WPY 2010

Photograph Details

Winner 2010

Creative Visions

Francisco Mingorance, Spain

Nature's canvas

Natural acidity and hundreds of years of mining have created this canvas - the famous 'painted river', the Rio Tinto, in Andalusia, Spain. Mineral ores (especially iron ore) oxidize when they come into contact with the air, staining the water and the land shades of red, orange and brown. Francisco has devoted more than 25 years to photographing the river, walking its length, diving in it, flying over it and exploring the mines. He took this aerial image of its copper-tinted waters from 500 metres (1640 feet) above the ground. It's a sight that he considers to be the perfect fusion of art and nature. 'I had to measure light, adjust the camera settings and compose images in fractions of a second, all the while fighting nausea and clinging to my camera in the strong wind.' The extraterrestrial impression may not be just artistic licence: astrobiologists think that the bacteria here live in conditions similar to those found on Mars.

Technical specification

Nikon D3 + 70-200mm lens; 1/3200 sec at f4.5; ISO 400.

Rio Tinto, Andalucía, Spain: latitude 37.5655, longitude -6.51431 Rio Tinto, Andalucía, Spain: latitude 37.5655, longitude -6.51431

Rio Tinto, Andalucía, Spain

Intellectual property rights to all WPY images are retained by the photographers. Reproduction without prior written consent constitutes an actionable infringement. For usage enquiries please contact us.

Sign up to receive emails from the Natural History Museum about events and exhibitions, including Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Francisco Mingorance, Spain

Francisco has worked as a photojournalist for more than 30 years, and has published over 100 articles on nature in titles such as National Geographic, International Wildlife, Terre Sauvage, BBC Wildlife Magazine and Geo. His images have been used to illustrate more than 20 books, and he has won over 200 international photography awards.

  • Bugloss at sunset
  • Flowers of the volcano
  • Spirit of the volcano
  • Lanzarote by moonlight
  • Stork art