“Entwined lives” by American photographer Tim Laman took the top prize in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016 competition held by Britain’s Natural History Museum. Laman’s photo dramatically shows a critically endangered Bornean orangutan above the Indonesian rainforest.
Laman spent three days rope-climbing the 30 meter tall tree to set several GoPro cameras to be triggered remotely, capturing a young male orangutan’s face high above the forest canopy as he reaches some figs. Laman took the image in the rich rainforest of Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan, one of the few protected orangutan strongholds in Borneo.
Sir Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum, London, which runs the competition, said the winning images “touch people’s hearts, and challenge us to think differently about the natural world.”
Take a look at some of the 16 category winners and finalists.
Young grand title winner
“The moon and the crow”
Sixteen-year-old Gideon Knight from the UK won the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year title for this image.
Shot near his London home it shows the twigs of a sycamore tree silhouetted against the blue dusk sky and the full moon. This “makes it feel almost supernatural, like something out of a fairy tale,’ says Gideon.‘
Lewis Blackwell, Chair of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year jury said, “The image epitomizes what the judges are always looking for – a fresh observation on our natural world, delivered with artistic flair.”
Winner, Urban category
“The alley cat” - Nayan Khanolkar, India
At night, in the Aarey Milk Colony in a suburb of Mumbai bordering Sanjay Gandhi National Park, leopards slip ghost-like through the maze of alleys, looking for food (especially stray dogs). The Warli people living in the area respect the big cats. Despite close encounters and occasional attacks (a particular spate coinciding with the relocation of leopards from other areas into the park), the cats are an accepted part of their lives and their culture, seen in the traditional paintings that decorate the walls of their homes.
With growing human-leopard conflicts elsewhere grabbing the headlines, Nayan was determined to use his pictures to show how things can be different with tolerance and planning. Once he had convinced the Warli people of his plan, they supplied him with valuable information, as well as keeping an eye on his equipment. Positioning his flashes to mimic the alley’s usual lighting and his camera so that a passing cat would not dominate the frame, he finally – after four months – got the shot he wanted.
Winner - Detail category
The sand canvas” - Rudi Sebastian, Germany
The pristine white sand of Brazil’s Lençóis Maranhenses National Park offers a blank canvas to the rain. In the dry season, sand from the coast is blown by powerful Atlantic winds as far as 50 kilometers (30miles) inland, sculpting a vast expanse of crescent-shaped dunes up to 40 meters (130 feet) high. With the onset of the rains, the magic begins. An impermeable layer beneath the sand allows water to collect in the dune valleys, forming thousands of transient lagoons, some more than 90 metres (295 feet) long. Bacteria and algae tint the clear water in countless shades of green and blue, while streams carrying sediment from the distant rainforest make their mark with browns and blacks. Patterns appear as the waterevaporates, leaving behind organic remains. Shooting almost vertically down from a small aircraft with the door removed, avoiding perspective or scale, he created his striking image.
“Nosy neighbor” - Sam Hobon, UK
This photo of an urban red fox took weeks of scouting for Hobson in Bristol, the UK’s famous fox city. He spent a summer gaining the trust of a family of foxes l and found that if I introduced anything new to their environment, the curious cubs would quickly become interested and investigate it thoroughly. This gave me an opportunity to capture some incredibly intimate portraits of these friendly fox cubs - I left my camera positioned on a wall in their territory and fired it remotely when this bold cub poked his nose up to investigate.
Winner - Birds category
“Eviction attempt” by Ganesh H. Shankar, India
These Indian rose-ringed parakeets were not happy. They had returned to their roosting and nesting hole high up in a tree in India’s Keoladeo National Park (also known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) to find that a Bengal monitor lizard had taken up residence. The birds immediately set about trying to evict the squatter. They bit the monitor lizard’s tail, hanging on for a couple of seconds at a time, until it retreated into the hole. They would then harass it when it tried to come out to bask. This went on for two days. The action lasted a couple of seconds at a time and was fast-moving. Eventually the parakeets gave up and left, presumably to try to find another place to rear their young.
Winner, Plants and Fungi
“Wind composition” - Valter Binotto, Italy
With every gust of wind, showers of pollen were released, lit up by the winter sunshine, from the hazel tree near Valter’s home in northern Italy.
Hazel has both male and female flowers on the same tree, though the pollen must be transferred between trees for fertilization. The pollen-producing catkins open early in the year, before the leaves are out, and release huge amounts of pollen to be carried away by the wind.
“The hardest part was capturing the female flowers motionless while the catkins were moving,” explains Valter. ‘I searched for flowers on a short branch that was more stable.’ Using a long exposure to capture the pollen’s flight and a reflector to highlight the catkins, he took many pictures before the wind finally delivered the composition he had in mind.
“Splitting the catch” - Audun Rikardsen, Norway
Some fishermen use the whales to localize the herring shoals. Likewise, many whales have learned the sounds from specific fishing boats when they retrieve their fishing gear, and therefore seek out the boats with the hope of getting a free meal. This is seemingly a win-win-situations for both parties, but some whales also actively try to steal the fish from the fishing gear, which can in some cases destroy fishing gear and the herring caches as well as injure the whales who get entangled. A debate has ensued about fishing quotas and interactions between whales and fishing boats.
Rikardsen developed his own underwater housing to take split pictures like this under very low light conditions.
Winner - Single image category
“The pangolin pit” - Paul Hilton, UK/Australia
Nothing prepared Hilton for what he saw: some 4,000 defrosting pangolins (5 tons) from one of the largest seizures of the animals on record. They were destined for China and Vietnam for the exotic‐meat trade or for traditional medicine. Pangolins have become the world’s most trafficked animals, with all eight species targeted. This illegal trade, along with habitat loss and local hunting, means that the four Asian species are now endangered or critically endangered, and Africa’s four species are heading that way.
These, mostly Sunda pangolins, were part of a huge seizure – a joint operation between Indonesia’s police and the World ConservationSociety – found hidden in a shipping container behind a façade of frozen fish, ready for export from the major port of Belawan in Sumatra. All had come from northern Sumatra. The dead pangolins were driven to a specially dug pit and then incinerated. “Wildlife crime is big business,”says Paul. ‘It will stop only when the demand stops.’
Winner - Impressions category
“Star player” - Luis Javier Sandoval, Mexico
As soon as Sandoval slipped into the water, the curious young California sea lions came over for a better look. One of the pups dived down, swimming gracefully with its strong fore-flippers (sea lions are also remarkably agile on land, since they can control each of their hind‐flippers independently). It grabbed a starfish from the bottom and started throwing it to the photographer. “I love the way sea lions interact with divers and how smart they are,” says Sandoval. Angling his camera up towards the dawn light – just as the pup offered him the starfish and another youngster slipped by close to the rocks – he created his artistic impression of the sea lion’s playful nature.