Yukoner Peter Mather had been trying for a long time to get the shot he wanted — a salmon, underwater and under northern lights.

"It's a pretty tricky photo to get," he said. "It's taken a long time to perfect."

But perfect it he did, at least according to the jury in the Oasis photo contest, an annual showcase of some of the world's best nature and wildlife photographs. Mather's photo nabbed him first prize in its category this year.

He also won first prize for his entries in two other categories this year, which left him "blown away."

"I didn't expect to win first place in anything and then to win three first-places is pretty unusual," Mather said. 

Peter Mather

'I like being outdoors, I like being around wildlife,' Mather said. (submitted by Peter Mather)

The prizes are given out annually, sponsored by Oasis magazine, and an Italian tourism association. Mather's photos earned him €1,200 ($1,764) and a trip to Italy in May.

Trying to tell stories

His other winning shots are similarly evocative of the Northern wilds. 

In his "Birds" category winner, a couple of bald eagles feast on a salmon, alongside Alaska's Chilkat River. One eagle's wing frames the upper part of the shot, suggesting a curtain, risen to reveal an elemental moment.

A six-shot series focused on the Porcupine caribou herd and the First Nations communities that hunt them won in the "Storyboard" category.

"I was really honoured to win that," he said. "This was kind of the most important win for me, because I'm trying to tell stories with my photos."

Mather says he has more stories he wants to tell — for example, by turning his lens on the King salmon run in Alaska and Yukon, and the communities that rely on the resource and work to preserve the stocks.

He's also not ready to claim ultimate success in pursuing his long-time goal, despite an international prize.

"I'm still working on trying to get a little bit better northern lights and salmon photo."

with files from Nancy Thomson