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Student snaps award-winning photo on way home from unsuccessful shoot trip

GDT Nature Photographer of the Year 2022
The Florist (Image credit: Thomas Hempelmann - GDT Nature Photographer of the Year 2022)

The winners of the German Society for Nature Photographers (GDT) members competition have just been announced. GDT is the number one organization for nature photographers in Germany, and this year more than 6,400 members entered hoping to win the top prize: an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II (opens in new tab).

Thomas Hempelmann, a landscape ecology and conservation student from Greifswald, Germany, was this crowned this year's winner for a photo of a kestrel on a branch of blossoms. It was taken as he was cycling home from an unsuccessful photo tour when he spotted a bird of prey sitting on a lamppost. 

Discover the best cameras for wildlife photography (opens in new tab)

Hempelmann whipped out his camera and fired a few shots before the bird took to the sky and settled between the flowers. Without any hesitation, he took the shot, not knowing then that it would be a prize-winning image. 

"When the kestrel rose up and then settled between the white blossoms that I had already spotted from the corner of my eye, my heart began to beat faster as I had imagined such a situation many times before," he explained. 

"While I was still pondering whether to take off my 2x extender to include more of the tree in the picture, he was already gone again. In the end, it was only a few seconds that made my day and I whistled loudly with joy all the way home."

Mammals (Image credit: Jose Fragozo - GDT Nature Photographer of the Year 2022)

The GDT awards is broken down into seven categories including Birds, Mammals, Other Animals, Plants and Fungi, Landscapes and Nature’s Studio. This year’s Special category was in association with the NABU Foundation for National Natural Heritage: Beech Tree of the Year 2022. 

In each category, a winner is awarded as well as runners-ups who win receive generous prizes from sports AC-FOTO, the GDT’s long-term partner. The winners for each category are as follows: 

Birds – Thomas Hempleman with The Florist
Mammals – Jose Fragozo for an image of a hippopotamus at sunrise in the Masai Mara National Park
Other Animals – Heinz Bulz for a photo of stag beetles fighting
Plants and Fungi – Feliz Welsch with Foxglove and Fern
Landscapes – Steffen Jung for a picture of a winter sunrise at Wegeldburg, Germany
Nature’s Studio – Radomir Jakubowski for a photo of a wave at sunrise
Special award – Stefan Imig for his image European Beech in Fog 

To find out how you can become a GDT member (opens in new tab) or to view all the winning images for this year's members competition, head to the GDT website (opens in new tab). Scroll down to see the winning images from each category

Beech Tree of the Year (Image credit: Stefan Imig - GDT Nature Photographer of the Year 2022)

Plants and Fungi (Image credit: Felix Welsch - GDT Nature Photographer of the Year 2022)

Nature's Studio (Image credit: Radomir Jakubowski - GDT Nature Photographer of the Year 2022)

Other Animals (Image credit: Heinz Buls - GDT Nature Photographer of the Year 2022)

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.