The Results: 2021 Capture The Extreme

After poring over more than 1000 entries capturing landscapes, wildlife, people and adventure, we are excited to share the results of this year’s Shackleton x Leica Photography Competition.

The Shackleton x Leica 2021 ‘Capture The Extreme’ Photography Competition has once again highlighted the extraordinary beauty found in the remote corners of the world. The submissions depict epic landscapes, enigmatic wildlife, vanishing cultures and bold adventures in regions far and wide, from Greenland, Scotland and Patagonia to Antarctica, Svalbard and Pakistan. They also portray exploration closer to home, in gardens and urban parks, as the Covid-19 lockdowns have made travel impossible for some – these images showcase how adventure doesn’t always need to happen in a far-off land; it can happen on your doorstep.

With more than 1000 entries across the four categories, the judging panel (Martin Brooks, Shackleton; Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Leica; Conor McDonnell, photographer) have had their work cut out. The overall winner receives a Shackleton Escape Jacket and a Leica D-Lux camera. Huge thanks to all who entered this year’s competition. 

Lastly, 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. (The winner will receive a Shackleton Hero Sweater and a Leica D-Lux camera.)


Tamara Stubbs, Antarctica

BEHIND THE SHOT // “The photo was taken in Antarctica in 2019. We were shooting close to some penguins when one took an interest in a scientist and started chasing her – it was quite amazing to watch. While running past, the penguin suddenly saw this man dressed like Ernest Shackleton and slammed on the brakes. The two figures stared at each other, just for a moment, and I caught this extraordinary moment of intimacy between the two of them. It was one of my favourites from my time in Antarctica – it’s somewhat timeless.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS // This photo captures an incredibly intimate and calm moment in an otherwise pretty hostile environment. There’s a real accessibility to it, as if there is an understanding between the two of them, captured in a glance, in a fleeting moment. It also captures an essence of the Golden Age of Exploration – one can’t help but think that Frank Hurley himself would love this image.”


Diego Martinez, Antarctica

BEHIND THE SHOT // “From December 2019 to January 2020 I was the photographer in the expedition to Antarctica with international climber Alex Txikon. This image was taken on one of our first summits, Spigot Peak, a technical climb in mixed terrain in Orne Harbour. It was a hard, but very special climb. It was a really cold day with high-speed winds that made it hard to arrive at the base of the peak – our little Zodiac was fighting with the waves and the rocks. In December the snow is not the best and every single step needs care in case of seracs and cracks.

“The image was taken going down from the summit around 11pm, with Antarctic night gifting us a magic light and a special atmosphere.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS // “It’s the perfect expedition photo – it sums up the challenge, the inspiration, the hardship and the human spirit – a tiny figure all alone in an epic and dangerous place. I love the way the journey is laid out ahead, the way the ridges arc, and with that depth of snow… my legs are burning just looking at him.”


Felix Belloin, Svalbard

BEHIND THE SHOT // “During my 2019 winter expedition to the Norwegian Archipelago of Svalbard, I had the opportunity to get to places that were still inaccessible to ships because of sea ice. The furthest point I reached on snow mobile was the abandoned Soviet settlement of Pyramiden, roughly 110km away from the capital city Longyearbyen. The scenery on the way is absolutely breath-taking, a sea of white with large glacial valleys and tall peaks. My guide expertly led us through this maze of glaciers and gullies to our destination for the night, a small cabin at the foot of Nordenskiöld Glacier.

“After a rest we set off to look for polar bears on the frozen sea ice. As the late afternoon sun started to fade, we reached Pyramiden, the abandoned settlement that is now home to reindeer, ptarmigans, Arctic foxes and, occasionally, polar bears. Reaching around one of the main buildings, I noticed an Arctic fox.

“I lay down in the snow and started crawling towards it. The temperature at the time was close to -20ºC, which presented a few challenges. Firstly, the sheer number of layers needed to keep warm made it really difficult to approach in a nimble way, particularly with a lens as big as a 500mm f/4. Secondly, operating a camera in the cold with several layers of gloves can be quite tricky. Lastly, and to me the most challenging element, you need to alter your breathing to not introduce condensation in the viewfinder or screen, which would immediately freeze and render the camera unusable.

“To my delight, the fox did not seem bothered by my presence and let me get close enough for a shot. I was a couple of minutes into photographing when it decided to stand up and perform its stretching routine. Beyond the fact that this led to some of my most memorable shots, it was such a privilege to be so close to a wild animal in its extreme environment, displaying absolutely no signs of fear in my presence. Worth enduring the harsh conditions!”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS // “This is a really natural moment in such an extreme place. These Arctic foxes endure harsh conditions on Svalbard, but this photo shows a moment of absolute serenity. To capture animals in this way requires dedication and patience, even more impressive in conditions well below freezing. The light and composition are equally as impressive.” 


Wayne White, Antarctica

BEHIND THE SHOT // “I was the Winter Manager at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station for 2017, 2019 and 2020. I have spent two Antarctic summers and three winters at the South Pole, a total of nearly three years. During my time there I went outside daily to check conditions and for my own exercise. I have never missed a day and in those three years I have logged over 4300 miles outside in Antarctica. This photo was taken on September 11th, 2020 with the temperature -75.6ºC on that day. The photo was taken at the end of a seven-mile walk.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS // “You can feel the cold in this shot. The frozen mask and iced eyebrows capture just how harsh this environment is – it gives us an idea of what it must be like to live and work in the coldest environment on earth. It also has an intimacy and power to it – grabbing the viewer’s attention and drawing you into the image.” 


David Mantripp, Antarctica

BEHIND THE SHOT // “This photo was taken during an intense period of sailing through the Antarctic Sound in December 2016. The high seas and strong winds kept most people off deck, but I managed to wedge myself into a corner, and was rewarded with this incredible view.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS // “This was one of the hardest categories to judge with so many incredible entries (see the Explorers' Choice Award). And while this image could have been considered for either the wildlife or landscape categories, we were ultimately captivated by the immense power of this photograph as a brutal and untamed landscape. The whipping waves, towering ice, penguins taking refuge on the iceberg; you can just imagine the noise, the katabatic winds and the extreme cold. This image fulfils the brief of the competition perfectly, capturing an environment and scene where the forces of Mother Nature still have the upper hand.”

Shackleton and Leica would like to thank all the photographers who entered the 2021 Capture the Extreme Photography Competition.