AN EXPLORER dangles spider-like above one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls, just a heartbeat from the thundering torrent of water…
It’s a moment captured by Sheffield photographer Stuart Dunn – and the dramatic shot has just won him the title of international Travel Photographer of the Year in the One Shot – Wild Moments category.
Among the most prestigious honours in the photography world, it is a title that could elevate the cameraman to the highest echelons of his field.
“Many of my photographic heroes are among previous winners, and photographers from around 90 countries submitted several thousand entries.
“I never expected to be shortlisted, so to say that I am over the moon with the news would be an understatement,” he said.
But the winning shot was very much part of a regular day’s work for Stuart, aged 34, of Totley Rise.
An accomplished cinematographer, he travels the globe filming assignments in inhospitable environments from the Sahara desert to the Arctic Circle.
On graduating from the city’s Northern Media School, he launched his career by undertaking an unpaid expedition to the heart of the Tamil Tigers’ war zone.
It won him respect as well as experience and since then he has worked with numerous major TV channels and documentary makers, filming expeditions with big names including Ben Fogle, Benedict Allen, Julia Bradbury and Helen Skelton.
The photo that won him the Travel Photographer title was taken at Kaieteur Falls in Guyana while filming Serious Explorers for the BBC.
His most recent commission, for the Discovery Channel, follows James Cracknell on The World’s Toughest Expeditions.
It includes crossing Death Valley in America and paddling down the Zambezi river to the Victoria Falls.
Stuart enjoys the scope offered by film work, but he always carries a regular camera with him.
His list of accomplishments includes Sheffield Illuminated: a book featuring more than 140 striking nightscapes of his home city.
“I’ve always loved photography – that’s where my passion began,” he says. “It’s one moment that you’re trying to snatch. Somehow photography still feels as though it has a longevity that TV doesn’t.”
As winner of the Travel Photographer title, he has been commissioned to photograph wild elephants in Valparai, Southern India, on behalf of UK-based charity Elephant Family.
The result will be exhibited at the Royal Geographical Society in London this summer.
Such a prospect would be daunting to many photographers, but Stuart has just one fear: “I’ve done quite a bit of wildlife photography and I know it involves a lot of waiting around. My only concern is whether we’ll actually see anything.
“If we don’t come back with any images there’s going to be a big exhibition with nothing to show!”
His next challenge is in the Brazilian jungle, in search of the lost Inca city of Z.
Meanwhile, he is still savouring memories of a more relaxing trip: new year in Paris with wife Christina.