Paul Souders, USA. Polar Bear, Hudson Bay, Canada
Paul Souders, USA. Polar Bear, Hudson Bay, Canada

Image Source Art Director Lee Wheatley notices a new trend in the winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year

As October starts to give way to November, the winners of the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year are announced. I was lucky enough to receive a press pass to the media launch and exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London, before it embarks on a world tour.

The world famous exhibition celebrates the diversity of life on the planet, reflecting its beauty but also highlighting its fragility. The best aspect of the media launch is meeting the photographers – the winner is only announced the evening before at a gala dinner. The stories about how they capture their images are just as fascinating as the images themselves, requiring dedication, patience, a lack of fear, and huge dollop of empathy for their subject matter.

I’ve been going to the media launch each year since 2006, not including last year, and the break gave me a fresh perspective on proceedings. The first thing I noticed was how inclusive the competition has become. It had largely been dominated by the established order of National Geographic photographers, and though brilliant and there in good number, there was far more variety – some of which originated from photographers that wouldn’t necessarily call themselves wildlife photographers. The exhibition, as a result, seemed all the more vibrant and refreshed.

The overall winner was Greg du Toit’s image of an elephant herd. Greg spent 10 years figuring out how to get his shot, which shows a baby elephant in the foreground – apparently no more than 5 feet away, with the adults in the herd in the background. To gain such trust from animals to the point of them being relaxed in the photographer’s presence, is central for those wishing to shoot wildlife.

Greg du Toit, South Africa. Essence of Elephants
Greg du Toit, South Africa. Essence of Elephants

As always, the overall winner can be the subject of much debate, and this year’s event was no different. My personal favourite is the Macaque, shot by Jasper Doest, and winner of the Creative Visions category. With the movement of the sleet and snow, the steam rising, and part of the perch hidden, it looks like he’s flying on a magic carpet.

Jasper Doest,  The Netherlands. Snow Moment
Jasper Doest, The Netherlands. Snow Moment

The Young Wildlife Photographer of the year went to 14 year old, Udayan Rao Pawar, who camped overnight next to the crocodile infested river to achieve his shot of a mother crocodile’s head rising out of the water, and all the hatchlings rushing over and sitting on her head.

Udayan Rao Pawar, India. Mother Little Headful
Udayan Rao Pawar, India. Mother’s Little Headful

The image shows the beauty of nature and the act of nurturing being universal. It has a great ‘second look’ quality too, as you figure out which way the mother’s head is pointing.

This ‘must-see’ exhibition is a great showcase of creativity, artistry, and technical complexity.

Click to find out more about the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition

Joe McDonald, USA. The Spat
Joe McDonald, USA. The Spat

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