London’s Natural History Museum has just announced the winners of the ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ contest for 2018, and the images reveal the abundance, beauty, resilience and vulnerability of life on Earth
The winning photos were chosen from more than 45,000 entries from 95 countries for their artistic composition, technical innovation and truthful interpretation of the natural world. The international jury awarded the grand title to Dutch photographer Marsel van Oosten for his shot, titled “The Golden Couple.” The breathtaking picture features a pair of endangered golden snub-nosed monkeys in central China’s Qin Ling Mountains. “It is a symbolic reminder of the beauty of nature and how impoverished we are becoming as nature is diminished,” Roz Kidman Coz, the chair of the judging panel, said in a press release. “It is an artwork worthy of hanging in any gallery in the world.” Golden snub-nosed monkeys only live in this particular part of China, and their numbers are steadily decreasing, mainly because of habitat loss from commercial logging and firewood collection.
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1 "Night Snack" By Audun Rikardsen, Norway, Highly Commended 2018 Under Water
Large numbers of herring were overwintering in the northern fjords, attracting hundreds of predators and night fishing boats. The killer whales had realised that the sound of nets being hauled up meant the possibility of an easy meal. Audun asked the fishermen to angle their strongest light into the water, to capture his shot. Killer whales are the largest members of the dolphin family. Although one species, it’s now thought there are several kinds living in different areas, using specific hunting strategies and social structures. This is a male eastern North Atlantic form, which is known to work together with other killer whales to herd fish into dense shoals.
2 "The Midnight Passage" By Vegard Lødøen, Norway, Highly Commended 2018 Animals In Their Environment
‘A dream came true when I took this picture,’ says Vegard. After years of searching, he had finally found a riverside location visited by the deer of Valldal. After partly submerging his camera in a waterproof box, he set up a flash above and below the water, along with motion sensors. Near midnight, a male crossed the river – the camera capturing its proud pose. After moose, red deer are the largest species of deer. Only the males have antlers, which have been known to grow to more than a metre in length and weigh up to five kilogrammes. At the end of each winter they shed their antlers, which are made of bone – when spring comes they regrow, protected by a soft covering known as velvet.
3 Elephants At Twilight By Frans Lanting, The Netherlands, Winner 2018 Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Lifetime Achievement Award
One evening during Botswana’s dry season, I waded into a water hole to capture a shimmering reflection of a gathering of elephants at twilight, with a full moon suspended in a luminous pink sky. The image is my homage to the primeval qualities of southern Africa’s wilderness, the grandeur of elephants, and the precious nature of water in a land of thirst.
4 "Smoke Bath" By Tom Kennedy, Ireland, Highly Commended 2018 Urban Wildlife
Tom saw the rook as he glanced out of his living room window. Wings spread, the bird was using the neighbour’s chimney pot to smoke bathe. Realising the opportunity – and knowing the heat and smoke would only allow the rook to remain for a few minutes – he quickly took his photograph before leaving it to enjoy its smoky bath. Rooks are incredibly intelligent creatures and smoke bathing is likely to be a learned behaviour, rather than instinct. The smoke helps the birds to fumigate their feathers, ridding them of irritating parasites such as lice, mites and ticks. The related jackdaw has even been seen fumigating itself over smouldering cigarette ends.
5 "Cool Cat" By Isak Pretorius, South Africa, Highly Commended 2018 Animal Portraits
‘I love creating photos with impact,’ says Isak, who is often on the lookout for Zambia’s most iconic animals. He was photographing a pride of lions when this lioness wandered off. Anticipating it was going for a drink, he positioned himself by the nearest waterhole. It then appeared through the long grass, framed by a wall of lush green. Lions kill more than 95 per cent of their prey at night, and spend the majority of the day resting. Although they drink readily when water is available, they are also capable of consuming sufficient moisture from their prey and plants – making them perfectly adapted to their arid landscape. Yet despite this, lion numbers are decreasing significantly.
6 "Argentine Quickstep" By Darío Podestá, Argentina, Highly Commended 2018 Animal Portraits
Surveying the scene, Darío was captivated by ‘the fragility of the chick’ as it used its oversized legs to scurry after its parents. After an uncomfortable crawl through a salt field in the rain and mud, Darío trained his lens on the speckled fluff of the chick, framing it against the dramatic background of salt and sky. Two-banded plover chicks will leave their nests almost immediately after they hatch, relying on their stilt-like legs to keep pace with their parents and to evade potential predators. Their long legs also keep their soft down away from the wet ground. After four or five weeks, they will grow large enough to fly away from the care of their mother and father.
7 "City Fisher" By Felix Heintzenberg, Germany / Sweden, Highly Commended 2018 Urban Wildlife
The rusty metal rod at the opening of a sewerage outlet pipe was a favourite perch for kingfishers, giving them a view of the fish below. Felix visited the spot many times to study them. Seeing the photographic potential of the colourful scene, he used a gentle flash to highlight this particular bird against the dark opening. Excellent hunters, kingfishers are also good indicators of high water quality. With better water treatment and bans on pollutants in some cities, these birds are slowly returning to urban areas. Kingfishers can struggle to find natural fishing perches in cities and so use whatever they can find, including shopping trollies and scrap metal.
8 "Flight" By Sue Forbes, Uk, Highly Commended 2018 Behaviours Birds
After days of rough seas, Sue woke to find tranquil water and a single young booby circling. ‘Suddenly, a fish leapt out,’ she says, ‘and down came the booby’. With quick reactions, her camera already poised, she captured the fleeting moment of the bird in hot pursuit, reflected in the painterly water. Boobies are extraordinarily lean, aerodynamic birds. Adults are nimble enough to catch moving targets, but this juvenile might just be practicing. The fish has broken the surface, and is gliding on its stiff pectoral fins. It does this to escape underwater predators, such as tuna and marlin, but this makes it vulnerable to attack from above.
9 "Ahead In The Game" By Nicholas Dyer, Uk, Highly Commended 2018 Behaviours Mammals
After tracking this pack of African wild dogs on foot for more than three kilometres, Nicholas looked on as this pair of pups played a macabre game with the remains of their baboon breakfast. ‘Half of me felt disturbed by the disrespect this deceased fellow primate was receiving,’ he says. ‘The other half was caught up in the infectious joy of the puppies.’ The endangered African wild dog, also known as the painted wolf, is best known for hunting antelope, such as impala and gazelle. However, its main prey can vary from pack to pack and will include smaller animals such as this baboon. Known for their intricate social structures, painted wolf pups old enough to take solid food are given priority at kills.
10 "Pipe Owls" By Arshdeep Singh, India, Winner 2018 10 Years And Under
While driving with his father through the city, Arshdeep saw a bird disappearing into an old waste-pipe. He asked to stop the car, then primed his father’s camera and telephoto lens, kneeling up on the seat and resting it on the half-open window at eye-level. It wasn’t long before a spotted owlet emerged, followed by a second. Both stared right at him. Spotted owlets traditionally nest in tree hollows, where the female lays up to five eggs. Although common in the Punjab, these small birds are rarely seen in the day, as they are nocturnal. This breeding pair – the larger female on the left – is among those using urban nesting sites following widespread deforestation in the region.