Your photos have been pouring into our Winter Nature Photo Contest, which means that nature photographer John Weller has his hands full as our judge. Over the next few weeks, he’ll take a close look at your submissions and pick his top 10 shots, which will move to the final round of voting (along with the audience favorite from the first round of voting, which starts this Friday, February 21st, at 2 p.m. E.T.).
What catches John’s eye? He told SciFri that he’s drawn to pictures that capture something essential about their subject: “Can you reveal the agility of a hummingbird or the intensity of an owl? How about the silence of a snowy forest? Can you make me feel the bone-chilling cold of a winter sunrise? Better yet, can you reveal the polar bear not just as a powerful predator, but as a disappearing species?” John says he likes those last images best, because they tell “an important story in the world.”
The story John’s been telling for the last 10 years is about Antarctica’s Ross Sea. It’s a place he calls “the last ocean” because it remains (as yet) relatively untouched by fisheries. In collaboration with Antarctic ecologist David Ainley, he’s documented the fauna that populate the marine ecosystem. That translates to lots of time spent with one of the Ross Sea’s most photogenic residents: the Adélie Penguin. For John, watching the Adélies transform from “little guys in tuxedos” to “powerful predators” when they hit the water is one of the highlights of shooting down South. (It’s also one of the highlights of his new book of Ross Sea photographs, called The Last Ocean.) But John insists you don’t need exotic wildlife to get a great shot. “Find [a subject] you’re passionate about,” he says. “I’ve started really getting into the spiders in my backyard. I’ve started photographing them.”