The Water Bear

 'I approached her very, very slowly,' he says, 'and then drifted. It was a cat-and-mouse game.' When the bear slipped into the water, he just waited. 'There was just a flat, world of water and ice and this polar bear swimming lazily around me. I could hear her slow, regular breathing as she watched me below the surface or the exhalation as she surfaced, increasingly curious. It was very special.'Photo: Paul Souders (USA)

More than 43,000 images from 96 countries were submitted to the 2013 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, held in collaboration by the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide. Thousands of results were narrowed down to just 18 entries. The shortlist includes 100 entries, some of which come from photographers in their teens, and is separated into categories like Underwater, Behavior, Wildscapes, and Creative Visions.



Last Light

Not one but four strokes of luck helped Mateusz fulfil his dream of photographing a long-eared owl. He was out looking for owls in Lofer, Austria, one frosty winter evening when he saw a shape tucked into the branches of a spruce. As he approached, he realized that it was a long-eared owl. But it was too far within the tree to photograph. Then came his first stroke of luck: 'I then saw that there was a second owl nearby. It was roosting on an exposed branch, and I could see it clearly.' Mateusz was lucky in a second way, too, because the owl was dozing, and he was able to get very close. But it was so high up that the angle was wrong. Time for lucky stroke number three: 'I looked around and there, in exactly the right place, was a bench.' By balancing on the high back, he was able to frame the image he wanted. But there wasn't enough light. Then came stroke of luck number four: after 30 minutes, the clouds parted to release the last of the sun's rays. 'I got the photo you could only dream of,' the owl framed by the frost-encrusted tree, its soft plumage lit by the last of the evening light.

Photo: Mateusz Piesiak (Poland)


2013: Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Greg du Toit, South Africa

'For many years,' he says, 'I've wanted to create an image that captures their special energy and the state of consciousness that I sense when I'm with them. This image comes closest to doing that.'


Mother's Little Headful

One night, Udayan camped near a nesting colony of gharials on the banks of the Chambal River – two groups of them, each with more than 100 hatchlings. Before daybreak, he crept down and hid behind rocks beside the babies. 'I could hear them making little grunting sounds,' says Udayan. 'Very soon a large female surfaced near the shore, checking on her charges. Some of the hatchlings swam to her and climbed onto her head. Perhaps it made them feel safe.' It turned out that she was the chief female of the group, looking after all the hatchlings.

Photo: Udayan Rao Pawar (India)


Harvest Gold

Late one July evening, walking slowly along the edge of a wheat field near his village – Cousset, in Switzerland – looking for subjects to photograph, Etienne noticed 'a little ball' stuck to an ear of wheat. 'To my surprise,' says Etienne, 'it was a harvest mouse, nibbling the grain.' Etienne approached until he was a few metres away and managed to photograph the tiny mouse at various angles before it scuttled back down the wheat stalk. 'The meeting was brief but extraordinary,' he adds. 'This was my favourite out of all the portraits,' showing it eating, its prehensile tail helping it to balance.

Photo: Etienne Francey (Switzerland)


2013: 15-17 Years - Runner-up. 'The stoat didn't seem to be spooked by me and continued jumping around,' he says. 'But it was a miracle that I managed to catch it in the air, at its highest point, and that I got it all in the frame, and in focus, too. I never expected to come home with such a picture.'

Photo: Etienne Francey (Switzerland)


'Two things hit me simultaneously,' says Peter. 'The vile stench of rotting flesh and the intense buzz of flies.' The white-backed vultures were surprisingly violent as they vied for the best feeding positions. This particular individual had backed off from a fight but was about to re-enter the fray. Covered in dust, wings spread, head lowered, it reminded Peter of a gladiator in his chariot, lining up for a charge. Its picture is a portrayal of the true character of this feisty bird.

Photo: Peter Delaney (Ireland)


Bad Boys

'I turned round to see these young males charging. They were screaming, kicking up gravel and making as big a show as possible, their faces full of expression. I had just one chance to capture the energy and passion of the display, as in seconds it was all over. The dominant male stood his ground, took just three paces forward, and the group's bravado crumbled. All four members of the rebellion turned tail and ran.'

Photo: Andrew Walmsley (United Kingdom)


Lionfish Bait

Photo: Alex Tattersall (United Kingdom)


The Flight Path

Photo: Connor Stefanison (Canada)



Photo: Connor Stefanison (Canada)


Hot-Spring Magic

Photo: Connor Stefanison (Canada)


The Cauldron

Photo: Sergey Gorshkov (Russia)


Ice Aurora

Photo: Ellen Anon (USA)


The Greeting

Photo: Richard Packwood (United Kingdom)


Snow Moment

Photo: Jasper Doest (The Netherlands)


Fish-eye View

Photo: Theo Bosboom (The Netherlands)


Giant with Sunbeams

Photo: Alexander Mustard (United Kingdom)

See the full gallery on the Natural History Museum website

via My Modern Met

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