Seahorse clutches at a cotton bud

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 20 November 2017

A wildlife photographer says his shot of a seahorse is the best combination of both charismatic and emotional subject matter. Neither dramatic nor graphic, it speaks to everyone without pushing anyone away.

© Justin Hofman - Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 Finalist

I knew that it was a scene that needed to be shared so I had to focus and not let my emotions get out of control.

Justin Hofman,
Wildlife photographer

Whilst we’re all clutching at straws trying to find answers to the litter crisis in our oceans, a seahorse grabs at a cotton bud.

Wildlife photographer Justin Hofman was snorkelling off the Indonesian island of Sumbawa when he spotted a seahorse…..but it’s what happened in the following moments that make this an instantly iconic picture.

“At first I was really enjoying the sea horse because it was all alone. It was just bobbing in the water like you would expect. This was before the trash started to drift into the scene. I think the little sea horse was right on the leading edge of the tide line so while we were out there the seahorse drifted through and was followed closely by the trash/sewage. When the trash started to come into view and the smell of the water changed, that’s when my heart broke. I knew that it was a scene that needed to be shared so I had to focus and not let my emotions get out of control. Honestly though, this was towards the end of the expedition and we had been exposed to SO MUCH trash and pollution, so this wasn’t too surprising. The way rubbish is handled in Indonesia is just horrible,” Justin told MCS.

But just how did he come across the seahorse in an ocean of space?

“My friend Richard happens to be one of the best wildlife spotters on Earth. He has such keen eyes and seems to just manifest wildlife out of nowhere sometimes. While he was in the water he spotted the tiny sea horse and alerted me to it. I was hesitant to take pictures of it because it was so small and my camera was set up with a 16-35mm lens (not ideal for smaller subjects), but the heat of the day made me want to get in the water. I’m so glad that I did,” said Justin.

The Seahorse and the Cotton Bud image became a finalist in the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 competition.

Actions you can take

  1. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  2. Help stop the plastic tide
  3. Adopt a seahorse and support research and conservation projects

Did you know?…

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes

On UK beaches levels of litter have doubled in the past 20 years

It’s estimated that one rubbish truck load of plastic litter enters the ocean every minute