When the night sky lit up with multiple lightning strikes over Black Mountain in January 2019, Canberra photographer Ari Rex knew he had a spectacular shot which has now won first prize in the Nature Photographer of the Year category at this year’s International Photography Awards.
His image was chosen from around 3000 other photographs in one of the most popular categories in the awards, which received more than 13,000 submissions in 13 categories showcasing some of the most outstanding images from around the globe.
Ari received a US$1000 cash prize for his image and would have attended a gala ceremony in New York if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.
He is also in the running for the International Photographer of the Year award, which includes a cash prize of US$10,000 and the Lucie Trophy.
“It is fantastic to be recognised at this level in what is one of the biggest photography competitions in the world,” Ari tells Region Media.
“You definitely need to be a bit lucky, but I’m still in disbelief to have this image chosen as the best nature photo. I really owe a lot to the beautiful landscape around Canberra and, of course, our storm season.”
Ari says the photo is a compilation of 16 frames he chose from a four-to-five-minute period when the storm passed on 30 January, 2019. Using a camera with a trigger activation for lightning strikes also helped take the guesswork out of when to release the shutter.
“This day was pretty crazy for lightning and one of the biggest storms I’ve seen since I’ve been chasing them,” he says. “One camera was taking a time-lapse of the storm and another was on the trigger to take a picture each time the lightning struck.
“Some images have two or three lightning strikes but this image really captures what happened in about a five-minute period.
“There were about 50 shots all up so I just chose the ones I felt best represented what I saw.
“I try to get my images to have as much detail as possible and that is why I think this image had another dimension that helped to make it win because of the technicality involved.”
Ari mostly takes family portraits and commercial images, but always has a camera ready to go. He also runs workshops for astral photography and has a passion for capturing the Milky Way. Some of his images also feature in the National Archives of Australia’s Out of This World: Australia in the Space Age exhibition.
It is no surprise he also describes his passion for photography as one that has a world of possibilities.
“Photography for me is like a portal to a dimension where you are just in the moment and you often get lost in the moment, but you also have to be ready to go at any moment,” he says.
Ari also captured another image during a brief storm in October 2020, when the storm passed and left a wonderful full circle rainbow.
“Perhaps I will enter this photo in the same awards next year,” he says.