This photo of a Leopard seal hunt by Canadian Paul Nicklen won the nature story category of the 2007 World Press Photo contest and exhibition. ((Paul Nicklen/Associated Press) )

Canadian Paul Nicklen has won first prize in the Nature Stories category of the prestigious World Press Photo contest.

Nicklen, who grew up in a small Inuit community of 140on Baffin Island, captured the 2007 prize for his vivid photo of aleopard seal hunt in Antarctica.

It's Nicklen's second World Press prize in four years.In 2004, he took the same category fora shotof Atlantic salmon, which was also published in National Geographic magazine.

Nicklen has a degree in marine biology and worked for four years in the Northwest Territories as a wildlife biologist.

According to the World Press Photo website, Nicklen's goal is to continue "bridging the gap between excellent scientific research and the public by producing stories for magazines such as National Geographic."

On his website, Nicklen credits growing up in the North with his fascination with nature: "As a kid, without television, radio, and computer games, my friends and I would spend all of our waking hours in the hills watching wildlife, weather and the light play shadow games across the landscape. At that young age, the seed to become a nature photographer was deeply planted."

Nicklen, who lives just outside Whitehorse, says a three-month solo expedition into the High Arctic helped him decide to become a nature photojournalist.

Meanwhile, also on Friday, American photographer Spencer Platt was named the winner of the photo of the year. The top prize carries a cash value of €10,000 (about $15,000) and is now in its 50th year. Last year's winner was Canadian Finbarr O'Reilly.

Platt's picture, provided to Getty Images, shows affluent young Lebanese driving through a crumbling South Beirut neighbourhood last summer after the area was bombarded by Israeli rockets and bombs.

An international jury of professional photographersgathers in Amsterdam every yearto sift through 78,000 images from more than 4,000 photographers from around the world.

Awards were given out to 58 photographers in 10 categories.