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Spooky photo of seadragon scoops Nature Photographer of the Year contest

Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2021
(Image credit: Tim Wrate/Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2021)

An incredible photograph of a Leafy Seadragon camouflaged in the shallow reefs of the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia has won the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition in 2021. It was shot by professional photographer and underwater specialist Scott Portelli. He wins AU$10,000 cash, and a holiday prize provided by Coral Expeditions

He shot the image with an Olympus OMD EM1 II (opens in new tab) with a Zuiko 60mm macro lens (opens in new tab) and Olympus strobes. Using settings of 1/250sec at f/22, ISO 100, he deliberately underexposed the image to highlight details in the appendages.

The judges were united in selecting this striking image as the overall winner from over 2,000 entries. “The backlighting has transformed the Seadragon from a tiny sea creature into the illusion of a mythical beast. Beautifully framed, the dragon emerges from the darkness, glowing with a sense of fire within," reads their citation.

Selected category winners

Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2021

This super-sharp capture of a white-capped mollymawks, aka white-capped albatross, by Douglas Gimesy, won the Animal Portrait category. It was shot with a Nikon D750 (opens in new tab) and Nikkor 80–400mm f/4.5–5.6 zoom. (Image credit: Douglas Gimesy/Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2021)

Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2021

The Landscape category winner was Hayden Cannon who shot this image of The Lakes, Dalyellup, Western Australia using a Canon 7D Mk II (opens in new tab) DSLR with Canon EF 17–40mm f/4L USM wide-angle zoom (Image credit: Hayden Cannon/Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2021)

Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2021

The winner in the Animal Habitat category was shot by Christian Spencer of galah birds in Strzelecki Desert of Australia, using a Canon EOS Rebel T4i. (Image credit: Christian Spencer/Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2021)

The South Australian Museum is running a public exhibition featuring all finalists from Friday 27 August until Sunday 31 October. The Australian Museum in Sydney will also host the exhibition from October 2021 until January 2022. You can see all the finalists on the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2021 webpage (opens in new tab).

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Chris George
Chris George

Chris George has worked on Digital Camera World since its launch in 2017. He has been writing about photography, mobile phones, video making and technology for over 30 years – and has edited numerous magazines including PhotoPlus, N-Photo, Digital Camera, Video Camera, and Professional Photography. 


His first serious camera was the iconic Olympus OM10, with which he won the title of Young Photographer of the Year - long before the advent of autofocus and memory cards. Today he uses a Nikon D800, a Fujifilm X-T1, a Sony A7, and his iPhone 11 Pro.


He has written about technology for countless publications and websites including The Sunday Times Magazine, The Daily Telegraph, Dorling Kindersley, What Cellphone, T3 and Techradar.