The an­cient rit­ual Brian Sk­erry, USA

Win­ner 2017, Be­hav­iour: am­phib­ians and rep­tiles

Amateur Photographer - - Wildlife Photographer Of The Year -

The leatherback tur­tle shifts her con­sid­er­able weight with her large, strong front flip­pers and moves steadily back to the ocean. Leatherbacks are the largest, deep­est- div­ing and widestrang­ing sea tur­tles, the only sur­vivors of an evo­lu­tion­ary lin­eage that di­verged from other sea tur­tles 100-150 mil­lion years ago. Much of their lives are spent at sea, shrouded in mys­tery. When ma­ture, their shells av­er­ag­ing 1.6m (5ft 3in) long, fe­males re­turn to the shores where they hatched. Sandy Point Na­tional Wildlife Refuge on St Croix, in the US Vir­gin Is­lands, pro­vides crit­i­cal nest­ing habi­tat, suc­cess­fully man­aged for decades. Else­where, leatherbacks are threat­ened pri­mar­ily by fish­eries by­catch as well as hu­man con­sump­tion, coastal devel­op­ment and cli­mate change. The fe­males each lay about 100 eggs in nests dug deep in the sand; some 60 days later, the hatch­lings emerge (hot­ter nests pro­duce more fe­males). When af­ter two weeks, Brian got the en­counter he wanted – un­der clear skies, with no dis­tant city lights – he hand­held a long ex­po­sure un­der the full moon, evok­ing a pri­mor­dial at­mos­phere in this time­less scene. Nikon D5, 17-35mm f/2.8, 10sec at f/8, ISO 1600, Nikon flash at 1/64th power + tung­sten gel, Nikon re­mote re­lease

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