“Enchanted Bamboo Forest” by Kei Nomiyama was selected as the single best image in the world by a panel of judges chaired by Jael Marschner, former picture editor Time Out London / Sunday Times Travel. The photographer was awarded $5,000 (USD) at the London ceremony.
A Ph.D. Associate Professor in Environmental Chemistry at Ehime University, Japan, Nomiyama is keen wildlife and underwater photographer. His photograph was shot in the mountains of Shikoku Island and captures the Luciola parvula firefly at the beginning of the rainy season.
The photograph was selected from 10 Open category winners announced on 29th March. The Open competition asks for a single image and is open to all photographers.
Nomiyama describes the photograph:
“The season of a firefly comes around in Japan at the beginning of the rainy season. This firefly is a species called Luciola parvula, and it blinks repeatedly. This species flies in the beautiful forest. In particular, the firefly is valuable in bamboo forests. The population of these fireflies decreases every year in Japan. This picture was taken under a little moonlight.”
We spoke with Kei Nomiyama to learn more about him and his work as well as more about how he created this remarkable photograph.
Alpha Universe: You're both a scientist and a photographer. What came first, the science or the photography?
Kei Nomiyama: I'm a scientist and I’m not a professional photographer. However, these activities lead me in the same direction. My basic way of thinking is as one who loves nature and animals. I became a scientist to protect nature, and I had an interest in photography to record nature.
Alpha Universe: When and where did you make the award-winning photo?
Kei Nomiyama: This photo was taken on June 21st, 2015 in the mountains of Shikoku island (the smallest of the four main islands of Japan). Shikoku island, where I live, is the so-called "back-country". Therefore, it’s an area that’s good for observing nature, and there was a very good opportunity to observe fireflies. This is lucky for me. I like a fireflies and many Japanese love fireflies.
This firefly photo was taken through extensive preparation. I spent time over 4 years to find this shooting area. After it was found, I went to this area and investigated an exact shooting location for several days. That was necessary to find the perfect location and shooting time. The perfect exposure and settings were derived by shooting several images and reviewing them.
Alpha Universe: Was this the first time you've entered the Sony World Photography Awards Competition?
Kei Nomiyama: Yes, this was the first time I entered the contest.
Alpha Universe: Why do you think competitions like the Sony World Photography Awards are important for environmental photographers like you?
Kei Nomiyama: This was the first time I entered the Sony World Photography Awards Competition. We're looking for the chance to emphasize the importance of conserving beautiful nature and wildlife. Maybe that’s the same feeling of other scientists. The importance of our subjects can be told by wonderful contests such as Sony World Photography Awards. I think that many environmental photographers will value such contests.