An Alberta woman has won a prestigious nature photography contest after traveling to South America to photograph a vulnerable species of bear.
Jacquie Matechuk, who lives in Cochrane, Alta., won Nature Photographer of the Year in a contest organized by Nature Talks, a photography agency based in the Netherlands.
Your winning image, He looks at the skyfeatures a spectacled bear perched on a fig tree in Ecuador.
The species name comes from the rings of light-colored fur around the eyes, which make them look like they are wearing glasses.
Matechuk said that on the day the photo was taken it seemed like everything was going wrong. He had to run through a canyon to reach the unique habitat where the bears live, and it started to rain.
“We had a lot of problems. Rushing to get down the canyon – massive changes in temperature because it was so cold and pouring rain. Then the sun came out, and I mean it shot up like 12 or 13 degrees Celsius,” he said.
That rapid change in temperature fogged up his camera, which meant he couldn’t get the autofocus to work and had to lower his shutter speed.
“I was on the verge of tears when everything started to go cloudy, because I could see it right there and it was so beautiful,” she said.
SEE | Jacquie Matechuk explains what happened the day she took the winning image:
The bear looked into the sunlight as Matechuk walked away.
He said he was able to take a few photos before the camera stopped working completely, but that combination of factors created the winning photo, which looks like a painting.
“Which I probably never would have gotten to on my own, in all honesty. So sometimes things just happen for a reason,” Matechuk said.
Until planning his trip to South America, Matechuk knew very little about spectacled bears.
“They are a very peaceful and gentle species of creature, despite their size. And I hope that it sparks people’s curiosity to ask more questions and look at our environments and how those animals are part of this beautiful, biodiverse culture that we live in.” “.
The photograph was selected by an international panel of five judges. The contest received more than 21,000 applications from 96 countries.
“The Spanish moss hanging from this century-old fig tree gives an incredible sense of three-dimensionality, while the soft light filtering through the colors highlights the deep connection between the species and the habitat in this image,” said the president of Nature Talks, Marco Gaiotti, in a press release.
“The silhouette of an Andean bear crossing the Spanish moss hanging from an ancient tree is something beyond a nature photographer’s most vivid dreams.”
Matechuk’s photograph of the bear also won the Nature Talks contest in the mammal category.