French photographer Galice Hoarau has been named overall winner of Close-up Photographer of the Year competition (CUPOTY) with his image of an eel larva spotted off the island of Lembeh (Indonesia) during a blackwater dive. Hoarau takes home £2,500 and the CUPOTY trophy.
“Peering through the darkness with your torch can be stressful the first time you do it, but it gets fascinating quickly, explains Hoarau, a professor in marine molecular ecology. “After sunset, small pelagic animals (like this larva) rise close to the surface to feed where the sunlight has allowed planktonic algae to grow. At sunrise, they dive into the depths and stay there during the day to escape predators.”
More than 6,500 pictures were entered this year, from 52 countries. There were seven categories: Animals, Insects, Plants & Fungi, Intimate Landscape, Manmade World and Micro (for images created using a microscope), plus Young Close-up Photographer of the Year, for entrants aged 17 or under. The competition was co-founded by former AP technique editor and regular contributor, Tracy Calder.
While Galice took the top spot in the Animals category, Mike Curry also impressed the judges with his shot of a butterfly surrounded by peeling paint in the Insects category. “The juxtaposition of manmade decay and natural beauty works beautifully here,” said competition judge and regular AP contributor, Ross Hoddinott. “The texture and pattern of the blistered paint creates a compelling close-up on its own, but the addition of the butterfly’s natural beauty and delicacy is a masterstroke.”
Winner of the Plants & Fungi category, Elizabeth Kazda, stayed close to home by gathering tulips from her garden and combining multiple exposures to create this graphic image.
Meanwhile, entrant Mark James Ford trekked across a lava field in Hawaii to create his image of lava flow setting – securing top spot in the Intimate Landscape category.
In the Manmade World category Kym Cox took the title for a second year with her study of the life cycle of a soap bubble. Competition judge Keith Wilson, another AP regular was particularly impressed. ‘At first glance, this is a puzzling picture that enthrals with its mystery,’ he commented. ‘Nothing is obvious here. And yet, like all good stories, it pulls you in, frame by colourful frame, until the reality unfolds and you are left in a state of wonder at the simplicity of it all.’
The Young Close-up Photographer of the Year attracted some strong entries with Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz winning the overall title for a shot of a springtail in a meadow close to his home in Hungary. ‘One frosty winter’s morning I headed out to take some extreme macro shots at the surface of some frozen water that had pooled in the tracks left by a tractor, he explains. ‘Crouching down, I spotted some yellow globular springtails which were feeding in the sunrays reflected from the ice. I used LED torches to illuminate one of them, and came away with a picture that celebrates this tiny creature.’
The Top 100 entries can now be viewed here.