The Nature Conservancy Australia’s annual photo competition winners have been announced, with 13 shutterbugs sharing in $5,000 worth of prizes.

The event, now in its third year, realised a total 16,120 entries between the dates of 26th of September and the 4th of November this year.

Judged by previous winners and photography experts, categories weren’t restricted to purely nature-based compositions and winning locations included Hervey Bay (Qld), Rottnest Island (WA) and Lorne (Vic).

The Hunt, Kyle Behrend.

‘The Hunt’ by Kyle Behrend came first in the ‘wildlife’ category and was captured on Rottnest Island, WA.

However it was Mark Seabury’s image of a breaching humpback whale that most impressed the judges – a shot he dubbed ‘Eye Spy’.

Seabury explained the particular behaviour of the whale in question, having studied and photographed the animals for the past decade.

“I’ve been photographing whales for the last ten years and am fascinated about understanding their behaviours and curiosity when interacting with people,” he said.

“This photograph captures a whale behaviour called ‘spy hopping’, where whales poke their head above the water to take a look around and see what’s happening above the surface.

“It’s like these majestic mammals of the sea understand we are watching them and are trying to connect with us in some way. In this shot, I wanted to capture this by showing the whale between two worlds, ours above the surface and its below, at the precise moment when it is about to make that connection.”

TNC Australia’s Photography Competition Winners for 2016:

  • Landscape – Kristy Morrell, Barmera SA
  • Mobile – Joshua Murphy, Bassendean WA
  • People in Nature – Louisa Kelland, Dordon ACT
  • Urban – Hai Pham, Caroline Springs VIC
  • Water – Mark Seabury, Kurrajong NSW
  • Wildlife – Kyle Behrend, Lancefield VIC
  • People’s Choice – Alexis Buenaflor, Sydney NSW
The Spark, Kirsty Morrell.

Kirsty Morrell took out the ‘landscape’ category with this dynamic shot of Barmera, SA.

Judges Ben Goode, Esther Beaton and Michael Snedic said they were truly impressed by the high quality of photographs entered into the competition.

“The winners demonstrated the skill of far more experienced photographers, their entries prove that you don’t have to be a professional to take a great shot,” Beaton said.

“When you examine Mark’s photo closely, your eye finds more and more detail to discover. The eyes of humpback whales are normally hidden and shaded, so it is unusual to find one ‘looking’ with such a strong, clear gaze. It is also in such an unusual position, dead vertical, with only its snout out of the water. Again something that normally is not part of humpback behaviour. An exceptional overall winner.”

The Australian Director for The Nature Conservancy, Rich Gilmore said the competition is a great way for photographers to increase their visibility while also raising awareness for conservation issues.

“In Australia we’re surrounded by incredible landscapes and wildlife and this competition shines a light on some of our most beautiful areas,” Gilmore said.

“It also gives people the chance to take a step back and appreciate the environment around them. We’re thrilled so many Australians got involved and shared their incredible images.”

Visit The Nature Conservancy Australia’s photo competition page to see all the winners, or look out for them in the January edition of Wild.