The Daily Beast - Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners - Oct 29, 2012
High-flying majesty and underwater mayhem: The winners of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year are revealed:
The winners of the internationally acclaimed Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition were announced recently, amid much excitement at a gala awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum in London, England. The world-renowned exhibition opened on Oct. 18, featuring 100 awe-inspiring images of nature, which will enthral London audiences before being enjoyed by millions on a U.K. and international tour.
Now in its 48th year, the competition attracted more than 48,000 entries from 98 countries, with Canadian Paul Nicklen’s Bubble-jetting emperors, a spectacular image of the chaotic underwater world of emperor penguins at the edge of the Ross Sea, Antarctica, claiming the overall title of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
© Paul Nicklen (Canada)
Winner / Behaviour: Birds
Frozen moment Paul Nicklen (Canada) Winner Paul was not the only mammal lying patiently in wait on the edge of the Ross Sea, Antarctica, to greet the explosion of emperor penguins. Leopard seals – measuring up to three and a half metres long – were almost certainly lurking at the edge of the ice ready to grab a meal. The penguins were therefore exiting as fast as possible. They can sky-rocket up to two metres high out of the water, landing well clear of the edge. ‘I also kept an eye out for leopard seals myself,’ says Paul. ‘I’d previously had one hit me square in the face when I was five metres from the ice edge, knocking me down and stunning me. Luckily it realised that I wasn’t a penguin and slipped back into the icy water.’ The penguins’ survival is vital to that of their two-month-old chicks, hungrily waiting some 10 kilometres away at the Cape Washington colony. With full bellies, the penguins toboggan to the colony, where they regurgitate the food to their respective single chicks. They then head back to the Ross Sea for another three-week stint at sea.
Living on thin ice
© Ole Jørgen Liodden (Norway)
Winner / Animals in Their Environment
Winner Ole had photographed polar bears more than a hundred times before around the islands of Svalbard, northern Norway, but on this particular summer evening, everything came together to sum up the bear and its ice environment. ‘The landscape, the shape of the ice floe, the shape of the bear and the footprints were just perfect,’ says Ole. Drifting ice is normal for midsummer in the region. But, says Ole, two weeks later, all the ice around Svalbard had melted, much earlier than in previous years. ‘I hope the picture also makes people think about an environment that is disappearing faster than most of us realise and appreciate the scary future most polar bears are facing, with ever-thinner ice or no ice at all.’
© Bartek Kosiński (Poland)
Winner / 10 Years old and under / Wildscapes
Bartek Kosiński (Poland) Winner Bartek spent five days with his father at Milicz Fishponds Nature Reserve, western Poland, photographing the common cranes. These impressive birds – adults have a wingspan of more than two metres – spend a few days on the shore of the shallow lake on their way south to Africa for the winter. Bartek spent every morning and evening taking photographs from the lakeshore hide. On the last dawn, a mist descended and gave the scene a wonderfully mysterious atmosphere. ‘After sunrise,’ says Bartek, ‘we could hardly see the birds. I was using manual focus. So I was very lucky to get them as sharp as this.’
Into the mouth of the caiman
© Luciano Candisani (Brazil)
Winner / Behaviour: Cold-blooded Animals
Candisani (Brazil) Winner Motionless but alert, a yacare caiman waits, ‘like a small tyrannosaurus’ for fish to come within snapping reach, says Luciano. Caimans are usually seen floating passively on the surface. Under the water, it’s another story. It’s this secret life that has fascinated Luciano ever since he first came face to face with a caiman while snorkelling. Once he’d recovered from the shock, he realised that the reptile was neither aggressive nor fearful – and that he could approach it. Luciano now regularly documents the underwater life of caimans in the shallow, murky waters of Brazil’s Pantanal (the biggest wetland in the world), which contains the largest single crocodilian population on Earth. Caimans can grow to be three metres in length. Most aren’t aggressive, but some individuals can be. ‘The safest way to get close is when they are concentrating on a shoal of fish,’ says Luciano. ‘While I was concentrating on this caiman emerging from the gloom, I had a field biologist with me all the time.’ The result was ‘the picture that’s been in my imagination since my father first showed me a caiman 25 years ago’.
© Kim Wolhuter (South Africa)
Winner / The Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Species
Winner Kim has been filming African wild dogs at Zimbabwe’s Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve for more than four years. He knows one pack intimately. ‘I have travelled with them, on foot, in the pack itself, running with them as they hunt. It’s a privilege, and it’s given me a true insight into their life.’ Kim has also witnessed first hand the many threats that have made African wild dogs endangered, including increased conflict with humans and domestic animals (poachers’ snares, habitat loss, traffic and disease). ‘At times, it’s heart- wrenching,’ he says. ‘My mission is to dispel the myth that they’re a threat and help raise awareness of their plight.’ African wild dogs require huge territories, and so protecting them can protect entire ecosystems. When this picture was taken, the pack had travelled four kilometres to the Sosigi Pan, only to find it totally dried up. ‘The mosaic of mud seemed to epitomise the increasingly fragmented world this puppy is growing up in.’
© Grégoire Bouguereau (France)
Winner / Behaviour: Mammals
When a female cheetah caught but didn’t kill a Thomson’s gazelle calf and waited for her cubs to join her, Grégoire guessed what was about to happen. He’d spent nearly a decade studying and photographing cheetahs in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, and he knew that the female’s behaviour meant one thing: a hunting lesson was due to begin. The female moved away, leaving the calf lying on the ground near her cubs. At first, the cubs took no notice of it. But when it struggled jerkily to its feet ‘the cubs’ natural predatory instincts were triggered,’ says Grégoire. ‘Each cub’s gaze locked on to the calf as it made a break for freedom.’ The lesson repeated itself several times, with the cubs ignoring the calf when it was on the ground and catching it whenever it tried to escape – ‘an exercise that affords the cubs the chance to practise chases in preparation for the time they’ll have to do so for real.’
© John E Marriott (Canada)
Runner-up / Animal Portraits
A shapeless lump of puffed-up black: that’s what the figure looked like, squatting in the middle of a snow-covered road in Jasper National Park, Alberta, in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. As John drove slowly towards the feathers, he realised it was a raven. ‘I fully expected it to fly off at any moment, but it just sat there, looking as though it had just got out of bed.’ John cruised slowly by and stopped some 30 metres away to photograph the bird. ‘Looking through the images afterwards, I laughed out loud.’ Fluffing up may look like a bad-hair day to a human, but if a male does it to a female raven it signals an invitation to take note or even to party, though a good fluff does also keep out the cold.
© Paul Nicklen (Canada)
Winner / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012
This was the image Paul had been so hoping to get: a sunlit mass of emperor penguins charging upwards, leaving in their wake a crisscross of bubble trails. The location was near the emperor colony at the edge of the frozen area of the Ross Sea, Antarctica. It was into the only likely exit hole that he lowered himself. He then had to wait for the return of the penguins, crops full of icefish for their chicks. Paul locked his legs under the lip of the ice so he could remain motionless, breathing through a snorkel so as not to spook the penguins when they arrived. Then it came: a blast of birds from the depths. They were so fast that, with frozen fingers, framing and focus had to be instinctive. ‘It was a fantastic sight’, says Paul, ‘as hundreds launched themselves out of the water and onto the ice above me’ – a moment that I felt incredibly fortunate to witness and one I’ll never forget.
Warning night light
© Larry Lynch (USA)
Winner / Animal Portraits
Warning night light Larry Lynch (USA) Winner One evening, while walking along the riverbed of the Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida, USA, Larry came across a group of alligators. It was the dry season, and they had been gorging on fish trapped in the pools left behind as the water receded from the river. One big alligator had clearly eaten its fill. ‘It wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry,’ says Larry. ‘So I set my tripod and camera up about seven metres in
front of him and focused on his eyes.’ Just after sunset, Larry set his flash on the lowest setting to give just a tiny bit of light, enough to catch the eyeshine in the alligator’s eyes. Like cats, an alligator has a tapetum lucidum at the back of each eye – a structure that reflects light back into the photoreceptor cells to make the most of low light. The colour of eyeshine differs from species to species. In alligators, it glows red – one good way to locate alligators on a dark night. The greater the distance between its eyes, the longer the reptile, in this case, very long.
Lookout for lions
© Charlie Hamilton James (UK)
Specially Commended / Nature in Black and White
Charlie was filming lions around the Gol Kopjes area of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania when he came across these cheetahs. They, too, were watching lions. ‘Once the danger had gone,’ Charlie says, ‘they relaxed into a gloriously symmetrical pose, in the middle of a curved rock, under a symmetry of clouds, crowned by a perfectly positioned small cloud at the top.’ He adds that ‘normally when taking wildlife pictures, everything conspires against the photographer, but with this picture it was the reverse. Everything worked in harmony.’ The cheetahs stayed posed for only a few minutes and afterwards, as though on cue, went straight to sleep. Charlie chose to photograph them with a converted infrared camera, which in bright sunlight makes an azure sky dark and dramatic.
Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year is owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide.
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