The Results: Capture the Extreme Photography Competition

After combing over more than 2000 entries and much deliberation between the judges, we are delighted to share the results of the 2020 Capture the Extreme Photography Competition.

Following the launch of the Frank Hurley Photographer’s Jacket, a world-first collaboration with Leica Camera AG, Shackleton hosted the inaugural Capture the Extreme Photography Competition to celebrate the cultures, wildlife and beauty of the planet at its coldest.

The competition received more than 2000 entries across the four categories, from Antarctica, Greenland, Alaska and Afghanistan to Mongolia, Svalbard, Norway and Siberia. The categories were: Adventures, Landscapes, Wildlife, and People. After much deliberation between the judges, we are delighted to announce the results of the 2020 Capture the Extreme Photography Competition.

In announcing the results, we also launch the Explorers’ Choice Award, whereby we invite you to vote for your favourite image from the 25 Highly Commended entries. (Now closed.)


Olle Claeson, Svalbard

BEHIND THE SHOT // “My wife Lena and I are both fascinated by the wild and by wildlife and Svalbard has become one of our favourite places – we have so far made seven visits to the islands during all seasons of the year. This shot was taken in mid-August on the north coast. We spent two weeks onboard a small sea surveyor ship, M/S Stockholm, built in 1953. The skipper has spent more than 30 years in the area and the ship's shallow depth allows her to access places few other vessels can.

"At the bottom of this northern fjord, you approach the impressive Monacobreen glacier. We anchored at a safe distance and approached in a small Zodiac. As we were fairly close to the glacier, several clumps of ice started to crack and fall into the water. These were the size of cars and buses. Then we discovered a crack in the ice front that seemed to increase rapidly. We slowly moved away and watched a massive part of the glacier wall crack and fall into the sea with a roar. We were just catching our breath from this magnificent drop when there was a blast and a huge section of the glacier started to tip and fell straight down into the sea and disappeared. This is the moment captured in the shot.

"The scenario was amplified by the seabirds that went crazy due to all the food being surfaced by the water turbulence. By now, we were moving away to avoid the approaching tsunami. The wave eventually caught us, but we had been able to get some distance from it and there was no real danger. I used my backup camera at the time for the shot, a Nikon D500 with a 300 f4 prime lens.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS // This image is many things. First of all, it fits the brief of the competition perfectly: this image has captured an extreme event. Also, it was taken from quite a precarious position: the wave that that lump of ice would have produced when it landed in the water would have been a big one! The image has captured both the sheer beauty of the ice and the raw power of nature. Given the current global climate and the recent news we are receiving about glaciers calving and breaking up on a massive scale, this image has huge social value. Taken on a manual setting with so many influencing factors – light, shade and colour – the photographer has done well to get a perfect exposure too. 


Anssi Ruuska, Finland

BEHIND THE SHOT // “The wait for the first tour skating trip of the season is always a long one. Prime conditions are not always guaranteed here in Finland. This time the ice was perfect and we decided to make our first skating trip despite the bone-chilling wind. The good thing with this gale-like wind was that it blew the snow from the ice. At this point I saw a perfect scene and got my camera. My friend Eetu continued skating against the wind and I managed to capture the scene within these harsh elements.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS // An unusual and artistic composition showing a journey into the unknown. The harshness of the conditions are captured beautifully – the viewer is immediately made to feel the cold and challenge.


Chris Pollard, New Zealand

BEHIND THE SHOT // “The Wanaka Tree is a lone cracked willow, marooned in a lake normally surrounded by an incredible vista of mountains. But due to a blizzard all the roads were un-drivable and the mountains hidden. My friend and I layered up, grabbed supplies and hiked down to the lake to go shoot in the snow. I actually only took a few photos because the wind was so ferocious, but from the ones I took, this still remains one of my favourite photos to date.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS // This image crosses the threshold of pure photography into art. This image is a poem. Its composition and the stillness of it are a good reminder that adventure is not always adrenaline-fuelled or extreme scenes of crashing snow and ice, but moments filled with absolute calm where we can appreciate our surrounds.


Eli Gunnemark, Svalbard 

BEHIND THE SHOT // “After three days in a snow storm, negotiating broken sea ice and crossing several glaciers, I reached the abandoned Russian coal mining town Pyramiden. At the edge of the town I saw movement in the corner of my eye and proceeded on foot – after a little while I saw a dead ptarmigan, and next to it this beautiful Arctic fox.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS // The Arctic fox is an unsung hero of the polar wasteland. These elusive animals only ever run away from you, never towards you. The character of the fox and the fine detail of this creature coming through the photograph are magnificent – it feels personal.


Massimo Bietti, Siberia

BEHIND THE SHOT // “I was spending time with the Nenets on a frozen lake in Siberia. The photo shows an instant after fishing. The fishing technique consists of creating two holes in the lake well apart from each other, then a net is passed from the first to the second hole. Fish are caught; some alive, which will become the food of the Nenets, others dead, which will be fed to the sled dogs. Some fish are caught dead as they cannot survive the harsh winters under a blanket of snow of ice where they are never warmed by a ray of sunshine.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS // This image captures an unusual point of view on fishing. The movement of the frozen fish and the lady captures the viewers’ attention and documents an intimate part of life in one on the harshest environments on earth.


Shackleton and Leica would like to thank all the photographers who entered the 2020 Capture the Extreme Photography Competition. For details on the 2021 competition, look out for news later in the year. Cast your vote for the Explorers' Choice Award HERE.