The competition, produced and managed by the museum, this year attracted a record 2443 entries capturing fauna, flora and landscapes in Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the New Guinea regions.

Jansen, who receives $10,000 and a travel prize, is based in Western Australia and took her winning photo, Nature’s Prey, at WA’s Coral Bay in July last year after the young whale died during the annual migration north of Ningaloo Reef.

She says tour boats had been watching the sick animal for days before her friends found its carcass on the ocean floor.

“Excited to share their find, I rushed out to their location and jumped in the water to find the skeleton of the young humpback whale laying still on the ocean floor. Surrounding the bare bones were several different species of well-fed sharks.

“We spent a few hours floating above the whale carcass, watching the sharks come closer and closer, unfazed by our presence as they searched the area for any remaining food.”

Jansen added that the experience was a reminder of “how harsh nature and the food chain can be… one animal’s sacrifice can provide so many nutrients to so many other species of wildlife for years to come”.

Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year this year invited entries across 10 categories, including three new ones: Animals in Nature, Astrophotography and Urban Animals.

In a statement, the judges said the beauty in Jansen’s photograph lay in “its artful circular composition, seen in the curves of the whale’s skeletal ribs mirroring the patterns in the sand, keeping our eye within the frame moving between the living and the dead”.

Among the South Australian finalists were William Godward, runner-up in the Astrophotography category with a striking image of the Milky Way above the silhouette of the ridge line at Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges.

Other SA photographers whose work will feature in the exhibition at the museum include Jarrod Koh, runner-up in the Monochrome category with his photo of a storm over Middleton; James Dorey, whose eerie image of Victoria’s Lake Crosbie won the Botanical category; and Jiayuan Liang, runner-up in the Our Impact category with a photo of the Broken Hill mine.

A startling close-up picture of a great white shark, captured at South Australia’s South Neptune Islands by NSW photographer Matty Smith, was runner-up in the Threatened Species category.

An exhibition featuring photographs by all the 2022 finalists will be at the SA Museum from August 27 until October 30, and also at the Australian Museum in Sydney.

A selection of finalist images in the 2022 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition:

William Godward (SA), Flinders Rise – the Milky Way captured over the Flinders Ranges.

Gary Meredith (WA), Sleeping Dragon – a long-nosed dragon sleeps on wire mesh outside a building at a remote gold mining operation in the Great Sandy Desert.

Justin Gilligan (NSW), Gnarled Mossy Cloud Forest – the plateau of Mount Gower (Lord Howe Island), home to a critically-endangered ecological community known as the gnarled mossy cloud forest.

Matty Smith (NSW), Head On – a great white shark at South Neptune Islands, South Australia.

Jannico Kelk (Queensland), Night Light Dining – dusky leaf-nosed bats capture bioluminescent fireflies as they emerge from the darkest corners of the forest in the Great Dividing Range.

James Dorey (SA), A pink tomb – objects preserved in pink salt at Victoria’s Lake Crosbie.

Yan Zhang (NSW), Breaking Dawn – reflections of stars linger on the snow of New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier.

Alejandro Trevino (NSW), Giant Cuttlefish and the Winter Garden – the ‘masters of camouflage’ can change their size, shape, colour and even texture.

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