Some of the stunning winners of the Sony World Photography Awards


From a sea turtle and diver swimming in harmony in Malaysia to a red-eyed tree frog in its Costa Rican rainforest home, take a peek at some of the winning entries in one of the most prestigious photography competitions


15 February 2023

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A red-eyed tree frog in its Costa Rican rainforest home

Manuel Rodríguez, Costa Rica, Shortlist, Latin America National Awards

THIS spectacular selection of images embodying nature’s grandeur and variety are among the best of the bunch in the 2023 Sony World Photography Awards competition, open to entries from many corners of the world.

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Thien Nguyen Ngoc, Vietnam, Winner, national awards

For the Vietnam category, Thien Nguyen Ngoc took first place for his tranquil shot of a sea turtle and diver swimming together in harmony off the coast of the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia (pictured above). Pictured below it is the winning entry for Bangladesh – the yellow eyes of a spotted owlet peeping out from its tree trunk nest in the country’s National Botanic Garden, taken by Protap Shekhor Mohanto.

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Protap Shekhor Mohanto, Bangladesh, Winner, National Awards

Another dramatic eye features in the main image, this time belonging to a red-eyed tree frog in its Costa Rican rainforest home, which saw Manuel Rodriguez shortlisted in the Latin America category.

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Andres Novales, Guatemala, Shortlist, Latin America National Awards

Andres Novales from Guatemala also made this shortlist for his ominous shot (pictured above) of a crocodile on the muddy banks of the Usumacinta river, taken towards the end of Guatemala’s rainy season. It is a reassuring sight, since crocodiles are a key indicator of a healthy ecosystem.

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Huazheng Hong, Singapore, Winner, National Awards

The awards also gave a nod to some dazzling natural scenery. The image above by Huazheng Hong is the Singapore winner. He captured the immense scale of the Ilulissat icebergs off Greenland. Pictured below is a shortlisted shot by Vlatko Rafeski of North Macedonia. It is from the Dolomites mountain range in Italy, showing the two-headed peak of Peitlerkofel in the background.

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Vlatko Rafeski, North Macedonia, Shortlist, Regional Awards

An exhibition of the awards will run at Somerset House, London, from 14 April to 1 May.

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‘Photography Passion Helps Understanding Western Tragopan H…


(MENAFN- IANS) By Vishal Gulati

Kullu (Himachal Pradesh), Jan 11 (IANS) For him wildlife photography in the western Himalayas is a passion that helped understanding the habitat of the brilliantly coloured western tragopan, an elusive bird listed in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a compendium of species facing extinction.

He’s Vinay Kumar Singh, posted in the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a forest guard.

His two extensive documentaries on western tragopans shot in the GHNP are assisting park authorities and scientists in determining where this species is found, how they interact with their surroundings and potential threats to them.

‘The documentation can help researchers to improve knowledge about this elusive species that is hard to see as they reside in the higher elevations of the Himalayas,’ Kumar, who loves filming wild animals while performing the duty, told IANS.

He trekked rugged and inaccessible areas of the Sainj Valley several times by remaining separated from home and family for weeks for wildlife photography.

One of his documentaries, ‘Story of the Western Tragopan’, was made to jury selection last month in the Nature in Focus Films Award under the Emerging Talent (Natural History) category.

Kumar said he was getting the chance to visit the Sainj Valley, the habitat of the western tragopan, and some unexplored areas of the GHNP continuously for the past few years.

‘During my duty, I got the opportunity to come across some rare creatures. Some of them I manage to capture on my camera.’

The park, known for its significant size of 1,171 sq. km, is untouched by a road network and has four valleys — Tirthan, Sainj, Jiwa Nal and Parvati.

For him, seeing them in their natural habitat is a life-time experience.

‘Due to extreme tough topography, it is not easy to spot the wildlife in nature as the habitat of some of the mammals is high rocky cliffs, while some are found in dense forests. I keep on trekking in the interiors of the GHNP along with Khem Raj, who lives in the eco-zone of the national park and has interest in seeing the wildlife in forests. In this way, together we were able to spot many species in the GHNP,’ an elated Kumar told IANS.

Both Kumar and Khem Raj have photographed about 150 of the 209 bird species found in the GHNP.

The bird that attracted their attention most was the western tragopan, which was the least studied bird in the world owing to the tough topography of its habitat and being a shy bird.

Kumar said spotting the western tragopan in nature is not easy as its population is naturally less compared to other bird species.

‘You can see Himalayan monal flying here and there. Other pheasant species like koklass, white-crested kalij and cheer can also be heard and seen in the forest, but not the western tragopan that lives in a special habitat compared to all these. We have to locate special places where it lives,’ he said.

Human disturbances during the western tragopan breeding season are one of the main threats to the western tragopan, identified by their black plumage with white spots and a colourful head.

In the local language, the western tragopan is called Jujurana or king of birds. It is the state bird of Himachal Pradesh and belongs to the family Phasianidae, which also includes the peafowl and the red jungle fowl.

Wildlife experts attribute the downfall of the western tragopan to habitat degradation, hunting and extensive grazing of the forest by livestock.

The Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Sarahan in Shimla district, and the Great Himalayan National Park are the potential western tragopan habitats.

According to the 2022 survey conducted by the national park authorities, the population of the western tragopan is on the rise.

They are annually surveying the GHNP during its breeding season (April-May).

It inhabits upper temperate forests between 2,400 and 3,600 m during summer, and in winter, dense coniferous and broad-leaved forest between 2,000 to 2,800 m elevations.

Call counts and line transects are used to assess current abundances and gather information on the characteristics of this species in the wild. Tragopan males began their breeding calls in late April and continued through May.

Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Nishant Mandhotra, who is in-charge of GHNP, told IANS that the presence of the western tragopan could now be felt more clearly in the national park with its numbers multiplying, and so has its sightings.

He said the density of the western tragopan in the park was four birds per station in last year’s census. Eighteen stations in the Tirthan, Sainj and Jiwa Nal ranges were shortlisted for recording call counts.

The GHNP, notified in 1999, is home to 209 bird species.

One of the richest biodiversity sites in the western Himalayas, the park supports the snow leopard, the Tibetan wolf, the Himalayan brown and black bear, the Himalayan blue sheep, the Asiatic ibex, the red fox, the weasel and the yellow throated marten.

The small mammals include the grey shrew, a small mouse-like mammal with a long snout, royal mountain vole, Indian pika, giant Indian flying squirrel, porcupine and the Himalayan palm civet, besides nine amphibians and 125 insects.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at )




ART BEAT: Debra Barnhart takes her nature photography to the tumultuous Farallon Islands | Entertainment



THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Incoming geese inspire a photo challenge | Lifestyles


It is no secret that I’m addicted to nature photography, which I practice on an almost daily basis regardless of weather conditions. In fact bad conditions sometime produce some neat images. I love “shooting” sunrises; they usually are the thing that gets me going in the morning. With sunrises, or sunsets, the secret to getting good ones is to be out there before they occur. Sometimes the best sky color is before the sun rises or after it sets, and you need to be in a good position before that happens. After sunrise, I head to a likely wildlife scene.

Lately I have been sitting along the Feeder Road off Route 77 near a marsh where geese and ducks come to rest in the morning. No hunting is allowed on this marsh, so many of the waterfowl naturally pick it for a safe haven. This was my favorite spot last week as I aimed to get good flight shots of geese coming in. Lighting and wind need to be from the right angle, and the birds are fast, so you have to be on the ball. It is very satisfying to catch that goose image, tack sharp, as he cups and drops into the marsh.

I used to do a lot of waterfowl hunting and the incoming geese always seemed to be the most exciting to watch. That’s still true today as I hunt them with my camera. Their distance calling tunes me in to their arrival and even when they are about to take off. I take way too many pictures of them in flight, but that’s necessary to catch the birds’ most flattering positions, which involves how the light is hitting them, their wing positions and their angle to the camera.

One shot I’m always trying to capture is their flying upside-down (yes, you read that right!). Sometimes when a flock is coming in to land they come in from a high altitude and are in a hurry to get to their chosen landing spot. To do this they “slip” sideways as they drop from the sky, and even flip over on their backs, which cuts wind resistance and helps them drop more quickly. Now, this maneuver takes only a split second, and they do it individually, not as a group. Thus it can be very difficult to catch this move. The best way is to just click away as you see birds in the flock doing this and hope you catch one upside-down.

When the birds are ready to leave the marsh, their body positioning and type of call usually prompt me to get ready. I try to catch them both flying and running on the water as they get airborne. Again, it is a matter of taking a lot of shots to catch it just right.

A lot of other things went on as I waited for various groups of geese to arrive. One morning a pair of trumpeter swans flew over me from a side that I don’t eyeball that much, and by the time I saw them I could only get angling-away images, not very flattering to the swans. A few mornings later, now peeking at the southeast side of my position more often, I caught the pair coming towards me. Getting ready, I kept focusing on them as they approached, and hit the “trigger” a number of times as they passed low and right in front of me. Each time I did, the thought “got it” clicked in my mind, and the end result was about six great, tack-sharp, well-exposed and flattering shots. As they continued on their way I took a deep breath — I often hold my breath as I shoot, probably a habit from my long range woodchuck hunting days that gave me a more accurate shot. A quick review of the shots proved I hit the nail right on the head, and my day was made even if the geese and ducks didn’t cooperate.

Other creatures often show themselves while I’m waiting out a particular set up like this. A mink will scramble in front of me, never giving a good shot because it is so quick in its sudden appearance and disappearance. Then there’s the great blue heron that has not flown south yet, offering some close “fishing” poses to me. Although not as plentiful as the incoming geese in this marsh, some mallards, pintails, teal and an occasional wood duck come in, elevating the excitement for me.

When the geese do start arriving there seems to be numerous groups coming in, one after another, which keeps me on the ball and breathless as I concentrate on various groups, trying to pick ones with good background, or doing quick maneuvers and coming in at the right angles.

Nature’s creatures are not the only things that keep me entertained while I’m in this area. The seasonal road is traveled by both vehicles and hikers looking to see nature or photograph it, and sometimes it’s pretty funny watching the wildlife outmaneuver these people. I can often predict what’s going to happen. Someone stops quickly and jumps out of their vehicle, camera in hand for a picture, only to find the creature has disappeared. Or, they walk or drive by never seeing the wildlife right off the road, because they don’t know how to look for it.

Nature photography can be addictive but that is OK because it makes you more appreciative of what’s out there.

I have a list of folks to whom I send my nature images. If you’re interested in seeing what I see, send me your email address and a request and I’ll add you to the list.

Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at 585-798-4022 or [email protected].


Reducing Climate-Driven Flood Risk Can Be Done In Ways To Also Help Nature Recover


The 2022 Living Planet Report, released earlier this month from the World Wildlife Fund, showed a dramatic decline in monitored populations of wildlife across the world – a 69% decline in abundance, on average, since 1970. A few days ago, I wrote about how halting, and then reversing, this decline will require far more comprehensive actions than what we typically consider as wildlife conservation. In fact, it will require a ‘whole-of-society’ approach.

While that sounds daunting, much of what needs to be done to restore wildlife and nature are transformations that we need to make anyhow for economic security and for people’s health and safety, such as the rapid transition to decarbonized power systems to maintain a stable climate.

Here I will explore one of these needed transformations to make people safer that can be done in ways that also protect or restore wildlife and nature: flood-risk management in response to rising danger from floods, fueled by climate change and other factors. At the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) next month, governments should make good on past commitments to provide funding for low-income countries to adapt to rising climate risks, including floods, and they can do this in ways that are consistent with protecting and restoring freshwater ecosystems.

River flooding is already the world’s most damaging form of disaster, averaging approximately $115 billion in costs per year. The World Bank reports that 1.5 billion people worldwide are at risk from flooding, with one-third of them considered to be poor and thus particularly vulnerable to property losses, dislocation and economic disruptions.

There are several drivers of rising flood risk globally. First, new development often occurs in areas prone to flooding. A recent study projected that, between 2015 and 2030, nearly half of global urban development—500,000 km2, an area the size of Spain—will occur in areas at risk of flooding.

Second, countries with mature systems of flood-management infrastructure (e.g., dams and levees), often have underfunded maintenance and replacement. As a result, these systems are aging and deteriorating. For example, every two years, the American Society of Civil Engineers releases a report card for infrastructure in the United States and their 2021 report card gave both levees and dams a letter grade of “D. ” They noted that hundreds of billions of dollars will be needed to rehabilitate structures to get them up to current standards.

Third, changes in land use are also increasing flood risk. The expansion of urban areas—with their extensive hard surfaces such as buildings, roads and parking lots—prevents rainwater from soaking into the soil, dramatically increasing rates of runoff and flood levels. Drainage systems in agricultural areas can also accelerate runoff and increase flood heights downstream.

Thus, for a variety of reasons, flood risk is rising in much of the world even if temperatures and rainfall patterns were holding steady. But they are not holding steady. The climate change we’ve experienced to date (an approximately 1.2° C increase in average global temperature) is already driving increases in flood frequency and magnitude. Scientists can now do “attribution studies” to discern the influence of climate change on the probability that a given flood event occurred. For example, the research organization World Weather Attribution studied the devastating floods in Europe in the summer of 2021, which killed over 200 people. They concluded that the warming experienced to date had increased the likelihood of a flood event of that magnitude, within a range of 20% more likely to nine times more likely.

Even if we successfully hit the most ambitious climate target (keeping warming below 1.5° C), flood losses will increase considerably. With that level of warming, the number of people exposed to river flooding is projected to increase by 50–60% and flood damages are projected to increase by 160–240% (with global losses reaching nearly US$400 billion per year). Warming of 2° C would result in a doubling of the people affected by floods and an increase in damages up to 520% compared to today. This is a surprisingly large increase in losses relative to warming of 1.5° C, underscoring that seemingly small differences in temperature can have major differences in disruption to people’s lives.

Due to this layering of rising risk on top of current vulnerabilities, keeping communities safe from flooding will need to be a major priority of governments over the next few decades. In the past, flood-risk management has most commonly focused on building dams, levees and floodwalls, designed to keep floodwaters away from people. In addition to the maintenance challenges discussed above, this strict reliance on infrastructure can have a range of unintended consequences. By preventing floodwater from spreading out on floodplains, levees can accelerate flood waves downstream, increasing risk for others. Levees and dams also can produce a misguided sense of security, leading to dramatic increases in development on what are perceived as now-protected floodplains, resulting in far higher damages if a levee fails or is overtopped. As a testament to this effect, annual flood damages in the U.S. tripled in constant dollars during the last century, even as tens of billions was spent on flood-management infrastructure.

Further, dams and levees fragment river systems and disconnect rivers from biologically productive floodplains and wetlands. The Living Planet Index revealed an 83% decline on average in freshwater-dependent vertebrate populations since 1970. Various studies have found that dams and levees are among the leading drivers of the decline of freshwater ecosystems and species.

These various limitations and unintended consequences of engineered infrastructure have led to growing calls from flood managers for a “diversified portfolio” approach.

While keeping floodwaters away from people (e.g., using levees or floodwalls) will remain necessary in many places, that strategy should be complemented by keeping people away from floodwaters, such as through more careful zoning. Flood risk also can be reduced by directing floodwaters to the places we want to flood—wetlands and floodplains—in order to take pressure off the places we don’t want to flood, such as cities and farmlands.

This diversified portfolio approach can make a critical contribution to halting, and even reversing, the decline of nature and wildlife. More careful zoning that avoids development on floodplains will not only keep people out of harm’s way, it will also reduce conversion of these key habitats. Nature-based Solutions (NbS), defined as interventions that use ecosystems or natural processes to achieve a societal goal, can combine flood management with large-scale protection or restoration of floodplains and wetlands.

Specific examples of NbS for flood management include (and see figure below):

· Protection of forests, wetlands and floodplains to store and convey floodwaters to reduce flood levels in other places we want to protect

· Reconnecting rivers with floodplains to allow floodwaters more room to spread out, by repositioning levees further away from the river and/or through features called flood bypasses.

· Using “green infrastructure” in urban areas to slow, hold back and store runoff and allow it to soak into the soil, reducing stormwater and flood risk. These features can include green roofs (vegetation on top of buildings), swales, wetlands and parks. As a bonus, these features can also make cities cooler in the summer and increase access to nature for city dwellers.

· Allowing rivers to deliver sediment to their deltas, building new land and protecting deltas and the people and agriculture that depend on them.

All of these NbS interventions can help halt the decline of freshwater wildlife. If implemented at large scales, they can contribute to the restoration of the habitats they need to recover. At COP26 in Glasgow, wealthy countries have committed to directing $40 billion a year toward climate adaptation in vulnerable countries. At COP27, countries should commit to following through on these pledges. When they do, NbS should play a major role in these adaptation projects, so that the projects needed to keep people safe can also help wildlife recover.

In subsequent posts, I’ll go deeper on these various NbS, including how they contribute to flood-risk reduction and how they contribute to the recovery of wildlife.


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