Graphic designer's picture of otter wins top prize in SPH Foundation's first photography competition

SINGAPORE – Graphic designer Ong Yi Chao visited Gardens by the Bay more than 30 times over a year, waiting for otters along the promenade area.

The 35-year-old,whohas been photographing Singapore’s wildlife and green spaces since he was 16 years old, wanted to capture a picture of otters in the waters.

The mammals require clean water to thrive, Mr Ong told The Straits Times on Wednesday (Oct 14). “If the otters can do well, it’s a good sign for our ability to co-exist with nature,” he said.

His patience paid off and he eventually captured a shot of an otter in the waters against the backdrop of the iconic Marina Bay skyline.

The picture, titled Harmonious Integration, won the top prize in the inaugural Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Foundation photography contest.

Launched on July 13, the six-week contest titled A Sustainable Tomorrow was organised bythe SPH Foundation, in partnership with The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao and Photonico, a digital photo marketplace.

The competition was intended to “serve as a platform for the public to showcase their creativity and storytelling talents through photography while raising awareness on climate change and environmental production,” said the SPH Foundation in a statement on Wednesday.

Mr Yatiman Yusof, SPH Foundation director and head of the judging panel, said: “The competition seeks to capture how flora and fauna can grow side by side in a humanly created environment.”

The winning photo had a strong visual impact, said Mr Yatiman. “The buildings in the background and the otter capture the co-existence of human life and nature at the same time,” he added.

Mr Ong will receive $3,000 in cash for his win. He plans to put aside some of his prize money to upgrade his equipment.

The runners-up are Mr Lemuel Jose Aguilar Lucas for his work To a Bright Future and Mr William Ong for The Circle of Life. They received $1000 and $500 respectively.

The SPH Foundation also awarded five consolation prizesof $100 each.

Participants submitted their entries by posting them on Instagram with the hashtag #spfphotocontest, and tagging SPH in the picture. The competition had over 800 submissions, including photos of green spaces, urban farming, and home recycling ideas.

The judging panel headed by Mr Yatiman included The Straits Times picture editor Stephanie Yeow, Chinese Media Group newshub photography editor Lee Tiah Khee and Mr David Tay, directory board member of the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP).

The winning entries can be viewed at Other entries can be found on Instagram with the hashtag #sphfphotocontest.

On his winning shot, Mr Ong said: “Photography is about patience, and being at the right place at the right time.”

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