Scottish Wildlife and overall winning image "Cheeky Otter" © Marcus Conway.
The results of the 2011 Scottish Nature Photography Awards Photographic Competition have been announced and photographer Marcus Conway has claimed the overall winning position with his image of an otter.
Marcus won the Scottish Wildlife category before judges awarded him the overall winning title of Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year 2011.
Marcus, who runs a photography tour and workshop business based in the Highlands, said: "Scotland is a wonderful place to watch and photograph nature and I am overjoyed to have won this prestigious award.
I had been on Mull for two weeks enjoying the wealth of wildlife on the island and tracking Otters. I had spotted a family of Otters feeding along the shoreline and decided to set up in the rocks to try to get a group shot. What happened next took me by surprise. The female Otter came onto the exact same rocks I had chosen, enabling me to get this intimate portrait shot as she scented the air. Moments later she was too close to focus on as she continued along the rocks just feet away.
It was a wonderful encounter with one of Scotland's finest mammals and to have been made Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year has made the moment even more special."
The competition attracted over two thousand entries from photographers around the world, all keen to demonstrate the amazing shots they had taken in Scotland in the Scottish Landscape, Scottish Wildlife, Scottish Botanical, Natural Abstract and Environmental categories.
Judges Neil McIntyre - wildlife and landscape photographer, Lorne Gill - photographer with Scottish Natural Heritage and Niall Irvine - photography and digital imaging practitioner and co-organiser of the Awards, admit they had a tough job to pick the winning images.
Neil McIntyre said: "It was going to take something extra special to stand out from so many great shots. However, the winning image of the Otter was a unanimous winner. This iconic, elusive animal was captured brilliantly by Marcus Conway, showing great character and capturing a perfect moment in time. You just can't help but smile when you look at this picture and wish you had been there - a sure sign of a winning image."
For the first time this year, the photographic competition also included awards for junior photographers (under-18s) and for students undertaking a photography element in their course.
The title of Junior Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year 2011 was awarded to 13-year-old Alessandro Oggioni from Monza in Italy for his image of Dolphins near Inverness, taken while on a family holiday.
Alessandro said: "I heard from a local resident about a place where it’s possible to see dolphins fishing during the rising tide. When I arrived there, I found a lot of other naturalists and photographers crowded on the beach and I couldn’t see anything. So, to take photos, I had to go into the water up to my knees!
I’m very glad to have won this important award because during that holiday I fell in love with Scotland."
Judge Lorne Gill said: "I have always been a champion of the young nature photographer and I was therefore thrilled to see the quality of the images that have won the top awards in this first ever Junior Category in the Scottish Nature Photography Awards competition. It may be a cliché, but these young people are the future for nature photography and I'm delighted to say that the future is indeed a bright one.
The Student category gave an opportunity for practising photography students to submit a portfolio of three images into the competition. As expected the portfolios ranged widely with creativity to the fore. It was wonderful to see these young photographers expressing their ideas in such individual ways and portraying their vision of the world around them."
Robert Mercer, an HND Photography student at Reid Kerr College in Paisley won Student Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year 2011 with his portfolio of 3 Scottish Landscape images: Eigg for Breakfast, Lochaber Moonlight and Rocky Rum.
Robert said: "I am so very pleased to be receiving such brilliant news, I am absolutely delighted to hear this. It is a great accolade for me personally, and will look amazing next to the images in my portfolio. I think it is quite an achievement, as I'm sure there would have been a lot of great shots submitted for this competition."
An exhibition of the winning images will tour Scotland from June 2012 and will be published in a Portfolio Yearbook. For more information, visit: Scottish Nature Photography Awards