Image that won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award was shot with a GoPro

This year’s selection of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year may be another spark in the debate over whether it’s pricey cameras or good photographers that make the most impact on an image — the winning image was actually shot with an action camera.

Tuesday, the Natural History Museum announced the Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners, giving American photographer Tim Laman the competition’s top title for the image, Entwined Lives, which displays an endangered Bornean orangutan climbing a tree with the rain forest below.

Laman, a field biologist and photojournalist, used a GoPro to get the shot. The camera’s POV style plays a big role in the image’s strength, with the ape looking straight up into the camera as he climbs. The high perspective also helps the tree stand out from the rest of the rain forest, with the perspective making the branches almost appear to twist together as the tree disappears from view.

Laman spent three days climbing the tree with a rope, setting up several GoPros to be triggered remotely and then waiting for an endangered orangutan to climb up.

The Bornean in the image is part of an endangered species in crisis from habitat loss due to logging and farming. “Protecting their remaining habitat is critical for orangutans to survive,” the photographer said. “If we want to preserve a great ape that retains its vast culturally transmitted knowledge of how to survive in the rain forest and the full richness of wild orangutan behavior, then we need to protect orangutans in the wild, now.”

Laman entered the competition in the Story category, which allowed him to submit six different images of the orangutans. Along with the GoPro shot, he also shot photojournalistic images with a Canon EOS-1D C and a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, as well as getting an aerial shot by drone.

The annual photography contest also selected several winners in subcategories, including the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, 16-year-old Gideon Knight. The teenage photographer took the honors for the young category for his shot depicting a crow and branches backlit by a full moon.

“If an image could create a poem, it would be like this. It should certainly inspire a few lines,” said Lewis Blackwell, Chair of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year jury. “The image epitomizes what the judges are always looking for — a fresh observation on our natural world, delivered with artistic flair.”

The two winning shots were selected along with 16 category winners. The top images will be part of a traveling exhibition. The Natural History Museum also publishes the photographs in a book.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum in London.

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