An Army reservist has won a National Geographic Traveller Photography Award for his images of an Armed Forces yacht sailing through icebergs in Greenland.
Captain Sam Davies, 30, from the National Reserve Headquarters of the Royal Artillery was awarded the landscape category for an aerial shot of an ice field.
The freezing Arctic weather drained the battery on Captain Davies' drone, so with his device on its last icy breath, he had time for only one shot – and it turned out to be the perfect one.
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Cpt Davies took the winning image while on an Armed Forces sailing expedition, Exercise Arctic Express 22, which he joined in 2022 as a photographer/videographer.
During the expedition from Iceland to Greenland, Capt Davies was among the 16 Armed Forces members on a 70ft yacht that belonged to the Joint Services Adventure Sail Training Centre (JSASTC).
"My role on the expedition was to capture for the JSASTC how adventurous training, and particularly offshore sailing, is really good intense training that makes you a better soldier," he said.
But with adventure comes risk and unpredictability.
In the first 48 hours, the crew experienced rough seas, the worst that Capt Davies had ever seen. Everyone on board except the skipper was physically sick.
The yacht sailed through the storm at night, and just as morning broke, so did the storm.
But the danger was not over yet – the crew had sailed into an ice field.
"But we were still in this thick bank of fog, and we started seeing big, looming icebergs drifting past us.
"Then the fog bank broke and we got through the other side of it into bright sunshine, crystal blue waters and a field of icebergs and little ice chunks as far as the eye could see.
"We had to get through this treacherous, constantly shifting 3km ice field to reach the port town where we were going to stay," Capt Davies said.
The reservist had a drone for filming purposes, and the captain asked him if he could put the drone up to try to find a way through the ice.
"So we got the drone up in the air and we had a guy halfway up the mast looking out while I called out directions to the captain."
While navigating the 16-crew boat to safety, he did not stop filming because he did not want to miss out on the incredible photo opportunity.
"Shooting top-down aerial perspectives is something I love, and I knew the shot could be special. I hoped to capture the insignificance of our 70ft yacht between these enormous icebergs and reveal how much ice lay beneath the surface.
"Lining up the moving boat and ice was tricky. As my fingers froze and the drone's battery drained, it all came together, and I had time for just one shot.
"I breathed a huge sigh of relief to finally see my drone land safely back on board after a nerve-wracking landing," Sam said.
Capt Davies was one of 18 photographers that made the shortlist for the National Geographic Traveller Photography Awards.
The judges said what got him the prize was "the simplicity of the image and the placement of geometric shapes against the negative space of the sea".
"Doing photography in the Army was the perfect place to learn and practice and develop my passion into a craft because there are some amazing stories, characters and events in the Army.
“From missiles firing against starry skies, to emotional portraits of exhausted soldiers, I honed my skills in every way I could to try and do these moments justice," Capt Davies said.
Before becoming an Army reservist, Capt Davies served as an officer for five years.
He got his first camera when he was in the Light Dragoons, and fell in love with photography while taking pictures of soldiers on exercises.
"That was the lightbulb moment for me that made me realise I could do this," he said.
When Capt Davies left the regular Army he had the confidence to become a photographer full-time, and his portfolio got his professional career off the ground.
The award-winning reservist is a travel and adventure photographer and filmmaker.