There were several aspects of this year's Nature inFocus Photography Awards that were unique. The fact that hundreds of nature lovers couldn't gather under one roof to share their enthusiasm, but managed to translate that into the online world during the virtual live event. The fact that the images made us collectively appreciate nature and wonder about our own unbecoming against the backdrop of a pandemic. And, the fact that for the first time in the history of the awards, there was a Special Jury Award given to a photographer whose stunning images conveyed this duality. Meet Magnus Lundgren.

Born in Sweden, Lundgren is regarded as one of the world's leading underwater photographers. He is the director and owner of Wild Wonders of Europe, an initiative that works to educate people about the natural wonders of the continent. He is also a member of the founding team of Wild Wonders of China, which builds on these ideologies. Lundgren has led several expeditions to remote marine and freshwater regions, and has given lectures on underwater photography and marine conservation.

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With almost three decades of field experience, Magnus Lundgren is regarded as one of the world's leading underwater photographers.

Lundgren's images have been featured in leading publications such as National Geographic, The Guardian and Science Illustrated among several others. He has won numerous prestigious awards including the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year-2016 and 2017. At the Nature inFocus Photography Awards 2020, he won the Special Jury Award; his work won prizes in three different categories and made it to the final round of judging in all categories for adults.

See all the winning images from the Nature inFocus Photography Awards 2020, here.

Tasneem Khan, one of the jury members, is a marine biologist and an award-winning underwater photographer herself. Speaking about Lundgren’s work she said, “While reviewing each category of this competition, a Magnus Lundgren image made me stop – inhale, shift emotional gears, ask a question and then spiral into an imagination with many possible storylines. His work demonstrates a deep interest in the subjects and their habitats, while each image explores creative renditions with a crafted use of light, space and equipment.”

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Winner: Animal Behaviour category, Nature inFocus Photography Awards 2020.

The Brown Paper Nautilus is an argonaut, a free-swimming octopus of open ocean habitats. A species that is widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, the Brown Paper Nautilus is known to cling to objects floating on the surface of the sea, including other argonauts. Here a female nautilus is seen surfing on a free-floating medusa. Though the relationship is not fully understood yet, the nautilus is believed to use its host as a food source and as a defensive weapon. When the nautilus was photographed, it used the medusa as an active form of protection by turning it towards the camera, which it presumably perceived as a potential predator.

Location: Balayan Bay, Luzon, Philippines

An undisputed favourite among the jury! For me, it was a combination of the luminosity, detail and composition of the photograph – to have captured it undoubtedly required a keen understanding of their distribution and behaviour.                                                                                                                                                 – Tasneem Khan (Jury, Marine Biologist and Photographer)
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The juveniles of many marine species start their lives in the open sea and settle down much later to live an adult life on a reef or in other habitats. One of the known survival strategies in the mostly unknown pelagic zone of the sea, is transparency, which brings the power of invisibility. Here, a juvenile Moray Eel curls up like a circle trying to look like all the gelatinous salps, comb jellies and jellyfish that are adrift out there.

Location: Balayan Bay, Luzon, Philippines

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Out for a shoot in the middle of the night, the photographer was drifting with the current in the open sea hoping to find animals associated with the great vertical migration happening every night in the ocean. That’s when the incredible and elusive Blanket Octopus showed up and put on an amazing performance, looking like a magician with the blanket out and displaying the false eyes along the undulating blanket.

Location: Balayan Bay, Luzon, Philippines

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Second Runner-up Prize: Conservation Issues category, Nature inFocus Photography Awards 2020.

A male paper nautilus rides a piece of plastic in the pelagic zone. In the ocean, plastic debris injures and kills fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Marine plastic pollution has impacted at least 267 species worldwide, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species and 43% of all marine mammal species.

Location: Balayan Bay, Luzon, Philippines

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A young trevally (Carangidae sp.), about 4 cm high, swims back and forth in quick turns to confuse predators. This strategy of erratic swimming patterns is often used in the pelagic zone. The photographer captures this behaviour by using long shutter speed in combination with two underwater strobes.

Location: Balayan Bay, Luzon, Philippines

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An underwater shot of the frenzy of a salmon run, as Pink and Chum Salmon swim past the photographer in a rapid and stone-cold river in Alaska. The salmons run for their life but also towards a sure death. The whole ecosystem and the variety of wildlife around, such as eagles, bears, otters and salmon sharks have adapted to the seasonal fact of the salmon run. Photographing in brown bear country is not easy, especially when one is swimming with their food. To shoot these images, the photographer and his friends took turns to guard their river stretch while the rest of them were underwater.

Location: Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA

While the image did not make it to the final round of selection, it spoke to me with high energy. To capture movement, mayhem and multiple lifecycles in action – from within it, rather than an observer’s perspective – makes the image both dynamic and powerful.                                                                                           – Tasneem Khan (Jury, Marine Biologist and Photographer)
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The yawn of a rare Weedy Scorpionfish showcased by backlighting the face with a torch, making the mysterious Rhinopia species look even more dark and secretive. Unfortunately this species is highly sought after by the aquarium trade and their population in the wild is on the decline.

Location: LongDong, North-east Taiwan

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Special Mention: Wildscape & Animals in Habitat category, Nature inFocus Photography Awards 2020.

Whilst freediving off Triton Bay at night, the photographer found a Whale Shark to be a hugely popular figure among remoras, each lobe of its massive tail packed with a dozen of this strange fish species. Remoras or suckerfish have a modified dorsal fin which acts as a suction cup and allows them to hook onto other larger marine creatures. The relationship with their hosts is complicated. Though remoras primarily feed on parasitic copepods (small crustaceans) that also attach to their hosts, they can significantly slow down their hosts and force them to expend more energy.

Location: Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia