captured the money shot when he was in South Africa in June 2015. Last month, his “Sardine Run” already won gold in the 2016 Siena International Photo Awards, and now he’s also been selected, from thousands of entries, as the grand-prize winner of the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year contest.
“During the sardine migration along the Wild Coast of South Africa, millions of sardines are preyed upon by marine predators such as dolphins, marine birds, sharks, whales, penguins, sailfishes and sea lions. The hunt begins with common dolphins that have developed special hunting techniques to create and drive bait balls to the surface. In recent years, probably due to over fishing and climate change, the annual sardine run has become more and more unpredictable.”
– Greg Lecoeur
Lecoeur eventually earned a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos with his picture, but he wasn’t the only one who won. Within four categories, a first, second and third best picture respectively won $2,500, $750 (and a signed National Geographic book) and $500. Varun Aditya of Tamil Nadu (India) placed first in the Animal Portraits category for a photo of a snake, Vadim Balakin of Sverdlovsk (Russia) placed first in the Environmental Issues category for a photo of polar bear remains in Norway, and Jacob Kapetein of Gerland (Netherlands) placed first in the Landscape category for a photo of a small beech tree in a river. Lecoeur’s photo won the Action category.
Animal Portraits, 1st place: “Dragging you deep into the woods!”
I shot this at Amboli, Maharashtra, India, on July 24, 2016, during a morning stroll into the blissful rain forest. Ceaseless drizzles dampened the woods for 10 hours a day; the serene gloom kept me guessing if it was night or day. The heavy fog, chilling breeze, and perennial silence could calm roaring sprits. And there I saw this beauty. I wondered if I needed more reasons to capture the habitat, for I was blessed to see this at the place I was at. I immediately switched from the macro to the wide-angle lens and composed this frame.
Environmental Issues, 1st place: “Life and Death”
These polar bear remains have been discovered at one of the islands of northern Svalbard, Norway. We do not know whether the bear died from starving or aging, but more likely if we see the good teeth status, it was from starving. They say nowadays that such remains are found very often, as global warming and the ice situation influence the polar bear population.
Landscape, 1st place: “Struggle of Life”
Last year I participated in the Marius van der Sandt Beurs. This scholarship stimulates photography by young photographers. For a whole year I was guided by some excellent nature photographers to realize a project I wanted to accomplish. I chose a natural stream restoration project of a nature organization in the Netherlands. The first time I entered this patch of forest, I immediately saw this little beech. I came back several times to photograph it. One evening, just after sunset, all the light conditions were perfect. I stood in the cold water for more than an hour making many photos while I experimented with different shutter speeds.