22 September 2021

2021 IES photo competition winner announced

The theme for this year’s photography competition was Transformation. This concept has direct relevance to our lives and is a key theme for the IES as we consider the transformative change needed to address the climate and ecological crises and plan for the future of the environmental profession.

We asked you to submit your best photographs capturing the essence of this year’s theme, whether it be the transformation of our natural world through the seasons, the emergence of new life, or changes to our natural or built environments. In response, we received a large number of entries from across the world, with an exceptionally high standard of images submitted.

The winner

We are delighted to announce that this year’s winner is Laura Thomas, with her thought-provoking image of a piece of sea glass on Compton Bay beach on the Isle of Wight. Laura, a student member of the IES, has been awarded one year of free professional membership upon graduation.

The judges were particularly drawn to Laura's photo as it serves as a great reminder that transformation is full of ethical dilemmas and pitfalls. Pollution is not a desirable outcome but, in this case, it provides some beauty. This applies in other environmental science domains too, for example, pollution on contaminated land sites can lead to pockets of unique ecology. Nature has the capacity to adapt to changes in circumstances, albeit over a very long period. If we cannot mitigate a problem, to what degree are we able to adapt?

Laura’s photo also serves as an evocative reminder of the processes of change and degradation pervading the natural world. Transformation will be necessary to preserve our oceans and other natural resources.

From junk to jewel” by Laura Thomas

Highly commended photos

We received so many great entries that we have selected four of our favourite photos as highly commended. These photos can be viewed below.

"Transformation of a perfect flying V" by Jamie Wood captures the moment an absent minded Whooper swan disrupts the neat V-formation of the Whooper swans' flight.


"Nature takes over" by Aida Khalil shows nature recapturing a building at Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, Cambodia.


"Juvenile Wheatear" by Dan Clampin captures the change in the individual's plumage from its mottled brown speck to the adult feathers along the belly.


"From life to death" by Douglas Tilbury. In the photo, Olpadan (‘the Great Shooter’ in Maa), leader of the Maasai Mara’s famous Tano Bora (the Five Brothers) cheetah coalition, brings down an Eland calf in a coordinated and ruthlessly efficient hunt. The brothers have developed international notoriety for their tight bond and military-like tactical hunting style. This image captures the moment the calf gives up the fight.​

Thank you to everyone who entered this year's competition.

Copyright for banner images clockwise from top left image: Dan Clampin, Laura Thomas, Ibai Castezubi, Jamie Wood, Ibai Castezubi, Andrea Whitin, Douglas Tilbury, Aida Khalil.