Paul Nicklen of Nanoose Bay has been named the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year, one of the highest photography honours in the world.
The 48-year-old competition is organized by BBC Wildlife Magazine and London’s Natural History Museum, which displays the winners until March and then sends out a travelling exhibition.
Nicklen’s image of a sunlit mass of emperor penguins about to burst the surface of the Antarctic Ocean was taken for his latest book Polar Obsession, published by National Geographic, where he is the only Canadian photographer currently on staff.
The winning photo was chosen from more than 48,000 entries from 98 countries.
The photographer told the BBC he shot more than 50,000 frames over three weeks on that trip and got the winning shot by hanging out in a hole in the ice, breathing through a snorkel.
“It was a fantastic sight,” Nicklen said on the Veolia website, “as hundreds launched themselves out of the water and onto the ice above me — a moment that I felt incredibly fortunate to witness and one I’ll never forget.”
A wildlife biologist who grew up on Baffin Island, Nicklen said in his National Geographic biography that he hopes to generate global awareness about wildlife issues through his work.
“I call myself an interpreter and a translator. I translate what the scientists are telling me. If we lose ice, we stand to lose an entire ecosystem. I hope we can realize through my photography how interconnected these species are to ice. It just takes one image to get someone’s attention.”
Long-time judge Rosamund Kidman Cox described Nicklen’s work as outstanding.
“As your eye wanders around the picture — and you must look at it on a large format — you discover all sorts of individual stories going on. It’s got tremendous depth. It’s beautiful and fascinating and you never tire of looking at it,” she told BBC News.