An Indian shutterbug's atmospheric and detailed photograph of a green snake in the Western Ghats has won the first prize in the animal portraits category of the National Geographic's Nature Photographer Of The Year contest.
Varun Aditya photographed the green vine snake in July during a monsoon trek through the forests near Amboli, a hill station in the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. The photographer from Tamil Nadu told HuffPost India that he had actually undertaken the expedition to capture the Malabar Gilding Frog, which is a native to the region.
Once he managed to photograph the frog on a tree, he started searching for its fluorescent green tadpoles. It was then that he stumbled across the green snake.
"It was on the ground that I spotted this 'Green Vine Snake' on a small dead branch/stem, just behind the walking path," Aditya told HuffPost India. "When I spotted the snake, I was standing behind it. Then I walked to the front, and faced it. That was my first encounter with a snake at such a short distance," he said.
A trader by profession, Aditya is a self-taught wildlife, nature and landscape photographer.
The picture is that of a snakelet, around 10-15 cm in length. Initially, Aditya tried shooting with a macro lens, but eventually opted for a wide angle lens to include the surrounding habitat of a deep pathway going through the thick forest.
"I had to approach it very slowly by lying down on the muddy ground for the eye level and moving inch by inch," Aditya said. "As it was a mildly venomous snake, I gathered courage to get close and composed the photograph using the wide angle lens."
The annual photography competition showcases the awe-inspiring and diverse natural world around us. The grand prize went to French photographer Greg Lecoeur's underwater photograph of the sardine migration along the Wild Coast of South Africa. You can see the other winners from the competition here.