Canadian photographer Jacquie Matechuk now holds the title of Nature Photographer of the Year 2023 for a photo of an endangered bear.
The award was given by Nature Talks, a photography agency based in the Netherlands, for her photo titled “He Looks to the Heavens”.
Matechuk also won in the mammals category for the photo, which shows a spectacled bear — named Tony — sitting on a moss-covered branch in the Andean Mountain Range in Ecuador.
“When a gentle rain began to fall across the valley, he stood and turned to look up as though embracing the cool moisture on his speckled face,” Matechuk said in a press release announcing the award. “And for a fleeting moment, the warmth of muted sunlight falls across his face as ‘He Looks to the Heavens.'”
Based in Cochrane, Alta., Matechuk is a full-time sports and wildlife conservation photographer focusing on capturing “the moment” that gives her subjects “a voice to be heard.”
To capture her winning photo, Matechuk went hiking more than 2,400 metres above sea level through the mountains with a local guide who has spent decades learning about and protecting the endangered Spectacled bears, the press release reads.
“In their natural habitat and with our guide’s intimate knowledge of each bear, we were quickly accepted by them. We kept a respectful distance to ensure their comfort and it paid off in spades,” Matechuk said in the press release. “They would nurse, fall asleep, cuddle, forage, and play, seemingly more oblivious to our presence with each passing encounter.”
In this photo by Jacquie Matechuk, a spectacled bear named Tony is letting rain fall on his face as he looks up to the sky. (Jacquie Matechuk via Nature Talks)
Nature Talks chairman Marco Gaiotti said the photo was chosen by the jury because of the “three-dimensionality” of light and colours mixed with the moss from the fig tree, which accentuates the features of the bear.
“The pose of this spectacled bear fits perfectly into the texture of the photograph,” Gaiotti said in the press release.
Matechuk took the photo with a Canon R5 camera using no additional accessories in a “very tight and awkward location.”
She captured the image holding her camera with a shutter speed of 1/125 and an ISO of 3200.
CANADA-BASED PHOTOGRAPHER WINS LANDSCAPE CATEGORY
Another Canadian photographer also earned an award from Nature Talks.
Thomas Vijayan, a Canada-based photographer who originated from Kerala, India, won the landscape category.
Thomas Vijayan (pictured) is a Canada-based nature photographer. (Via Nature Talks)
In his photo of the Austfonna Ice Cap off Norway’s Svalbard Island, Vijayan used a drone to “artfully” stitch together 26 frames of the ice.
The photo showcases what the jury calls the “force of melting glaciers” with a waterfall pooling into the Arctic Ocean from the cap.
According to the press release, Vijayan said he had been to the ice cap before.
“This year, the ice cap began melting earlier than usual, giving rise to this captivating waterfall,” he said in the press release. “While the scenery held an enchanting allure, it simultaneously served as a stark reminder of the ice cap’s diminishing state, likely to vanish within a few years.”
Gheorghe Popa, a member of the Nature Talks jury, said Vijayan’s photo was chosen because of how it highlighted the “majesty” of nature.
“This image inspires a stillness, but also a lot of power,” Popa said in the press release.
This photo by Thomas Vijayan combined 26 frames from a drone of the Austfonna Ice Cap. (Thomas Vijayan via Nature Talks)