A photo of two penguins cuddling up while watching the bright lights of the Melbourne skyline has won an international award after the photographer revealed the heartbreaking story of loss behind the image.
The image of the pair embracing on a rock as they surveyed the city lights in front of them was named the winner of worldwide sea life photography competition the Ocean Photography Awards.
Tobias Baumgaertner’s incredible photo was chosen over eye-catching shots including mighty polar bears clambering over a snowy landscape, fish swimming through reefs and a diver venturing into an ocean cave.
Baumgaertner told how the pair of penguins were actually widowed and would spend hours at a time comforting the other through their grief.
Two penguins seemingly comfort one another in Melbourne, Australia as they look over to the lights of the city. Tobias Baumgaertner snapped the touching moment in St Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne, and the photograph made the news when he shared it on his Instagram, writing that the two penguins were widowed. The photo was selected in the Community Choice Award category
‘A volunteer approached me and told me that the white one was an elderly lady who had lost her partner and apparently so did the younger male to the left,’ he wrote on Instagram.
‘Since then they meet regularly comforting each other and standing together for hours watching the dancing lights of the nearby city.’
He said it took him three nights living alongside a penguin colony to get the perfect shot.
‘Between not being able or allowed to use any lights and the tiny penguins continuously moving, rubbing their flippers on each other’s backs and cleaning one another, it was really hard to get a shot,’ he said.
‘But i got lucky during one beautiful moment. During times like this the truly lucky ones are those that can be with the person/people they love most.’
The competition also captures a darker side of our oceans.
Humans are affecting marine wildlife more than ever, with plastic pollution harming fish and animals across the seas.
Shocking photos show sharks being throttled by rubbish and hermit crabs stuck in cans and coffee cups.
The awards aim to show ‘devastating photographs detailing the horrors of plastic pollution on the ocean and its inhabitants to the inspiring images of wildlife thriving in their natural habitat’.
A Humpback whale calf ‘waves to the camera’ off the coast of Tonga. Tongan waters are birthing and mating grounds for a specific population of humpback whales, which means they are around for months each year, making it the perfect place for while watching. Jono Allen took this photograph that has been entered into the Community Choice Award category
A polar bear scans the ocean for prey in Svalbard, Norway. Around 3,000 polar bears live around the northern archipelago, which exceeds that of the human population. Florian Ledoux captured this polar bear as it made its way over the top of the ice in search of food. The photograph has been entered into the Exploration Photographer of the Year category
A pair of pan-tropical spotted dolphins ride the pressure wave of a pygmy blue whale, near Sri Lanka. The pygmy blue whale is a subspecies of the blue whale found in the Indian Ocean and the southern Pacific Ocean, and can reach lengths of up to 78ft (24 metres). Scott Wilson’s photograph has been entered into the Adventure Photographer of the Year category
King penguins march through heavy snow in St. Andrew’s Bay in the South Atlantic island of South Georgia. The island is home to around seven million penguins and is the world’s most important penguin breeding area. At the height of breeding season, South Georgia is said to be home to more wildlife per square foot than any other place on the planet. This photo, by Ben Cranke, has been entered in the Exploration Photographer of the Year category
Drone image captures walrus huddle in Svalbard, Norway – an archipelago in the northern Arctic Ocean between Norway and the North Pole. The Walrus is the largest seal species in the arctic and the second largest in the world. These walrus inhabit the island that is one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas on the planet. This photograph, taken by Florian Ledoux, has been entered into the Conservation Photographer of the Year category
A clown fish brushes up against silky tentacles in the South Maldives, a small archipelagic island country in South Asia, situated in the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean. This photo, taken by Cruz Erdmann, has been entered into the Young Photographer of the Year category
Three spinetail devil rays, also known as the spinetail mobula ray or Japanese mobula ray, engage in sexual courtship in the Philippines. The rays can grow up to a width of 10ft (3.1 meters). Taken by Duncan Murrell, this photograph has been entered into the Adventure Photographer of the Year category
Silky sharks swim off Cuba’s Garden of the Queen, or ‘Jardines de la Reina’ in Spanish. The island is an archipelago in the southern part of Cuba, in the provinces of Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila. It was named by Christopher Columbus to honour the Queen of Spain, Isabella I of Castile. A large area of the archipelago became a marine reserve in 1996. Ron Watkins’ photograph has been entered into the Adventure Photographer of the Year category
Paddle boarders float above the reef in the Kingdom of Tonga. The country is made up of more than 170 South Pacific islands, many uninhabited, most lined in white beaches and coral reefs and covered with tropical rainforest. It is home to some of the most unique and extensive coral reefs that cover over 370,000 acres. This photo, taken by Grant Thomas, has been entered into the Adventure Photographer of the Year category
A anemone fish, or clown fish, gazes in horror at a ghost fishing net that lays over the top of a coral reef in the Philippines. The Philippines has over six million acres of reef systems. This photograph, taken by Henley Spiers, has been entered into the Conservation Photographer of the Year category
Surfer rides a wave at Shipstern Bluff in Tasmania. Waves at the bluff can reach up to nine meters tall, making it one of the most sought-after spots for surfers in the world. This photograph, taken by Lance Morgan, has been entered into the Adventure Photographer of the Year category
Oceanographic Magazine, which runs the competition, has whittled down 100 photographs from more than 3,000 submissions from around the world.
There will be a virtual ceremony on November 19 to crown the winners, which ‘is a celebration of our blue planet and a platform to shine a light on the threats facing the ocean’.
Cristina Mittermeier, one of the judges, said: ‘The volume and quality of submissions from all over the world is testament to a growing realisation that we cannot advocate for healthy and abundant oceans without compelling imagery.
‘Picking a winner in each of the categories was no easy task.
‘It’s one that my fellow judges and I took very seriously, and we can’t wait to celebrate the winners and share their important work with the world.’
A researcher operates a 360-degree camera as waves move a shoal of fish around in the waters off Reunion Island in East Africa. The island – a French department in the Indian Ocean – is known for its coral reefs and beaches. Fred Buyle’s photograph has been entered into the Exploration Photographer of the Year category
A freediver explores caves in Tonga. Tonga is home to stunning underwater caves making it a popular destination for divers. This photograph by Karim Iliya has been entered into the Exploration Photographer of the Year category
A cave diver enters Little River Spring in Mexico during a flood. Mexico is home to some of the most beautiful and intricate underwater caves and caverns. This photograph by Jason Gulley has been entered into Exploration Photographer of the Year category
A bull shark is captured off coast of Florida, USA. Although great white sharks have a bad reputation for attacking humans, many experts actually consider bull sharks to be the most dangerous species of shark, and believe that they have been misidentified as great whites in the heat of the moment. This photograph by Tanner Mansell has been entered into the Community Choice Award category
Waves crash on shore at Diamond Beach, Iceland. Diamond beach is a black sand beach with clocks of ice near the shore that look like rocks or chunks of diamond, giving it its name. This photograph by Eric Wittkopt has been entered into the Adventure Photographer of the Year category
A shark off the coast of the USA swims with a hook and fishing line protruding from its mouth. An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year. Ron Watkins’ photograph has been entered into the Conservation Photographer of the Year category
Free diving instructor waits for a student in Mexico. Freediving is a form of underwater diving that relies on breath-holding until resurfacing rather than the use of breathing apparatus such as scuba gear. This photograph, by Jason Gulley was entered into the Adventure Photographer of the Year category
A aiver’s regulator cuts flesh of oceanic whitetip shark. Its stocky body is most notable for its long, white-tipped, rounded fins, and is found globally in deep, open oceans. This one, pictured in the Red Sea in Egypt was captured by Joe Daniels and entered into the Conservation Photographer of the Year category
Wunderpus octopus, photographed at night in Anilao, Philippines, leaves a glowing trail as is swims through the dark depths of the ocean. Henley Spiers captured this photograph that has been entered into the Exploration Photographer of the Year category
A grey whale mother and calf are photographed in shallow waters off Baja California, Mexico. Grey whales can grow up to 49ft long (14.9 meters) and weigh around 90,000 lbs. They live between 55 and 70 years, with most located in the Norther Pacific, with an endangered population in the Western North Pacific in Asia. This photograph by Jacopo Brunetti has been entered into the Community Choice Award category
A Steller sea lion peers into the camera through the dark waters off Hornby Island in British Colombia, Canada. The island lives just off Vancouver Island, home to an estimated 25,000 seals. This photograph by Celia Kujala has been entered into the Community Choice Award category
Fisherman haul in a fishing net full of tuna in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Indonesia’s fisheries are of global importance. The country’s waters support over 3,000 species of bony fish, with the industry employing about 12 million Indonesians. The majority of Indonesia’s fisheries are over-exploited or fully-exploited, and illegal fishing practices are common. Shane Gross capture this photograph that has been entered into the Conservation Photographer of the Year category
Two sharks surf a wave at Red Bluff, Quobba Station in Western Australia. The site has been the location of shark feeding frenzies in the past, with pictures showing hundreds of the animals feasting on shoals of fish that gather in the waters off the coast. Sean Scott’s pictured has been entered into the Adventure Photographer of the Year category
Two technical divers descend into the Blue Abyss, Mexico. The Blue Abyss – one of Mexico’s many underwater cave systems – is one of the world’s most frequented cave diving sites, but has many narrow passages that can pose dangers to those who are inexperienced. This photograph from the caves by SJ Bennett has been entered into the Exploration Photographer of the Year category
Orcas surf rough waters in Norway. The prime season for Orcas, or ‘Killer Whales’ in Norway is between November and January. The whales are very social animals, and have sophisticated hunting techniques with groups passing their methods down through generations. This picture, by Todd Thomas, has been entered into the Adventure Photographer of the Year category
Remora fish with humpback whale in Tonga. The front dorsal fins of remoras have evolved to enable them to adhere by suction to smooth surfaces, and they spend their lives clinging to a host animal such as a whale, turtle, shark or ray. The fish will move around the host and remove loose flakes of skin or anything else that may get stuck to its host. This photo by Craig Parry has been entered into the Adventure Photographer of the Year category
Crabeater seals on slab of ice in Antarctic waters. The seals live on these floating slabs of ice that break away from the Antarctic coast and use them to rest, socialise and hunt from. Florian Ledoux’s picture has been entered into the Exploration Photographer of the Year category
A polar bear surveys the icy waters north of Svalbard, Norway. Florian Ledoux’s photograph has been entered into the Conservation Photographer of the Year category
Freediver swims below breaking waves in Rurutu Island, French Polynesia. Rurutu is the northernmost island in the Austral archipelago of French Polynesia. This photograph by Fred Buyle has been entered into the Exploration Photographer of the Year category
Beached whale in Texel Island, Netherlands. Texel is one of the Dutch Wadden Islands, off the coast of the Netherlands. The island has been the site of a number of beached sperm wales in recent years, put down to the island’s geography. The photograph was taken by Jeroen Hoekendijk and entered into the Conservation Photographer of the Year category
A plastic bottle lies among nests of Magellanic penguins in Argentina.Millions of these penguins still live on the coasts of Argentina and Chile, but the species is classified as Near Threatened and decreasing. Andrea Benvenuti’s photograph has been entered into the Conservation Photographer of the Year category