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DUBAI: The winners of the 11th season of the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum International Photography Awards were announced earlier this month. The theme of this year’s awards was “Nature” (with the intention of “drawing the world’s attention to the seriousness of environmental problems and the need to join efforts and raise awareness of the importance of preserving our great home that we all we share,” HIPA Secretary-General Ali bin Thalith said in a press release), but photographers could also enter the ‘General’ category (open to both color and black-and-white images), and the ‘ Portfolio’ and the ‘Portrait’ category. Below, we present a selection of the highlights of the winning entries.

Grand Prize Winner

‘Storm of Gannets’

henley spiers

The British photographer picked up the $120,000 grand prize for this stunning underwater shot of a gannet in the waters off the Shetland Islands, “a cold, harsh, wild place that I’ve grown very fond of,” he tells Arab News.

Gannets are one of the most impressive animals I have ever met, masters of both the air and the sea. This photograph is captured underwater, surrounded by diving gannets, and I tried to show the controlled violence of the scene with a photograph that goes beyond what is seen with the naked eye. Slowing my shutter speed and moving my camera along with the movement of the seabirds produced an artistic blur that eventually (after many attempts) led to the painting we see here,” he continues.

Spires’s photography fits perfectly with the intentions of the award, as bin Thalith states. Unfortunately, the Shetland gannets are, explains Spiers, “in the midst of an avian flu pandemic that has devastated their colonies. I recently returned from Shetland and witnessed harrowing scenes within the bird populations. One can only hope that nature is resilient enough to withstand the damage caused by this disease.”

First Prize Winner, Nature


ryo minemizu

The Japanese photographer named his nighttime photo of Mollusca Gastropoda larvae “Jumeirah” because he felt it resembled Dubai’s artificial Palm Jumeirah island. “He is a cautious creature,” Minemizu said in his introduction text. “If he feels the slightest splash of water, he will go back to the oyster.” The photo of him was taken in the waters near Komi Island in Okinawa, Japan.

First Prize Winner, Overall (Color)

‘Ship Array’

Cao Nguyen-vu

This image was taken in the Quang Ngai province of Cao’s homeland, Vietnam, located on the coast of the South China Sea. The fishermen’s boats, Vu explained, were “neatly lined up when anchored to avoid Typhoon Molave ​​(in 2020), the most powerful typhoon to hit Quang Ngai in 30 years, completely destroying 325 homes and damaging more than 140,000”. Vu is not a professional photographer, but he works in health care and volunteers with a local charity in Quang Ngai, his hometown.

First Prize Winner, Portrait

‘relax in the rain’

ali saifaldeen

The Qatari photographer’s captivating image of a mountain gorilla named Kibande was taken in Uganda. “In rainy weather, we came across a family of 19 gorillas,” Saifaldeen explained in introducing him. “Kibande was in an open area in the rain, and when he closed his eyes (it was the perfect time to take) this photo of her relaxing in the rain.”

First Prize Winner, Overall – B&W

‘Flour war’

Muhammad Alamsyah Rauf

The Indonesian photographer describes his photo of a group of children in Papua celebrating their graduation from school by throwing flour at each other as “a fun war”. “Despite their poverty and the poor conditions of their school, they create happy moments together,” he said in his introduction text.

First Prize Winner, Portfolio

‘Cold Pursuit’

Paul Nicklen

Nicklen is a Canadian biologist “fascinated by the changing seasons and their effect on wildlife populations at the extreme ends of our planet, where conditions can change dramatically.” This photo was taken on the Fishing Branch River in Canada’s Yukon, where “dwindling resources force nomadic and typically isolated animals” like this bear “to get very close.” Nicklen said he hopes images like the ones in his bag “will help underscore the struggle of life in the wild and convince us to rethink actions that endanger the survival of our animal cousins. Our urgency to confront the existential threat of climate change will make a difference for her future and that of those like her.”

Fourth Prize Winner, Nature

‘How did you get there?’

Tomas Vijayan

Vijayan took this unnerving image of an orangutan high up in a huge tree in Borneo “after a grueling journey by boat and on foot in crocodile-filled shallows.” Orangutans, he explained, only look up when they’re climbing, “so there’s only one way to get a picture…keep up.” The hardest part, he said, “was keeping quiet while looking at me.”

Fourth Prize Winner, Portfolio


Shad Abdul Kader

Kader’s portfolio focused on Dubai architecture. “Over the decades, Dubai has developed some of the most innovative modern architectural buildings in the commercial, residential, and public sectors,” he wrote. “From the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, to the latest architectural splendor of Expo 2020, the list is staggering. As an aspiring photographer, my vision is to capture these iconic structures through my lens.”