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In Pictures: First Wildlife Photographer of the Year…

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From a ghostly sea monster to a sneaky possum, the contending shots for this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award have been unveiled. 

Hosted by London’s Natural History Museum, the annual exhibition is showcasing more than a dozen nominated pictures put forward for the prestigious prize.

This year, photographers sought to capture the fragility of the modern world in numerous shots taken in 95 countries around the world.

These will be judged on October 10 in an event hosted by the TV presenters and conservationists Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin. 

‘What most impressed the jury was the range of subjects, from absolute beauty, rarely seen behaviours and species to images that are stark reminders of what we are doing to the natural world,’ said Chairwoman of the judging panel, Kathy Moran.

‘We felt a powerful tension between wonder and woe that we believe came together to create a thought-provoking collection of photographs.’

From a ghostly sea monster to a sneaky possum, the contending shots for this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award have been unveiled

From a ghostly sea monster to a sneaky possum, the contending shots for this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award have been unveiled

The museum’s competition, which kicked off in the 1960s, takes place every year to showcase the best talent in natural photography.

This year’s event drew in almost 50,000 entries from photographers of all ages and experience levels. 

‘The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition reveals some of nature’s most wondrous sights whilst offering hope and achievable actions visitors can take to help protect the natural world,’ added Dr Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum. 

‘We are facing urgent biodiversity and climate crises and photography is a powerful catalyst for change.’

MailOnline reveals some of the top contenders for the prize below. 

Elephant 

Fight to the death by Jasper Doest, the Netherlands. Location: Lopé National Park, Gabon

Fight to the death by Jasper Doest, the Netherlands. Location: Lopé National Park, Gabon

This shocking photograph captures the final moments of an elephant that was hit by a train in Lopé National Park, Gabon.

Photographer, Jasper Doest, says the collision shattered the elephant’s hip beyond repair, forcing workers to kill it and end its suffering. 

This is not a rare tragedy in the national park, with countless animals crushed by trains that pass through, including 20 elephants every year. 

These trains are used to transport manganese – a component used in the production of steel and iron – from the local Moanda mine.

Atlantic Stargazer 

Death in waiting by Pietro Formis, Italy. Location: Rijeka, Croatia

While this fish may look like something from the twilight zone, it was actually spotted by Pietro Formis near the sandy shores of Croatia.

Known as the Atlantic Stargazer fish, this species hides under the sand to stake out  prey, with its eyes and mouth just visible through the grains.

But erosion and pollution are among numerous challenges faced by the Stargazer, with the species also often getting caught in the nets of fishermen. 

‘To me it looks like a voodoo mask or a human face and those are species that I like most, the species that have a human-like face, with big eyes and big mouth. It’s a beautiful animal,’ Mr Formis told the BBC.

Brushtail possum 

Possum’s midnight snack by Caitlin Henderson, Australia. Location: Malanda, Queensland, Australia

It was Caitlin Henderson who caught the brushtail possum chomping on a green cicada outside her balcony window in Australia.

‘There were heads here, wings there,’ she said.  

While its long sharp claws were made for life in the trees, the nocturnal marsupial has readily adapted to city environments.

But the small creature continues to clash with humans, often causing damage to buildings and fruit trees. 

Red fox 

The face of the persecuted by Neil Aldridge, South Africa. Location: Kent, England, UK

Neil Aldridge’s shot puts the spotlight on the injuries sustained by a fox in Kent, UK.

The red fox’s damaged flesh is on show as it appears to cautiously peer out from a makeshift den within a rehabilitation centre.

Mr Alderidge believes the fox was attacked by dogs that were sent into its den to flush it out.

Since 2005 in England and Wales it has been illegal to poison foxes, block or destroy foxholes, or use dogs to hunt them. 

But this practice still continues today, with disturbing footage revealed only last month of an attack in Brokerswood, Wiltshire.

Leopard 

The catwalk by Shashwat Harish, Kenya: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Narok, Kenya

Shashwat Harish spent countless hours in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, eagerly hoping to catch sight of a leopard.

Leopards are the smallest of the big cats in the park, living among cheetahs and packs of lion.

Population numbers are decreasing due to habitat loss, hunting, and the decline of their prey. 

Storks 

Firebirds by Elza Friedländer, Germany. Location: Rhino Ridge, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

These two storks were among hundreds of birds walking among a simmering blaze in Elza Friedländer’s shot.

Just like the leopard, this photograph was taken at Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve where controlled burning is used to manage grasslands.

Albeit controversial, rangers use this method to stimulate new growth and to control the spread of bushland. 

However, in times of drought, this can encourage the spread of wildfire flames. 

Coral 

Coral connections by Alex Mustard, UK. Location: Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Alex Mustard’s shot portrays a vibrantly healthy coral reef as ghost gobies swim between its branches.

The photographer is a huge fan of gobies – small fish predominantly found in the Indo-west Pacific. 

Unfortunately, thriving ecosystems such as this are under threat due to warming seas amidst global climate change.   

Sailfish

Prize catch by Jef Pattyn, Belgium/the Netherlands. Highly commended, Oceans: The Bigger Picture

Jef Pattyn had spent days watching fishers bring their catch to shore surrounded by birds trying to get their share. 

The fish were prepared at sea then loaded onto trucks early in the morning when this photograph was taken. 

Artisan fishing provides vital employment opportunities for people living around Ecuador’s Eastern Pacific waters. 

This is small in scale compared to the industrial-scale fishing undertaken by international fleets. 

But the practice does take its toll on marine mammals too, which often get entangled in nets. 

Tiger 

War cub by Michał Siarek, Poland. Location: Poznań Zoo, Poznań, Poland

Michał Siarek’s shot captures the moment a recue team opened a crate to check on an evacuated tiger cub. 

This cub was rescued from Ukraine’s Poznań Zoo in the midst of heightened tensions with Russia.

More than 200 animals have now been saved from the zoo and taken to other, safer sanctuaries in Europe. 

‘That night changed me,’ said Mr Siarek. 

‘Hearing the cry of a lion still in the truck made me decide to help with the next evacuation run.’

READ MORE: The Nature TTL Photographer of the Year 2022 awards

With the simple click of a shutter, these photographers have captured the extraordinary beauty of Planet Earth.

Their pictures have been named as winners and runners-up in the Nature TTL Photographer of the Year 2022 awards, a prestigious annual photography contest that ‘celebrates the natural world’.

Competing for the £1,500 grand prize, nature photographers from all over the world collectively submitted over 8,000 images to the competition this year. Pictures that have won over the judges include a shot of a ‘majestic’ elephant blowing dust from its trunk, a stunning image of a rainbow and the Northern Lights over an Icelandic waterfall and a photograph of an enormous bear with frozen fur in the Canadian wilderness.

However, they’re trumped by a shocking photograph of a blood-soaked flamingo in the jaws of a caracal wild cat in Tanzania, captured by American photographer Dennis Stogsdill, who has been named the overall winner of the contest. 

Praising Stogsdill’s work, Will Nicholls, Founder of Nature TTL, says: ‘This is nature at its most raw. The caracal is soaked from chasing the flamingos through the waters, but has come out on top. The contrasting colours against the dark surroundings really make this image pop. A wonderful scene to have been able to observe no doubt, let alone capture exquisitely on camera.’

This hypnotising portrait of a lion in the Moremi Game Reserve on the eastern side of Botswana's Okavango Delta tops the podium in the 'Wild Portraits' category. Sharing the rather nerve-wracking story behind the shot, Polish photographer Tomasz Szpila explains: 'When a huge lion looks you right in the eyes, you immediately forget that you are sitting safely in the car. Instinctively, you cower and slowly retreat deeper inside the car so as not to provoke a predator. Fortunately, he and his brothers were busy consuming the young buffalo that had been hunted several minutes earlier'

This hypnotising portrait of a lion in the Moremi Game Reserve on the eastern side of Botswana’s Okavango Delta tops the podium in the ‘Wild Portraits’ category. Sharing the rather nerve-wracking story behind the shot, Polish photographer Tomasz Szpila explains: ‘When a huge lion looks you right in the eyes, you immediately forget that you are sitting safely in the car. Instinctively, you cower and slowly retreat deeper inside the car so as not to provoke a predator. Fortunately, he and his brothers were busy consuming the young buffalo that had been hunted several minutes earlier’



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