Footprints © Robert Friel
London’s Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine today revealed a small taste of what to expect from their annual global search for the best and most creative visions of nature.
Judges of the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 competition have completed the mammoth task of selecting the winning photos from a record 43,135 entries from 94 countries.
Competition Manager Gemma Webster said the record entries, up 33 per cent on 2008, highlighted that the international appeal of what is widely regarded as the world’s most prestigious wildlife photography competition continues to grow.
"While the UK and the US remain our major source of entrants, the greatest growth in entries is happening in China and Russia. This year we had the first-ever entries from photographers in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Macedonia, Oman, Qatar, Tunisia and Bahrain, and we’ve had our first category winners from Estonia, Zambia and the Czech Republic,
" Gemma said.
The winning selection of nearly 100 images will be showcased at an exhibition opening at the Natural History Museum on 23 October, before touring to regional and international venues. The first two winning images were unveiled today as early ticket sales opened.
British photographer Robert Friel was highly commended in the One Earth Award category, which seeks to highlight interaction between humans and the natural world. He captured his amusing, but thought-provoking, footprints photo of a curious king penguin chick on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia.
"As I was walking back along the foreshore to the landing site, I was looking at the tracks penguins were making in the wet sand when a chick walked towards my footprints. It seemed to consider them briefly before moving back to the other groups of penguins. I thought it merely a quirky moment, but later it became a more poignant reminder that, however brief and well managed our visits, we are intruding on their environment,
" Robert said.
Danish photographer Morten Hilmer lived for three months in an isolated Greenland weather station and braved temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celsius to capture his hare spat image, which won him a runner-up award in the Behaviour: Mammals category.
"I had been observing fighting Arctic hares for several weeks so I knew where to find them and positioned myself where they would be backlit by the sunset. All animals in the Arctic have to fight for their survival because of these extreme weather conditions and the limited amount of food,
" Morten said.
Chair of the judging panel, zoologist and broadcaster Mark Carwardine, said the growth in entries was daunting but the quality of the winning photos was inspiring.
"Among the judges, we have some of the world’s most renowned wildlife photographers and they were wowed by the finalists in the kid’s categories, let alone by what the winning adult professional and amateurs had captured,
" Mark said. "We obviously saw thousands of beautiful images, but the winners found a creative or original way to show the drama, beauty or unique behaviour of wildlife. That gave their photos an extra impact that set them apart.
Tickets go on sale early because of the huge popularity of the exhibition at the Natural History Museum. Last year, it attracted 161,000 visitors. People can buy tickets in person at the Museum or online on the Natural History Museum
The competition, owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, has been running annually since 1964. This year, the competition is being sponsored by Veolia Environnement, a world leader in environmental services.
The overall winner, Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year, will be chosen from the winners of the competition’s 14 adult categories. The Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year will be chosen from the winners of the three junior categories.