"I am ecstatic to be recognised for my work and humbled to be among such a high calibre of photographers. This is one of my proudest moments. Navigating a covid year has been difficult for many nature photographers, but it has taught us that we live in one of the most incredible natural wonders in the world. Australia's coast, deserts, reefs, and rainforests hold a plethora of subject matter to discover, not to mention the diversity of wildlife above and below the surface.
I am passionate about the ocean and its inhabitants, and a lot of my work is centred around the conservation and protection of various marine species. But I am a little obsessed with Seadragons, so I was very excited when I found out that my image of a Leafy Seadragon was selected as the overall winner."
Scott Portelli and Rosie Leaney, wildlife, underwater, aerial and nature photographers, set off on an adventure of a lifetime to travel 360 degrees around Australia in 360 days. Their 360in360 project sponsored by Olympus and OM Digital Solutions saw them visit some of the most scenic places, explore some of Australia’s hidden gems and encounter some of its most iconic wildlife.
Shooting with Olympus equipment for an entire year, they took the gear into some extreme places. The image below sees Scott kitted out with the Olympus PT-EP14 Underwater Housing, UFL-3 Strobes, OM-D E-M1 Mark II, and M.Zuiko 60mm F1.8 Macro, as he comes eye to eye with one of the most elusive creatures in our waters, the Leafy Seadragon. These rare dragons are found only on the Great Southern Reef of Australia, nowhere else in the world.
Leafy Seadragons hide in the thick kelp to camouflage themselves to avoid predators. The vibrant flamboyant adults blend perfectly with their surroundings. At night the backlighting on a Leafy Seadragon accentuates their features and the delicate bodies that appear translucent.
Scott's image below of a Grey Nurse Shark also won in the Threatened Species Category.
Populations of grey nurse sharks along the Australian coast are under threat and have suffered a decline over recent years. Current threats to the species are believed to be incidental catch from commercial fisheries, recreational fishing and, to a lesser extent, shart net programs run in New South Wales and Queensland.