Each year Africa Geographic holds a photo contest for wildlife photographers to showcase the majesty of the continent.

In 2019, photographers didn’t disappoint, with the magazine receiving a record-breaking 29,887 entries. In order to choose a winner, the magazine looks for a photo that “evokes an emotion, tells a story and reflects the true diversity and amazingness of Africa.”

Of course, there are technical issues to consider, and these are important. But most important for us is that the photograph breaks through the clutter of everyday life and makes you FEEL Africa’s pulse.

We are not prescriptive about post-production tinkering, so long as the image faithfully represents the real-life situation. Photography is a blend of so many elements – including experience and patience, technique, equipment, art, timing and knowledge of the subject. There is no exact formula, no iron-clad route to perfection …

This year’s winning photograph – from photographer Björn Persson – showed famous Amboseli National Park resident Tim (an elephant) walking toward the camera as dark clouds loom above and behind. The photo is visually stunning, but after Persson’s photo was selected, those familiar with Tim noticed that previous damage done to the edges of his ears was not faithfully rendered in the winning image.

“We are gutted to have missed this detail about the rips in Tim’s ears, but take comfort that few people have the depth of knowledge about Tim to pick up on that level of detail,” said Africa Geographic CEO Simon Espley. “That said, we will take this on the chin and improve our systems going forward. We are grateful that one of our ever-vigilant community members with detailed knowledge of Tim did pick up on this, and alerted us.”

The decision to disqualify the photo came from an entry rule stating that photos “should be a faithful representation of the original scene.”

“Localized adjustments should be used appropriately,” the rule continued. “The objective is to remain faithful to the original experience, and to never deceive the viewer or misrepresent the reality.”

Persson explained that the error came while he was cleaning up the image and was unintentional. Africa Geographic accepted his explanation but maintained their decision.

The new winner is Eraine van Schalkwyk for a photo of a 1cm long jumping spider sitting in a curled up leaf. The judges explained their decision as follows:

Eraine’s image is pure macro-magic! What made this image of hers stand out head-and-shoulders above the other macro entrants was that she managed to include so much of the habitat in her capture. So often macro photography involves tight focus and shallow depth of field, where only the subject is clear. This tiny predator appears to be surfing in a tube wave, as it gazes straight at the camera. This added sense of place makes this a wonderful image.

In her bio, van Schalkwyk is described as someone who wants “to bring awareness of spiders and their worth in our world.”

Other finalists include a photograph of a lioness dragging the corpse of an elephant calf, a rhino calf staying with its mother “after she was darted for a dehorning,” and my personal favorite, a yawning Gelada.

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