UT meteorologist Timo Palo's photo among Nature's photo contest winners
Nature published five of the best images from the competition, which ran throughout March and attracted about 170 entries, from New Zealand to Norway, Canada to Qatar.
Winners were chosen by a panel of Nature designers and journalists, who judged the images purely on their aesthetic impact. We did not ask for additional context, and we accepted only one image per person. Submissions could be made either through social media or by e-mail.
When UT meteorologist Timo Palo started working in the Arctic in 2006, he realized that bringing his message back home could be achieved more easily with a camera. “It's often too hard for scientists to put their work into simple words,” he says. “Photography can help there.”
In 2010, when Timo Palo's temporary home — the Chinese research and cargo vessel Xue Long (which translates as Snow Dragon) — gave up searching the Arctic Ocean for a stable berth and paused to allow scientists on to an ice floe instead, he climbed to the top deck to take this photograph using a fisheye lens.
Palo, a meteorologist at the University of Tartu in Estonia, has watched this part of the world change dramatically. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising about twice as fast as the average temperature in the rest of the world, he says. “Sea ice is shrinking. As a scientist, you can't have any conclusions before you analyse the data. But visually you can see it. And when you capture something that moves people, it can have a lot more impact than words can have.”
Normally, Palo says, he uses a wide-angle lens to convey the scale of the Arctic. “There's this vast territory of snow and ice, and tiny human beings in the middle of it. You feel small there,” he wrote to me after our interview. But he realized that a fisheye lens would help him to impart a different message. “We know the Arctic Ocean is on the top of a globe. It's like a roof on our planet.” The distortion, he thinks, helps the viewer to visualize this roof — and the cracks that run across its surface.
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