It’s that time of year again: the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards, developed and produced by London’s Natural History Museum, are coming up in just a few weeks’ time, and they promise – as ever – to be spectacular, heartbreaking, uplifting and provocative. I could say more, but the 48,000 entrees into this competition, taken by people of all backgrounds and ages from 100 different countries, are of such a thrillingly high standard that I’m going to let the images speak for themselves.
So, without further ado, here are just a handful of some of the shots vying for the top titles in this most aesthetically gratifying of mêlées.
“If penguins could fly” by Eduardo Del Álamo, Spain
A gentoo penguin, the fastest underwater swimmer of all penguins, flees for its life as a leopard seal bursts out of the water near the Antarctic Peninsula’s coastline.
“Big cat and dog spat” by Peter Haygarth, UK
In a rare encounter, a lone male cheetah is set upon by a pack of African wild dogs in Zimanga Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
“Beach waste” by Matthew Ware, USA
From a distance, the beach scene at Alabama’s Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge looked appealing: blue sky, soft sand and a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. But as Matthew and the strandings patrol team got closer they could see the fatal noose around the turtle’s neck attached to the washed-up beach chair.
“Sleeping like a Weddell” by Ralf Schneider
Hugging its flippers tight to its body, the Weddell seal closed its eyes and appeared to fall into a deep sleep. Lying on fast ice (ice attached to land) off Larsen Harbour, South Georgia, it was relatively safe from its predators – killer whales and leopard seals – and so could completely relax and digest.
“The climbing dead” by Frank Deschandol
On a night-time fieldtrip in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, Frank spotted this bizarre-looking weevil clinging to a fern stem. Its glazed eyes showed it was dead, and the three antennae-like projections growing out of its thorax were the ripe fruiting bodies of a ‘zombie fungus’. Spreading inside the weevil while it was alive, the parasitic fungus had taken control of its muscles and compelled it to climb.
“Cool drink” by Diana Rebman, USA
On a bitterly cold morning on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, Diana came across a delightful scene. A flock of long-tailed tits and marsh tits were gathered around a long icicle hanging from a branch, taking turns to nibble the tip. Here, a Hokkaido long-tailed tit hovers for a split second to take its turn to nip off a beakful. If the sun came out and a drop of water formed, the tit next ‘in line’ would sip rather than nip.
“Circle of life” by Alex Mustard, UK
In the clear water of the Red Sea, a shoal of bigeye trevally circle 25 metres (80feet )down at the edge of the reef.
“Jelly baby” by Fabien Michenet, France
A juvenile jackfish peers out from inside a small jellyfish off Tahiti in French Polynesia. With nowhere to hide in the open ocean, it has adopted the jelly as an overnight travelling shelter, slipping under the umbrella and possibly immune to the stinging tentacles, which deter potential predators.
“Lucky break” by Jason Bantle, Canada
An ever-adaptable raccoon pokes her bandit-masked face out of a 1970s Ford Pinto on a deserted farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. In the back seat, her five playful kits trill with excitement.
Touching trust by Thomas Peschak, Germany/South Africa
A curious young grey whale approaches a pair of hands reaching down from a tourist boat. In San Ignacio Lagoon, on the coast of Mexico’s Baja California, baby grey whales and their mothers actively seek contact with people for a head scratch or back rub.
“Last gasp” by Adrian Hirschi, Switzerland
A newborn hippo, just days old, was keeping close to its mother in the shallows of Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe, when a large bull suddenly made a beeline for them. He chased the mother, then seized the calf in his huge gape, clearly intent on killing it. After trying to drown it, he tried to crush it to death. All the while, the distraught mother looked on.
The overall winners will be announced at the awards ceremony at the museum on October 15th. An exhibition of the victorious images, as well as some finalists and highly commended shots, will be open to the public on October 18th.