Adorable leafy sea dragon wins Australian Geographic nature photography competition

Tips & Techniques

Australian Geographic has announced the winners of its annual Nature Photographer of the Year contest. The overall winner for the 2021 competition is an image of a gorgeous sea creature: a leafy sea dragon. Scott Portelli is the photographer behind the image of this mysterious creature, but there are plenty more beautiful images selected as category winners. Take a look at them below for a daily dose of inspiration.

Scott Portelli has been a photographer for over 20 years. He took the winning image in March 2020, shortly after the announcement of COVID-19 restrictions impacted his year-long journey around Australia.

“The nation-wide lockdown was declared and we were stuck for six weeks at a small campground in the Fleurieu Peninsula,” he explained. “This ended up being a blessing in disguise.”

“Over the course of the six weeks I had the opportunity to dive regularly, becoming familiar with the terrain, getting to know the dive site and spotting a few individual Seadragons. I became acquainted with the resident dragons of Second Valley and this is how I 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.”

Scott’s image was selected among 2,206 entries. Brian Oldman, Director of the South Australian Museum, said that “the past year has really encouraged all of us to reconnect with nature as we spent weeks and months in our homes.” He added that we were all forced “to stop and slow down the pace,” and I couldn’t agree more. If the pandemic has brought us anything good, it’s the reconnection with nature when we were not in a total lockdown.

As I mentioned, there are plenty more gorgeous images from the contest. The entrants were competing in eight categories:

  • Animal Behaviour
  • Animal Habitat
  • Botanical
  • Landscape
  • Monochrome
  • Junior (photographers under 18 years of age)
  • Our Impact (depicting human impact on nature)
  • Threatened Species (threatened, rare, vulnerable or endangered species)

There is also Portfolio Prize, which awards the best portfolio of six or more images. This year’s winner for the best portfolio is Tim Wrate for his series of abstract aerial landscapes.

Take a look at the category winners and runner-ups, and make sure to check out Australian Geographic’s website for the full gallery with even more beautiful photos.

Animal Portrait

Animal Behaviour

Animal Habitat

Botanical

Landscape

Monochrome

Junior (photographers under 18 years of age)

Our Impact (depicting human impact on nature)

Threatened Species (threatened, rare, vulnerable or endangered species)

Portfolio Prize (best portfolio of six or more images)

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