South African photographer wins top prize in The Nature Conservancy’s Africa Photo Contest

The Nature Conservancy has awarded Helen Walne as the winner of the 2023 Africa Photo Contest, that featured images that help connect us to the power and the peril of the natural world – with closeups of creatures great and small, painterly landscapes in all seasons and amazing scenes of exploration on land and sea.

This year’s contest saw a huge increase in submissions, from territorial fight between weavers in Bloemfontein South Africa to a Lioness hunting in Nairobi National Park in Kenya. A prestigious panel of judges that included Roshni Lodhia, Sarah Waiswa and Christopher Leon selected the winners from more than over 5,000 entries.

Helen Walne, from South Africa won with her standout piece that was taken when she was diving in the cold water, off Cape Town, South Africa. In what was termed as an “Uber situation”, Helen’s award – winning photograph showcased the remarkable sight of a fish hitching a ride inside a jelly.

Explaining the inspiration behind the image, Helen said, “On this day, I had flopped around in the scraggly kelp for too long, and my hands were beginning to turn into claws from the cold. Heading to shore, I was excited to see this night-light jelly drifting in the

shallows. On closer inspection, I saw it had a cheeky hitchhiker. At first I thought the fish – likely a man-of-war fish (Nomeus gronovii) – was either being eaten by the jelly or had died and become ensnared by its tentacles. However, it soon became apparent that the fish was wriggling. In fact, it seemed rather relaxed and was languidly nibbling on bits of the jelly – a ride and lunch rolled into one!

Describing Helen’s winning photo, which the jurors selected unanimously, Roshni Lodhia said, “This image WOW-ed all of us at once. It is complex and beautiful at the same moment. The image demands a careful look at the subtle details of the colours and textures.”

Helen Walne will be awarded a three-night stay for two at Elewana Loisaba Tented Camp in Loisaba Conservancy.

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