Head to the Natural History Museum and enjoy the amazing photos showcasing the wonders of our world!
by Julia Migné
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is an international competition calling on photographers to put the spotlight on nature. Age is not a limit in this contest and the young talents are recognised here through three categories awarding photographers who are 10 years and under, 11 to 14 years old, and 15-17 years old.
Professionals and amateurs are all welcome to submit their work as long as they showcase the diversity and beauty of the natural world while raising awareness of how fragile it can also be. From murky underwater rivers to urban environments, this exhibition displays photographs of varying styles.
Whatever your interest in nature might be, you will certainly find a particular photo that could inspire you in different ways. A myriad of species and breathtaking sceneries are waiting for you in the museum – ranging from invertebrates to mammals, incredible landscapes to close-ups.
If you are a photographer yourself, wandering around the different themes is an absolute delight. Each picture is accompanied by details on the species or place taken, the equipment used by the photographer, and in some cases details on the techniques employed.
Taking the time to look at the cameras, lenses and other equipment gives a good idea of what is best for different uses. Tim Laman, this year’s Grand title winner, used a GoPro to shoot his work, Entwined lives, showing a young male orang-utan climbing a fig tree. While Gideon Knight, young British winner of the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016, used his Canon EOS 7D Mark to take his piece, The Moon and the crow.
The diversity of equipment is a good way to get new ideas of what to use depending on the effects and types of photos you want to take. While using a GoPro makes sense to photograph animals in difficult locations, using a marine house is essential to take great underwater photos. Why not make a dream list of the equipment you would like to have? You might be surprised to discover that some might not be as expensive as you thought.
The exhibition also highlights the importance of being patient and perseverant to get the perfect picture. Charlie Hamilton James, one of the finalists for the Mammals category, took a total of 20,000 images using a camera trap -placed in that location for nearly six months- to get his spectacular shot of a grizzly bear scavenging on a carcass left by park rangers.
The dying of the light, a stunning photograph of a dustbin-lid jellyfish shot by Angel Fitor is another example of patience being rewarded. The Spanish photographer “waited three years for a lone jelly on a calm night, when the sunset was at its best.” It only goes to show that breathtaking photos take time.
Being innovative and creative is also a good way to get noticed. Thomas P Peschak, National Geographic photographer, spotted a crab outside a building one evening. He used his torch to project its silhouette onto a wall and took a photo using a remote-controlled flash: Crabzilla was born!
The harvestman walk, from Juan Jesús González Ahumada, is another interesting example. Using a single long exposure, he managed to record an impression of the harvestman’s navigation his legs in constant motion creating a psychedelic image.
Photographs do not need to be sharp and on focus to be considered in the competition. A surprising category called Impressions is composed of abstract pictures making you feel like you’re almost looking at oil paintings. In this category, defocused guillemots neighbour swirly spiralling sparrows and intriguing swarm of mayflies.
Even though the techniques and equipment used play an important role in taking great photos, being a wildlife photographer also implies that one must, in one way or another, raise awareness on particular species’ behaviours or threats.
That’s what the No Voice, No Choice photograph from Britta Jaschinski illustrates so well. Showing an orang-utan dressed in a costume ready to accompany a clown, the photographer explains that these animals are forced to perform. “I try to give dignity to these badly treated sentient beings. I want my photography to give them a voice.”
Another intense picture came from Indonesia and was shot by Australian photographer Paul Hilton. Explicitly called The pangolin pit, this photograph of 4,000 pangolins found defrosting in a shipping container help to raise awareness of the immense threats faced by this species, which is the world’s most trafficked animals.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. The 52nd exhibition is now open from 21 October 2016 to 10 September 2017. Prices range from £6.50 to £13.50. Book your tickets here.
Julia Migné is a multimedia journalist and wildlife photographer specialising in environmental issues and odd hobbies. She has written for Africa Geographic and BBC Wildlife among others. An endless traveller, she swears that she would visit one country for each letter of the alphabet.