Last 2019 was the annual exhibition of the best International Photographers Competition on nature and animal photography which was started and established in 1965. The contest was attended by more than 48,000 participants from 100 countries. Wildlife Photographers These are held and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. The owner and sponsor are once again kind enough to share the following 15 winning images from this year's competition. The museum's website has pictures from previous years and more information about contests and exhibitions at the time. The text is provided by the photographer and organizer of WPY, and edited lightly for the writing style.
Check them out the best and amazing of 15 winners below!
1. The Moment.
Overall Winner 2019; Joint Winner, Behavior: Mammals—It was early spring on the alpine meadowland of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, in China’s Qilian Mountains National Nature Reserve, and very cold. The marmot was hungry. It was still in its winter coat and not long out of its six-month winter hibernation, spent deep underground with the rest of its colony of 30 or so. It had spotted the fox an hour earlier, and sounded the alarm to warn its companions to get back underground. But the fox itself hadn’t reacted, and was still in the same position. So the marmot ventured out of its burrow again to search for plants to graze on. The fox continued to lie still. Then suddenly she rushed forward, and Bao got his shot.
2. Snow Exposure.
Winner, Black and White—In a winter whiteout in Yellowstone National Park, a lone American bison stands weathering the silent snowstorm. Shooting from his vehicle, Waugh could only just make out its figure on the hillside. Bison survive in Yellowstone’s harsh winter months by feeding on grasses and sedges beneath the snow. Waugh slowed his shutter speed to blur the snow and "paint a curtain of lines across the bison’s silhouette.
3. Land of the Eagle.
Winner, Behavior: Birds—High on a ledge, on the coast near his home in northern Norway, Rikardsen carefully positioned an old tree branch that he hoped would make a perfect golden-eagle lookout. To this he bolted a tripod head with a camera, flashes and motion sensor attached, and built himself a hide a short distance away. From time to time, he left roadkill carrion nearby. Very gradually–over the next three years–a golden eagle got used to the camera and started to use the branch regularly to survey the coast below. Rikardsen’s painstaking work captures the eagle’s power as it comes in to land, talons outstretched.
4. Face of Deception.
Winner, Animal Portraits—It may look like an ant, but then count its legs, and note those palps on either side of the folded fangs. Biswas was photographing a red weaver ant colony in the subtropical forest of India’s Buxa Tiger Reserve, in West Bengal, when he spotted this odd-looking ant. On a closer look, he realized it was a tiny ant-mimicking crab spider, just five millimeters long. Many spider species imitate ants in appearance and behavior—even smell. Infiltrating an ant colony can help a spider that wants to eat ants, or avoid being eaten by them or by predators that dislike ants. This particular spider seemed to be hunting. Here, the lens was so close that the diminutive arachnid seemed to have been able to see its reflection and raised its legs as a warning.
5. The Huddle.
Winner, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio Award—More than 5,000 male emperor penguins huddle against the wind and late-winter cold on the sea ice of Antarctica’s Atka Bay, in front of the Ekström Ice Shelf. It was a calm day, but when Christmann took off his glove to delicately focus the tilt-shift lens, the cold "felt like needles in my fingertips." Each paired male bears precious cargo—a single egg—on his feet, tucked under a fold of skin (the brood pouch), as he faces the harshest winter on Earth, with temperatures that fall below –40 degrees Celsius (–40 degrees Fahrenheit), severe wind chill, and intense blizzards. The females entrust their eggs to their mates to incubate and then head for the sea, where they feed for up to three months.
6. Frozen Moment.
Winner, Rising Star Portfolio Award—Pushing against each other, two male Dall sheep in full winter-white coats stand immobile at the end of a fierce clash on a windswept snowy slope. For years, Villet dreamed of photographing the pure-white North American mountain sheep against snow. Traveling to the Yukon, he rented a van and spent a month following Dall sheep during the rutting season, when mature males compete for mating rights. On a steep ridge, these two rams attempted to duel, but strong winds, a heavy blizzard, and extreme cold (–40 degrees Fahrenheit) forced them into a truce. Lying in the snow, Villet was also battling with the brutal weather—not only were his fingers frozen, but the ferocious wind was making it difficult to hold his lens steady. So determined was he to create the photograph he had in mind that he continued firing off frames, unaware that his feet were succumbing to frostbite, which would take months to recover from. He had just one sharp image, but that was also the vision of his dreams—the horns and key facial features of the mountain sheep etched into the white canvas, their fur blending into the snowscape.
7. The Architectural Army.
Winner, Behavior: Invertebrates—At dusk, Kronauer tracked this colony of nomadic army ants as it moved, traveling up to 400 meters through the rainforest near La Selva Biological Station, in northeastern Costa Rica. While it was still dark, the ants would use their bodies to build a new daytime nest (bivouac) to house the queen and larvae. They would form a scaffold of vertical chains (top right) by interlocking claws on their feet, and then create a network of chambers and tunnels into which the larvae and queen would be moved from the last bivouac. At dawn, the colony would send out raiding parties to gather food, mostly other ant species. After 17 days on the move, the colony would then find shelter and stay put while the queen laid more eggs, resuming wandering after three weeks. The shape of their temporary bivouacs would depend on the surroundings—most were cone- or curtain-shaped and partly occluded by vegetation. But one night, the colony assembled in the open, against a fallen branch and two large leaves that were evenly spaced and of similar height, prompting a structure spanning 50 centimeters and resembling "a living cathedral with three naves."
8. The Equal Match.
Joint Winner, Behavior: Mammals—Fur flies as a puma launches her attack on a guanaco. For Arndt, the picture marked the culmination of seven months tracking wild pumas on foot, enduring extreme cold and biting winds in the Torres del Paine region of Patagonia, Chile. This female was Arndt's main subject, and was used to his presence. But to record an attack, he had to be facing both prey and puma. This required spotting a potential target—here, a big male guanaco grazing apart from his herd on a small hill—and then positioning himself downwind, facing the likely direction the puma would come from. For half an hour, the puma crept up on the guanaco. When the puma was within about 10 meters, she sprinted and jumped. As her claws made contact, the guanaco twisted to the side, his last grassy mouthful flying in the wind. The puma then leapt on his back and tried to deliver a crushing bite to his neck. Running, he couldn't throw her off, and it was only when he dropped his weight on her, seemingly deliberately, that she let go, just missing a kick that could easily have knocked out her teeth or broken bones.
Winner, Behavior: Amphibians and Reptiles—Every spring, for more than a decade, Plaickner followed the mass migration of common frogs in South Tyrol, Italy. Rising spring temperatures stir the frogs to emerge from the sheltered spots where they spend the winter (often under rocks or wood, or even buried at the bottom of ponds). They need to breed and head straight for water, usually to where they themselves were spawned. Mating involves a male grasping his partner, piggyback, until she lays up to 2,000 eggs, each in a clear jelly capsule, which he then fertilizes. In this particular pond, Plaickner watched the spawn build up until the moment arrived for the picture he had in mind—soft natural light, lingering frogs, harmonious colors, and dreamy reflections. Within a few days, the frogs had gone, and the maturing eggs had risen to the surface.
10. Night Glow.
Winner, 11–14 Years Old—Cruz was on an organized night dive in the Lembeh Strait off North Sulawesi, Indonesia, and as an eager photographer and speedy swimmer, was asked to hold back from the main group to allow slower swimmers a chance of photography. This was how he found himself over an unpromising sand flat, in just three meters of water. It was here where he encountered a pair of bigfin reef squid. They were engaged in courtship, involving a glowing, fast-changing communication of lines, spots, and stripes of varying shades and colors. One immediately jetted away, but the other—probably the male—hovered just long enough for Cruz to capture one instant of its glowing underwater show.
11. Snow-Plateau Nomads.
Winner, Animals in Their Environment—A small herd of male chiru leaves a trail of footprints on a snow-veiled slope in the Kumukuli Desert of China's Altun Shan National Nature Reserve. These nimble antelopes are high-altitude specialists, found only on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. To survive at elevations of up to 5,500 meters, they have unique underfur—shahtoosh (Persian for "king of wools")—that is very light, very warm, and the main reason for the species' drastic decline. One million chiru once ranged across this plateau, but commercial hunting in the 1980s and '90s left only about 70,000 individuals. Rigorous protection has seen a small increase, but demand—mainly from the West—for shahtoosh shawls still exists. It takes three to five hides to make a single shawl (the wool cannot be collected from wild antelopes, so they have to be killed). In winter, many chiru migrate to the relative warmth of the remote Kumukuli Desert. On this day, the air was fresh and clear after heavy snow. Shadows flowed from the undulating slopes around a warm island of sand that the chiru were heading for, leaving braided footprints in their wake. From his vantage point a kilometer away, Fan drew the contrasting elements together before they vanished into the warmth of sun and sand.
12. Tapestry of Life.
Winner, Plants and Fungi—Festooned with bulging orange velvet, trimmed with gray lace, the arms of a Monterey cypress tree weave an otherworldly canopy over Pinnacle Point in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, California. Though the Monterey cypress is widely planted (valued for its resistance to wind, salt, drought, and pests), it is native only on the Californian coast in just two groves. Its spongy orange cladding is in fact a mass of green algae spectacularly colored by carotenoid pigments, which depend on the tree for physical support but photosynthesize their own food. The vibrant orange is set off by the tangles of gray-lace lichen, also harmless to the trees.
13. Humming Surprise.
Winner, 10 Years and Under—On holiday with his family in France, Thomas was eating supper in the garden on a warm summer’s evening when he heard the humming. The sound was coming from the fast-beating wings of a hummingbird hawkmoth, hovering in front of an autumn sage, siphoning up nectar with its long proboscis. With the moth moving quickly from flower to flower, it was a challenge to frame a picture. But Thomas managed it, while capturing the stillness of the moth’s head against the blur of its wings.
Winner, Earth’s Environments—Red-hot lava tongues flow into the Pacific Ocean, producing huge plumes of noxious laze—a mix of acid steam and fine glass particles—as they meet the crashing waves. This was the front line of the biggest eruption in centuries of one of the world's most active volcanoes: Kilauea, on Hawaii's Big Island. Kilauea started spewing lava through 24 fissures on its lower east rift at the start of May 2018. In a matter of days, traveling at speed, the lava reached the Pacific on the island’s southeastern coast and began the creation of a huge delta of new land. By the time Lopez could hire a helicopter with permission to fly over the area, the new land extended more than 1.6 kilometers from shore.
15. Early Riser.
Winner, 15–17 Years Old—Riccardo could not believe his luck when, at first light, this female gelada, with a week-old infant clinging to her belly, climbed over the cliff edge close to where he was perched. He was with his father and a friend on the high plateau in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains National Park to watch geladas—a grass-eating primate found only on the Ethiopian Plateau. On this day, a couple of hours before sunrise, Riccardo's guide led them to a cliff edge where the geladas were likely to emerge, giving him time to get into position before the geladas woke up. He was in luck. After an hour's wait, just before dawn, a group started to emerge not too far along the cliff.