American photographer Tim Laman has just been named Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016 with this wonderful shot of an orang-utan climbing a tree in Borneo.

It’s a spectacular shot, looking down on the animal as he attempts to collect the figs from the tree. The competition attracted other amazing pictures of animals in their natural habitat – from the urban fox to wild birds. But what’s different about Tim’s shot is the method of photography. The intrepid photographer used several carefully hidden GoPro cameras to capture this one shot.

In his work as a field biologist and explorer, Tim uses his cameras as tools for highlighting the plight of some of the world’s rarest and endangered species. The GoPro is perfect for this job. Ever since it came on to the market in 2004, it’s been a revolution in being able to access places and take shots where other conventional cameras can’t go.

Critics will say the image is not as sharp as what can be produced by conventional DSLR cameras – but they’re missing the point. Tim is not able to show these beautiful creatures doing what comes naturally to them but by creating such a picture, the world might just get to understand what it needs to do so these magnificent creatures will have a future. The picture matters so much more than just being a beautiful image.

Used in video, the GoPro is just a helpful tool that has helped transform the way we tell stories. Although the story will not change, it’s the how we tell it that will, as the by using the GoPro, the filmmaker has the ability to transform the content by catching images that couldn’t previously be captured.

It can be gaffer-taped to vehicles going hundreds of miles an hour. It can be left somewhere, blending into the background, unobtrusively keeping an eye on proceedings. It can be sent down pipes (as Tallboy did for one client, gaffered to a roller skate). The images it can give are precious and can enrich the story-telling process.

Which leads us back to Tim. The story of the orang-utan hasn’t changed – but by using the GoPro as his tool of choice, Tim’s found a way to seize the moment and create a reaction in his audience. This could be the moment the future of the orang-utan changes for the better.

One caveat to all this GoPro praise. It still needs a human operator. To capture this award winning picture, Tim had to climb the tree himself to position the camera. He had to have the imagination to create such a shot. The GoPro was just his willing side-kick.

For more of Tim Laman’s work go to:

The geeks among you might like to know the picture was shot on a GoPro HERO4 Black; 1/30 sec at f2.8; ISO 231.