Round six: natural world

Our major annual competition is in full swing and this time, the entrants turned their creative eye to the natural world. Eric Browett from Hertfordshire is the winner of Round Six of APOY 2020. As category winner, he wins products of up to £1,000 in value (based on Sigma’s RRP). If his choice of lens is above this price, he can elect to pay the difference. For a compact and lightweight telephoto zoom, try the 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Contemporary (SRP £799.99). For extra reach, the 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Contemporary (SRP £999.99) is ideal. To enter and find details of the upcoming rounds of APOY 2020 visit here and click Enter Now.

First Prize
1 Eric Browett UK 20pts
Nikon D500, 80-400mm at 130mm, 1/8000sec at f/5, ISO 1600
A superb action shot of a hugely tricky subject. Sometimes, the impact of a kingfisher’s splash can obscure the important bit – the bird itself – but here, the droplets enhance the overall effect. Everything is beautifully balanced, from the bird’s body being parallel with the water and the unfortunate fish not obscuring anything, to the jewel-like colours jumping out against the neutral background. Wonderful timing and excellent perseverance.

2 Andy Wain UK 19pts
Nikon D7100, 150-600mm at 150mm, 1/640sec at f/6.3, ISO 200
A wonderful image that has a huge amount to commend it. Of course, there’s the timing, capturing the pronking impala mid-air, so it clears the ground and can be clearly recognised. But the judges also liked the distance from the scene, which places the herd in the context of its Maasai Mara home and against a glorious backdrop of the setting sun.

Dropping to ground level once he witnessed the scene unfolding was an instinctive reaction on Andy’s part, and was definitely the right thing to do. Any higher and the silhouettes would have been lost against the darker-toned foreground. There was no need to be any closer – the whole story is told beautifully from this distance.

3 Joanna Smart Tasmania 18pts
Panasonic DC-GX9, 14-42mm at 14mm, 1/100sec at f/14, ISO 200
The clarity in this scene is just wonderful – the light really sings and brings a three-dimensionality to the image. But more than that, it’s a characterful portrait of a stunning sea turtle. Achieving a head-on composition of the turtle as it reaches out its right flipper would have been no mean feat, and getting so close to such an extraordinary creature must have been a magical experience. Being so close makes the viewer feel as though they are sharing in the encounter.

4 Helen Trust UK 17pts
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm at 252mm, 1/100sec at f/5.6, ISO 800
The framing of this image is what catches the eye, but it hasn’t been composed this way just for the sake of it. By tucking the pony into the bottom corner of the frame, and keeping everything else anonymous, the photograph becomes about shape, texture, tone and space, rather than being a literal ‘account’ of a pony in the landscape. Finally, there’s a lovely light touch to the processing that’s very pleasing indeed.

5 Kai Kolodziej Austria 16pts
Nikon D750, 90mm macro, 1/500sec at f/3.5, ISO 400
Getting down to snake’s eye level is what makes this image so effective, while the pin-sharp focus on the reptile’s eye and
the lightning-quick reaction to capture the protruding tongue are both to be commended. Also, shooting at ground level, through the out-of-focus grass, draws the viewer into the scene beautifully.

6 Angi Wallace UK 15pts
Sony A7 II, 90mm macro, 1/125sec at f/18, ISO 50

The pose of this tree frog is captured expertly, with the diagonal line created by its feet leading the eye through the frame. Every tiny bit of texture on its skin jumps out of the picture, and the direct eye contact seals the deal.

7 Chris Ellison UK 14pts
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 100-400mm at 340mm, 1/1250sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

The misty space that surrounds this pelican ensure there are no distractions from its characterful profile. This shot would make an excellent front cover for a magazine.

8 Vanessa Mignon Australia 13pts
Canon EOS 5D MkII, 16-35mm, 1/200sec, f/7.1, ISO 320
The sun’s rays appear to radiate from this extraordinary whale shark, almost creating a gravitational pull into the image. The effect is surreal and mesmerising. A wonderful shot of this sadly endangered creature.

9 Ales Krivec Slovenia 12pts
Nikon D800, 28-300mm at 300mm, 1/160sec at f/16, ISO 160

Sometimes, only the rule of thirds will do, and why tamper with such an effective compositional technique when the light and scenery surrounding this mountain goat are so perfect?

10 Ravi Prakash Parvatharaju UK 11pts
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 24-70mm at 24mm, 1/800sec at f/11, ISO 400
A hugely impactful approach to capturing this very popular location.

11 Ales Krivec Slovenia 0pts
Nikon D800, 28-300mm at 28mm, 1/250sec at f/10, ISO 125

A lovely balance of subject and environment, with a great sense of scale.

12 Joanna Smart Tasmania 0pts
Panasonic DC-GX9, 14-42mm at 14mm, 1/100sec at f/5, ISO 400

Irresistibly cute, the curiosity of this seal has been captured beautifully.

13 Kai Kolodziej Austria 0pts
Nikon D750, 15mm, 1/8sec at f/22, ISO 250
Focusing on this sand viper’s eye and allowing everything else to go soft makes for an attention-grabbing shot.

14 Joshua Galicki USA 7pts
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, 70-200mm at 100mm, 1/1000sec at f/2.8, ISO 2000
At the risk of anthropomorphising, we are reminded here of a group of lads on a stag night. Each penguin appears to have its own story.

15 Alex Pansier The Netherlands 6pts
Sony A9, 400mm, 1/1250sec at f/2.8 ,ISO 640

An unashamedly sentimental image of a ground squirrel, with a softness and simplicity that is very pleasing. Nicely done.

16 Koshy Johnson UK 5pts
Nikon D5, 500mm, 1/3200sec at f/11, ISO 2200

The glorious light picks out the detail in both the crashing waves and the gannet’s wing, and gives great depth. It tells a story of a hardy seabird and the environment in which it has to exist.

17 June Fox UK 4pts
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 100-400mm at 153mm, 1/6400sec at f/8, ISO 400

The sandstorm makes the horses appear almost to be floating in mist. This, and the glorious side light, give the image an almo

18 David Lain UK 3pts
Nikon D810, 200-500mm at 500mm, 1/1000sec at f/8, ISO 640

A lovely high-key portrait. The eye stands out beautifully, and there’s perfect differentiation between the similar tones of the hare and the snowy background.

19 Hari Kumar UK 2pts
Nikon D850, 150-600mm at 400mm, 1/500sec at f/6, ISO 2000

These topi antelope appear to be surveying their extraordinary domain. The ‘layers’ of hazy distant landscape give a great sense of space.

20 Steve Banner UK 1pt
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 100-400mm at 400mm, 1/400sec at f/5.6, ISO 1000
A classic British wildlife scene. The light on the hare is beautifully controlled, giving its eye an acuity that suggests the creature is ready to take off at any moment. The morning dew gives a gorgeous sparkle to the surroundings.

Crowd winner Artur Stankiewicz Poland
Nikon D850, 70-200mm at 135mm, 1/400sec at f/8, ISO 1250
An epic image of an epic event. The flow of the migrating wildebeest from left to right gives a real sense of travel, and the number of the majestic mammals seems almost infinite.

Judge’s choice

Silhouettes are hard to get right as you need to carefully control the exposure, but Andy Wain has done a great job here. There is still detail in the foreground, and plenty in the sky. But really this image is about great timing – to capture the impala jumping at just the right time is a great achievement. I can imagine Andy had to be very patient to get this image, and patience is a key part of successful wildlife photography. The indifference of the other animals is funny, too.

This image is not perfect – even though Andy has blurred out much of the foreground, the foreground is still quite dull, and there is a lot of it, as we assume that is the closest he could get. But there are many more positives than negatives and this image is a salutary reminder that a keen eye and mastery of fast shooting skills are essential for great wildlife photography.
Geoff Harris, Deputy Editor

Top tips for wildlife: five shortlisted entrants share their photo secrets

Eric Browett, 1st
Use auto ISO; it allows you to concentrate on shutter speed and aperture, and modern cameras are so effective at dealing with higher ISO numbers that for most of the time it’s an unnecessary distraction. For action wildlife shots, knowing your subject and the way it behaves allows you to anticipate its movements. Watching for a while before taking photographs can pay dividends. You also have to be prepared to accept a lot of blank frames and failed attempts before you get the intended shot.

Ravi Prakash Parvatharaju, 10th
For me, there are mainly two kinds of satisfying wildlife photographs – those which capture an experience that can be conveyed to the viewers, and those that bring back memories to the photographer. The first is mainly about action. The second conveys the atmosphere of an amazing wildlife location, inspiring the viewers to visit the place for themselves. This is what I tried to convey in my ‘Magic of Bass Rock’ image. I think the quality of my wildlife pictures improved after I switched to back-button focusing, thereby decoupling AF from shutter release, and learned how to use tone curve in Lightroom.

Joshua Galicki, 14th
When it comes to a successful wildlife photograph, it’s all about understanding your subject, including its behaviour. I always strive to put myself in a position that affords me a pleasing composition, but doesn’t put any stress on the animal. The best wildlife photos should be authentic by showcasing natural behaviour.

Koshy Johnson, 16th
A good wildlife image should tell a story. Composition, and lighting with non-obtrusive backgrounds are ideal. Knowledge of your subject helps to predict what might transpire. It’s all about perseverance.

The 2020 Leaderboard

Eric Browett’s stunning winning shot of a kingfisher means he jumps into sixth place, with Zay Yar Lin retaining his lead. Ales Krivec, Joanna Smart and Kai Kolodziej all had two images in the top 20, so only their highest-scoring photograph counts.

1 Zay Yar Lin 59pts
2 Tony North 48pts
3 Angi Wallace 45pts
4 Sabrina Garofoli 44pts
5 Helen Trust 43pts
6 Eric Browett 39pts
7 Nguyen Tan Tuan 38pts
8 An drew Robertson 34pts
9 Ales Krivec 31pts 1
0 Chris Ellison 29pts