By Tim Bird, October 18, 2010
With the swans drifting across the nearby Töölönlahti bay, itself fringed with the reds and yellows of late autumn, Helsinki's Finlandia Hall is the ideal venue for the annual Nature Photography Festival, the traditional event for naming the annual Finnish Nature Photograph of the Year.
The 2010 competition attracted over 9,600 entries from nearly 1,100 photographers, a reflection of the enduring and growing popularity of the pastime – hardly surprising, of course, in a country of ample forests, lakes, rugged coastline and accompanying wildlife.
Along with category winners and a selection of other entries, the overall winner is presented in a fabulous album of nature shots compiled from the competition, supplemented by photo and text essays from top photographers. This is the 30th year that the competition has been celebrated by an annual book, but this year it's fatter than usual, devoting more pages to the best of Finnish nature photography.
This year's winner, recipient of a 5,000-euro cash prize, is Pekka Tuuri of Espoo in southern Finland, who describes himself as a "serious and enthusiastic amateur". His winning plant-life category shot , a painterly perspective of pond lilies viewed from below towards the sunlight, is titled "Kohti valoa" – Towards the light - and is the first underwater shot winner in the competition's history.
"It's a real encouragement," Tuuri says. "You never know if you're going to get a good result. I entered ten images, all of them quite different but all of them from under the water's surface – that's my speciality.
"Winning this verifies that I have reached a level in my photography that I have been striving for," he continues. Tuuri, whose day job sees him editing texts at his wife's translation business, hopes that his success will lead to a book. "There hasn't been a book of underwater pictures published in Finland. I feel I'm getting the right kind of images that could be used for such a book." Tuuri uses a sealed underwater casing for his digital Canon EOS 5D SLR to take shots from under the water's surface.
The competition is one of Europe's top nature photography contests and is staged by the Finnish Nature Photographers' Association, which has 2,800 members and is one of eight members of the Finnish National Association of Photography Societies. The competition shortlist is drawn up by four experts, each choosing their favourite 300 shots. The final shortlist of winners and commended entrants are then chosen from these semi-finalists by another panel of leading nature photography experts.
After they were announced, Pekka and the competition category winners were set to celebrate their success at a gala event at Finlandia Hall. "I invited my closest friends and family to my house without telling them why," he says. "They don't know what's going to happen. I'm taking them by bus to Finlandia to celebrate as a surprise."
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