- The Underwater Photographer of the Year awards announced the winners of its 2020 contest.
- The overall winning picture shows crabeater seals swimming around an iceberg in Antarctica.
- Photographer Greg Lecoeur named the photo "Frozen Mobile Home" and called icebergs "dynamic kingdoms that support marine life."
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Photographer Greg Lecoeur of France is the newly crowned Underwater Photographer of the Year. He beat nearly 5,500 other entries from 500 photographers by expertly operating his camera in frigid Antarctic waters to capture seals soaring gracefully around an iceberg.
"Massive and mysterious habitats, icebergs are dynamic kingdoms that support marine life," he captioned the photo entitled "Frozen Mobile Home." "As they swing and rotate slowly through polar currents, icebergs fertilise the oceans by carrying nutrients from land that spark blooms of phytoplankton, fundamental to the carbon cycle. During an expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula with filmmaker Florian Fisher and freediver Guillaume Nery, we explored and documented the hidden face of this iceberg where crabeater seals have taken up residence on icebergs that drift at the whim of polar currents."
Lecoeur traveled to Antarctica to document how climate change is affecting wildlife in the region.
"We explored this part of the world on a very, very small boat," he said in a video on Underwater Photographer of the Year's YouTube channel. "It was very challenging because of the weather. It was very difficult to reach the peninsula. But in the end, we had some amazing encounters in Antarctica."
He had originally set out to document the lives of penguins, but they remained elusive. Instead, he came across a group of seals dancing around an iceberg and seized the moment.
"We had an amazing experience with crabeater seals, which are normally very shy and difficult to document underwater," he said.
Judges in the Underwater Photographer of the Year contest admired the photo's composition and perfectly timed positions of the seals.
"The balletic rhythm of these crabeater seals and the ethereal landscape of the pitted iceberg creates a composition that draws you into a corner of the world that few people have witnessed. The multiple subjects take my eyes on a journey through the frame and into the icy ocean of Antarctica," said judge Alex Mustard.
Judge Peter Rowlands called the photograph "a deserved and unanimous winner which combines photographic beauty, composition, exquisite light and delicate colours."
"Perfect poses from the seals make this a celebration of natural life and a most enduring image," he said.
For Lecoeur, the winning photo is proof that sometimes the best photos are the ones you don't expect.
"Sometimes, you have some expectation and you come back with another amazing memory or picture," he said. "When you play with nature, you don't know what's [going to] happen. You have to be ready to take the opportunity to photograph and capture the moment."
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