Photographer Paul Souders has been awarded the grand prize in the 2013 National Geographic Photography Contest. From more than 7,000 entries across 150 countries, National Geographic's Senior Photo Editor Susan Welchman, contributing photographers Stephanie Sinclair and Ed Kashi pored over the images, eventually picking a top photo in each of the Nature, People, and Places divisions. Souders image of a submerged polar bear unanimously won not only the Nature division, but also the contest overall.
As his grand prize, Souders will receive $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual National Geographic Photography Seminar in January 2014.
The bear swam up to the iceberg, ducked under and stayed underwater for several seconds as I moved my zodiac into position and then held out the camera on a six-foot boom near the entrance. I didn’t fire until she came up to breathe and take a look at me, and I kept firing the shutter as she submerged again. She hung there, just below the surface, watching me, then came up for another breath before swimming away. I couldn’t see her from where I sat in my small zodiac boat; I was shooting blind with the wide angle. I sensed it was a unique situation, but the first thought in my mind was that I really didn’t want to screw up. I’d already dunked the remote radio trigger and camera into the salt water, and had to jury rig a replacement cable by chewing off the copper wires and hand-splicing it together. I don’t know how, but somehow it worked.
The other winners in the National Geographic competition were Cecile Baudier's Together, Alone, which took the People prize, and Adam Tan's Long Road to Daybreak which won for Places. You can also see something of the judging itself in the video below.