Focus for Survival is an annual photography competition organised by conservation charity, Explorers Against Extinction, that aims to celebrate the natural world through photography.
This year’s competition saw some 700 entries, each exploring a troubling narrative of wildlife in the 21st century and highlighting issues like habitat loss and population fragmentation in an attempt to stress the importance of taking action to protect the wild.
The 2021 judging panel was led by Nori Jemil (author of The Travel Photographer’s Way) and James Lowen (author of four Bradt wildlife guides), alongside fellow photographers Paul Goldstein and Levison Wood.
The six shortlisted images below are available for sale via online auction until 28 November, with proceeds going towards helping various projects run by Explorers Against Extinction. They will also be on display at gallery@oxo on the South Bank in London next month.
You can also have your say on the best photograph by entering the People’s Choice Vote.
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Magic of Mana, by Artur Stankiewicz
What’s in the image: “Early morning in the forest of Mana Pools (with impala). Mana Pools National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mana in Shona means ‘Four’, referring to the four largest oxbow lakes.”
The judges said: “An environmental image that combines dark, structural trees with warm, shafts of light, our eye is drawn to the centrally placed impala, perfectly still and alert, and seemingly aware of the photographer’s presence.”
Sparkling Edge, by Dibakar Roy
What’s in the image: “I live in the city of Kolkata. As usual I was searching for insects in my garden. Suddenly I saw something unusual happening over my head. The leaves were covered by little caterpillars. After the rainy season butterflies lay their eggs on these leaves. Among all the shots, this was my favourite because of its pattern. The whole edge of the green leaf was shining with the white stings of caterpillars. It was tough to click this shot because I had to maintain the back sunlight.”
The judges said: “The pattern of clearly delineated caterpillars, backlit to reveal the detail of the leaf, drew us to this image. With a simple colour palette, it’s the beauty of the green plant and everything this conveys about nature, that makes it sing.”
The Stare of Extinction, by Sam Wallace
What’s in the image: “This ground pangolin (Manis temminckii) epitomises the struggle nature suffers at the hands of mankind. Capable of withstanding lion attacks for hours until they are left alone by curling up into a ball and relying on their fantastic armour, we have decimated this otherwise born survivor. How can we let these charismatic creatures suffer at our hands?”
The judges said: “Creative use of a shallow depth of field, with the eyes in focus and the rest of the animal filling the frame. Being directly addressed by this species provokes all kinds of questions about survival in general and, specifically, the future of pangolins.”
Trio of Whales, by Yves Guenot
What’s in the image: “Humpback Whales come to breed in Indian Ocean waters between June and September. Although the humpback has been downgraded by IUCN to Least Concern (from Endangered status in 1988), some isolated sub populations are still at risk. Humpbacks have recovered from their population crash thanks to the moratorium on commercial whaling and their story of recovery is an important one. Threats include ship strikes, entanglement and pollution.”
The judges said: “An image where a trio of humpbacks has been captured close to the surface, infusing the serene, blue scene with light and detail. The proximity and placement of calves and mother adds a family dimension that the viewer can relate to.”
Yin & Yang, by Sam Wallace
What’s in the image: “These golden monkey siblings were discovered playing in the undergrowth of the bamboo forest. The shafts of light piercing the canopy caught the eye of one who gazed up into the island of sky. Its sibling is avoiding the light keeping its face shaded and between them they show the balance that we and nature can coexist in. Within light, there is darkness. But within darkness, there is always light.”
The judges said: “With the subjects filling the frame, we are drawn to the relationship between them, told in their familial gaze. Perfectly balanced with light and shade, it’s the detail of the golden monkeys, especially the brilliance of the eye colour, that pulls us closer.”
Storm Over Serengeti, by Artur Stankiewicz
What’s in the image: “African elephants grazing in northern Serengeti with a massive storm building on the horizon.”
The judges said: “A dynamic, monochrome image of the Serengeti, where outward looking elephants are mirrored by the sky, with white clouds fanning out from the impending storm that gathers at the centre. Thrillingly, everything is heading our way.”
For more information on the Focus for Survival competition and how to vote/bid, head to their website.
You can also join Explorers Against Extinction for an exclusive evening of travel & conservation at the Royal Geographical Society on Thursday 18 November. Proceeds from the event will help to support 21 specific conservation projects all around the world, through the 21 For 21 fund-raising campaign.