Overall winner of Czech Nature Photo 2019 | Jan Stria

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Overall winner of Czech Nature Photo 2019

I don’t participate in photo competitions very often and I was considering participation in Czech Nature Photo 2019 for quite some time. I uploaded my photos and paid the fee not long before the deadline. I did not tell anybody about that. I did not expect any success when browsing photos from previous years. The big success was to receive information about my photos being nominated, at the beginning of April. Overall I got three nominations, two for underwater photos in category “Reptiles, amphibians and underwater life (wildlife)” and one in category “Czech forest”.

Nominated photos:
Morning Feast Morning Rays Against All Odds

Winners ceremonial took place in Karolinum on 29.4.2019. It flew quite nicely and easily. I was really happy when one of my nominated photos, “Morning Feast”, won the category “Reptiles, amphibians and underwater life (wildlife)”. I was about to leave after receiving a diploma and the price, as I did not consider myself to be in for the overall winner category. Being curious I waited and was totally in shock when my photo showed up on the big screen, even before the moderator, Vladimír Kroc, said the name of the winning photo and my name. You can see my reaction here, Czech TV video, which I saw few days later. I got the main price, congratulations from the whole competition team, judges and others. I spent following hour or so with media interviews etc and I felt like dreaming for the rest of the evening. And it felt the same for another few days to come. I went for an interview to Czech radio with Vladimír Kroc (in Czech). I was quite nervous, you might hear it on the recording but I was in studio with a professional and all went well.

How did I take the photo?

The photo “Morning Feast” was taken in June 2018, in Red Sea, in southern Egypt. I like to combine my hobbies, in this case freediving and photography. Travelled to Egypt for a week long freediving adventure with my friends. I used to do scuba diving but found out about freediving few years back and I am still amazed. There are many advances to that. The travelling is much easier and when diving to see some underwater animals, they are not so scared by bubbles from the scuba gear. One of the most amazing experiences was to freedive with several doplhins which were very playful and curious. I also love freedive into and swim through underwater caves.

One of the main goals of our trip was to see Dugong. Beautiful creatures living near shallow bays. We were very keen to see this creature so we got up very early every day in order to be in the water with the sunrise, i.e. around 5am. However we were not successful for several days and not everybody was happy to carry on like this. So the group was smaller each day. The group of remaining three freedivers was lucky eventually, few days before departure. It was a magical moment with no other people around, with gorgeous light and still pleasant temperatures.

Getting up so early was good for another reasons too. We were alone and water was crystal clear and also underwater animals were waking up and going through their morning routines. One of them was the Bluespotted ribbontail ray. The routine is to calmly sit on the sea floor and start waving its body in other to expel small creatures into its own mouth. It looks beautiful in the morning light. I really like this photo, I was really lucky to witness this amazing situation.