When Alice van Kempen traveled to Kruger National Park in South Africa to photograph elephants, she trained her lens on the tusks. The demand for ivory has grown to such an extent that poachers kill an elephant every 15 minutes to meet it. As of mid-September 2016, 36 elephants had been slaughtered in Kruger National Park over the course of the year. Van Kempen’s photograph–a quiet, meditative portrait of two elephants, tusks glowing against a dark background–captures the species’ plight and calls attention to the corrupt industry that sacrifices the entire animal for one small part of its whole.
The winner of the Wildlife Insight category, van Kempen is one of eight finalists in the Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2016 contest. Each of the finalists’ images–selected from categories that include At the Water’s Edge, Live the Adventure, Light on the Land, and Spirit of Travel, among others–highlight some of the most beautiful and important sites on earth. Looking at Kirsten Quist’s photograph of frozen fire pit in Edmonton, Alberta, it’s impossible to ignore the rate at which climate change is melting even the coldest places of the world. Christopher Roche’s image of the Qoyllur Rit’I festival in the Sinkara Valley of the Peruvian Andes testifies to the rich cultures found all across the globe.
For the contest, which is now in its sixth year and sponsored by Swedish outdoor gear manufacturer Fjällräven, photographers from around 50 countries submitted more than 17,000 images. The 2016 overall winner, selected from among the category winners, will be announced at the Photography Show at the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham, U.K. on March 18. Timed to the announcement, Ammonite Press will release a book featuring 160 images submitted to the contest. The following month, the overall winner will travel 300 kilometers across the Scandinavian Arctic to document the Fjällräven Polar dogsled competition.
Take a look through the category-winning photographs, and be reminded of what we are talking about when we talk about the need to protect and preserve our planet.