National History Museum's contest saw more than 4,500 entries this year prize, with the 'golden' prize bagged by Dutch photographer, Marsel van Oosten.
After a very long anticipation, London's Natural History Museum has finally announced the winners of the 2018 contest for the 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year' award. The images taken by the winners are simply outstanding, showing the crude and unrelenting face of nature while still managing to retain its raw, undisturbed beauty. From more than 4,500 entries that were sent in from 85 countries, the winner was chosen.
A lot of factors were taken into consideration when choosing like the artistic framing of the photographs, technical aspects and the unabridged revealment of the real face of nature. The grand title was bagged by Marsel van Oosten, a Dutch photographer. with the 'Golden Couple' - a spellbinding shot of two golden snub-nosed monkeys, snapped in central China's Qin Ling Mountains.
Here are 15 of the best wildlife photographs of 2018, with the official descriptions that go with the photographers' work.
‘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 partially submerging his camera in a waterproof box, he set up a flash above and below the water, along with motion sensors. Around midnight, a male deer 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 meter in length and weigh up to five kilograms. 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.
Franz Lanting is a Dutch wildlife photographer. Talking about his experience behind this marvelous photograph, "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."
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.
After tracking this pack of African wild dogs on foot for more than three kilometers, 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.
‘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 percent 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.
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 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.
Kuhirwa, a young female mountain gorilla, would not give up on her dead baby. Initially, she cuddled and groomed the tiny corpse, carrying it piggyback like the other mothers. Weeks later, she started to eat what was left of it. Forced by the low light to work with a wide aperture and a narrow depth of field, Ricardo focused on the body rather than Kuhirwa’s face.
From elephants stroking the bones of deceased family members to dolphins trying to keep dead companions afloat, there is an abundance of credible evidence to show that animals visibly express grief. Kuhirwa’s initial actions can be interpreted as mourning, her behavior showing the pain of a mother who has lost her child.
Perching in a small motorboat on a fast-flowing river, Chris steadied his long lens on this battle. The jaguar had come across the yacaré caiman by chance – accidentally stepping on the reptile after a failed charge at a capybara. Without hesitation the jaguar pounced, overcoming its monstrously large prey in minutes.
The yacaré caiman and jaguar are both top predators in the Pantanal Wetlands, and struggles like this are not unusual. Though excellent swimmers, jaguars tend to stalk or ambush their prey on the ground, subduing them with their formidable bite. After they have delivered their final blow, they will often drag carcasses to shelter to enjoy their meal in peace.
Lying ruined and looted, the city of Pripyat is within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, which was established after the nuclear disaster of 1986. Devoid of humans, the city has surrendered to nature. This red fox trotted into the derelict classroom, stopping briefly on the carpet of child-sized gas masks just long enough for a picture. Seeing it was ‘completely unexpected,’ says Adrian.
The long-term effects of the Chernobyl disaster are still far from clear. But, in the absence of humans, Pripyat appears to be thriving. The forest encroaches on all sides of the city, encouraging wild boar, beavers, otters, deer and moose. With radiation levels still high, only time will tell if this natural regeneration is a sign of hope for this bleak place.
As Emanuele walked along the beach, the stench of rotting sea lion carcasses was almost unbearable. He had seen insects feeding on the corpses but knew when he saw the iguanas eating the insects that he’d found something interesting. Lying on the sand, choked by the vile smell, he caught this iguana peeping through an eye socket.
With a colony of 15,000 South American sea lions nearby, the beach of Paracas National Reserve is a graveyard for the ones that have succumbed to illness or injury. Others die in occasional mass events triggered by El Niño, where ocean temperatures rise temporarily. The iguanas survive here on the sand, where little vegetation grows, by feeding on insects instead.
Surveying the scene, Akshay decided to use the in-camera multiple-exposure mode. He captured two frames – the first of the dramatic dusk sky, and the second of the silhouetted impala. The camera seamlessly merged them, and the result is this creative illusion of a pool of water, leaving the viewer wondering why the sky is reflected in the water but the impala isn’t.
Impalas are one of the most common antelopes in Africa. Young males, like this one, often wander the savannah, usually after being evicted from mixed mating herds by dominant males. They will herd together until they are strong enough to establish a territory of their own, complete with their own group of females.
Rearing its head, an Anchieta’s cobra lunged towards two meerkat pups. Reacting instantly, their 20-strong pack ran back to the warren and split into two – half ushering the pups away, the other half advancing towards the snake, growling and fluffing up their coats. Focusing on the snake’s classic profile, Tertius caught the meerkat mob’s fear and aggression.
This scene is rare – there are few records of an Anchieta’s cobra attacking a meerkat pack. In a group, the mammals have the advantage, using a system of alarm calls to notify others of predators and to coordinate a mobbing of the attacker. This snake was just an opportunistic hunter looking to snatch one of the pups before the pack arrived.
As storm clouds gathered over the forest, the roaring sound of two competing red deer stags echoed through the trees. Well matched, neither challenger would walk away, so the contest escalated to a dramatic clash of antlers. Michel, hiding behind a tree under a camouflage net, had time to capture just a few frames before the stags separated.
Every autumn, young males, known as bucks, begin the annual search for a mate and compete to attract female attention. In preparation, males will often binge on fallen conkers, bulking up for their displays of strength. During the rutting season, bucks will stand side by side, assessing their rivals before locking antlers and going into battle.
Georgina was at the waterhole early to photograph birds, but her attention was diverted to these industrious wasps. They were busy at the water’s edge, rolling the soft mud into balls and carrying them to their nearby nests. For a good angle, she lay in the mud, then pre-focused on a likely flight path and began shooting continuously.
The female mud-dauber wasps use the mud balls to build their nests. Collecting them into clusters, they then carve chambers inside the balls into which the females lay their eggs. Before closing each one up, the wasps insert the paralyzed bodies of orb-weaving spiders as food for their larvae when they hatch.
Clamped in the jaws of a hungry hellbender salamander, things were not looking good for the northern water snake. But when its attacker repositioned its bite, the snake pushed free and escaped. David was thrilled to catch a battle between these two unlikely foes. ‘I’ve seen hellbenders display an array of behaviors, but this was by far the most remarkable,’ he says.
Hellbenders are the largest salamanders in the USA and are among the most endangered. Usually, they hunt for small prey, such as crayfish, insects, and eggs, so a northern water snake is an unexpected choice. These amphibians use suction to secure their prey before using their teeth – a method unlikely to subdue a wriggling snake.