The winners of the Sunday Times Wilderness Photograph of the Year competition 2016

18 December 2016 - 02:00 By Tiara Walters

Chosen from thousands of entries, the winning photos in this premier nature photography competition inspire a sense of wonder in Africa, a hopeful continent with much to celebrate.

<b>July 2016 public choice winner: Wildlife Behaviour</b> - A magical moment as a butterfly comes eye to eye with a beautiful lion on the banks of the Chobe river, Botswana.
July 2016 public choice winner: Wildlife Behaviour - A magical moment as a butterfly comes eye to eye with a beautiful lion on the banks of the Chobe river, Botswana.
Image: William Steel

2016 OVERALL WINNER

'HELL OR LOW WATER' BY JOHN MULLINEUX

THE STORY BEHIND THE PHOTO:

Given a choice between dying of dehydration or quenching their thirst in the Sweni River, Kruger National Park, these impalas chose life - even though the drought-shrunken river had withered to a pool heaving with no fewer than six Nile crocodiles.

"There was a baby crocodile practising to one side, where it caught a plover," says John Mullineux, 32, a production manager from Secunda, Mpumalanga.

"Noticing the potential action, I set up my camera, pre-focused on the closest crocodile, and waited. This strike was one of five I witnessed that morning, but the impalas always got away . Only in such extremes can one truly appreciate the struggle of life faced by wildlife."

The following day, the rains came to break the drought, if only for a while.

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THE JUDGES SAID:

•  Paul Ash, Sunday Times Travel Editor : Fantastic action, excellent composition. Just look at how the two ewes on each side mirror each other's action. Real drama played out at the waterhole.

•  Chris Roche, ecologist and Wilderness Safaris chief marketing officer:There is so much that draws the eye in this image, yet the frozen motion sharpens one's focus. All four awkward, contorted antelope somehow have eye contact with the photographer. The image conveys so much about the desperation of drought and the urgency of escape.

•  Heinrich van den Berg, acclaimed wildlife photographer and publisher: This image has everything: action, composition and good light. The crocodile's visible jaws make it brilliant. An incredible moment frozen in time. This image shows why stills photography is such a powerful medium.

•  Grant Atkinson, leading wildlife photographer, writer and guide: With the impalas exploding in all directions, and the lunging crocodile as the viewer's eventual focal point, this photo reveals the power of the still image to perfection.

MULLINEUX HAS WON PRIZES WORTH R370,000:

Mullineux and partner will jet off on a six-night adventure safari to Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Linyanti region worth R300,000, courtesy of Wilderness Safaris.

Mullineux also wins class-leading Canon gear worth R70,000, including an EOS 5D Mark III camera with a 24mm-105mm lens, an EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM lens and an EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens.

2016 RUNNER-UP

'THE YEAR OF PANGOLIN' BY NICKY SOUNESS

THE STORY BEHIND THE PHOTO:

"This rarely seen ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) uses its strong sense of smell and extraordinarily long, sticky tongue to catch ants and termites," says Nicky Souness, 31, a private guide who spent nearly 40 hours studying this individual in Tswalu Kalahari Private Game Reserve.

"I had a vision for this image after observing the interesting tongue behaviour. We anticipated the animal's path and positioned ourselves on the ground, lying in front of it. That's when I got spoilt with this great opportunity."

Souness notes that pangolins "have not had much publicity, so not many people know they are the world's most highly trafficked animal.

"My grandpa had never even heard about the pangolin before this picture featured in Sunday Times Travel in September. I hope this unique image helps create awareness about the pangolin and its plight."

Thankfully, she adds, it "has been a great year for pangolin conservation. The species is now protected under the strictest Cites protection possible."

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THE JUDGES SAID:

• Paul Ash: Beautiful catch. Wonderful composition and lighting. A rare sight indeed.

• Chris Rouche: It's the natural symmetry of the pangolin's diagnostic anatomy - the scales - coupled with the exploring tongue's stopped motion and the raised, clawed foot that I love about this image. Everything (even the side lighting) combines to give the sense of a rare and privileged momentary insight into the habitats and behaviour of this species.

• Heinrich van den Berg: Not many people have been fortunate enough to see a pangolin, let alone photograph it. Few people have seen a pangolin tongue like this. The side lighting is beautiful. Amazing moment.

• Grant Atkinson: Ground pangolins are typically difficult to find, let alone photograph. Yet the subject shows no concern about the photographer. A perfectly framed, eye-level moment.

SOUNESS HAS WON PRIZES WORTH R183,000:

Nicky Souness has won a four-night luxury safari for two in Hwange, Zimbabwe, and on the Zambezi, Zambia, worth R150,000, courtesy of Wilderness Safaris.

Souness will also recieve cutting-edge Canon gear worth R33,000 including an EOS 7D Mark II camera with an 18mm-135mm lens and an EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens.

2016 PUBLIC CHOICE WINNER

'BUTTERFLY AND THE BEAST' BY WILLIAM STEEL

Every month during the competition, the top 10 entries were uploaded to the Sunday Times Facebook page. Fans were invited to vote for their favourite image by 'liking' it in order to stand a chance to win a cash prize.

Steel's photograph (pictured above) received the most 'likes' making it eligible for consideration for the year's grand prizes.

THE STORY BEHIND THE PHOTOGRAPH:

A magical moment as a butterfly comes eye to eye with a beautiful lion on the banks of the Chobe river, Botswana.

  

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