SWIMMING serenely in seeming seclusion, beautifully framed by crystal blue waters, these shots of marine animals evoke a sense of tranquillity and power.
Capturing them from this dramatic perspective using a drone was no mean feat for photographer Lewis Burnett. He spent months tracking the creatures to create his collection “Aerial Oceans”, part of which is shown here.
The shots won the Portfolio prize in the 2023 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition, which is produced by the South Australian Museum. Burnett hopes they will leave people feeling the “same awe of the ocean and its wild inhabitants” he feels after a day diving. “It’s impossible to not feel a sense of calm after experiencing the ocean’s wildlife, to not leave feeling small and insignificant in this world,” he says.
A reef manta ray takes centre stage in Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef in the main image. With a “wingspan” that can reach 4.5 metres, this species is among the world’s largest rays. Also glimpsed in Western Australia, in Willie Creek, is the unmistakable shape of a saltwater crocodile (pictured above). It took five months to snap the animal in blue ocean water – despite their name, saltwater crocodiles tend to be found in freshwater habitats.
Finally, pictured above, off the coast of Timor-Leste in South-East Asia, is a pod of Risso’s dolphins. This species, with its characteristic blunt head, is usually wary around boats, so Burnett spent a huge amount of time getting close to these dolphins, he said in an announcement about his win.