Thursday, September 30, 2010

Prize-Winning Photos of Devil Rays, Pit Vipers...and the Urge to Preserve

Florian Schultz's photo of devil rays in the Sea or Cortez
 Until today, the only devil ray I'd ever seen was at Yankee Stadium a few years back, when the MLB team from Tampa Bay came to town. You can't see that sight anymore, because they're just the Rays now, and, as it turns out, you'd have a very hard time seeing an actual devil ray—the kind that swim in the ocean—because they are "near threatened," according to the International Union for Conservation. (The devil rays are apparently vulnerable to gill-net fishing.) So the photo above, taken by German photographer Florian Schultz in the Sea of Cortez near Baja California, is a wonder. It was also the overall winner of the Environmental Photographer of the Year contest sponsored by the London-based Chartered Institution of Water and Environment Management. 

There are so many photography contests sponsored by environmental groups, and they remain vital and popular. I can say from experience that landscape and nature are the most popular subjects for amateur photographers, probably because nature is relatively accessible, and because there is a fundamental link between the urge to take a picture and the instincts of conservation. Both are meant to preserve something.

Photographs, which communicate instantly and across the boundaries of language, are also awesomely effective tools. It has been so since the Sierra Club started producing its famous calendars back in the 1970s.

Here two other highlights from the contest:

Gray Seal in the Baltic Sea, by Kaido Haagen
 The shot above, of a gray seal poking its head through underwater plant life, was taken by an Estonian photographer, Kaido Haagen, near the Estonian island of Vilsandi. The photo below, showing a hummingbird facing off with a green pit viper, was taken by Hungarian photographer Bruce Mate.

Hummingbird, say hello to green pit viper

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