October 17, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Nearly 50,000 entries from 95 countries were considered for this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. The prestigious prize, now in its 52nd year, was given to American photographer Tim Laman at a ceremony in London’s Natural History Museum last night, for his picture Entwined lives. The photograph, which he took remotely using a GoPro camera set 30 metres above the ground, shows a critically endangered Bornean orangutan climbing a strangler fig in the Indonesian rainforest.

orangutan on tree Photograph: Tim Laman / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The six international judges chose British teenager Gideon Knight as Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his picture The moon and the crow shot in Valentine’s Park in northeast London. Gideon, who started taking wildlife photographs just three years ago, found a magical mood for a familiar setting.

shadow of bird in tree Photograph: Gideon Knight / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

You can see the 16 category-winners on the exhibition website. One hundred of this year’s best entries will be on display at the Natural History Museum from Friday 21st October, before going on tour around the world.

Here is a small taste of the stunning pictures on show.

Playing pangolin

black and white lion holding a pangolin

Photograph: Lance van de Vyver / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Looking at South African photographer Lance van de Vyver’s picture, it seems he had to lie flat on his stomach in order to take this shot of a lion toying with a Temminck’s ground pangolin. He confirmed that this was not the case: “These lions will mess you up!”. Instead, he explains the lion pushed the unlucky pangolin onto a termite mound, enabling Lance to get a good perspective from the safety of his vehicle. These nocturnal, ant-eating mammals curl in to a ball for protection from threats like big cats – unfortunately, after the pride grew bored, this pangolin died, most likely from heat stress.

No voice, no choice

chimpanzee in a suit

Photograph: Britta Jaschinski / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Part of the aim of WPY is to promote biodiversity and conservation. This photograph by seasoned German wildlife photographer Britta Jaschinski shows another, seldom-discussed, threat to animals: the entertainment industry. She photographed this orangutan surreptitiously at the Chimelong International Circus, advertised as ‘Heaven of Animals Brings Happiness to People’. The reality displays sad and cruel animal treatment. No voice, no choice is the name of a campaign against animal performance cruelty – “I gave it [the photograph] this name so people would look it up,” Britta says, as she talks about her photography series on performance animals, ‘Artificial Paradise’. Noticeably, Britta is one of the few female photographers at the exhibition.

Spiralling sparrows

blurry photo of birds

Photograph: José Pesquero / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

This finalist photograph in the arty ‘Impressions’ category was taken by Spaniard José Pesquero near his home in Madrid. José used a vintage Petzval lens to give a swirling background that would frame and echo his sparrows’ twisting flight. “This is the type of photography I like,” he says gesturing to the other images in the ‘Impressions’ gallery – all photographs with a strong individual aesthetic achieved by creative camerawork.

The shot

wolf and helicopter in the snow

Photograph: Ronan Donovan / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

‘It’s a moment of fear and anxiety,’ this photo is captioned. But despite the drama, it is interesting to know, that the man behind the gun is a conservationist, not a hunter, aiming a tranquilizing dart at the alpha wolf to be fitted with a radio tracking collar. Ronan Donovan, a professional wildlife photographer from the USA, took this picture while he was working on a project in Yellowstone National Park for National Geographic. He describes the scene as an immensely challenging one: “The logistics were mind-boggling – weather, plane, helicopter, fuel, and the wolves in the right place… The movement of helicopter, wolf and plane all coincided for this one moment. Then my plane had to peel off and follow the wolf until it collapsed, while the helicopter went on to dart more wolves.”
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.

Bruno Martin is studying for an MSc in Science Communication

Images: Photographer banner image on homepage Rock and Wasp