See The Stunning Winning Images Of Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Awards

A ball of male bees intent on mating with a single female, the reproductive dance of a giant sea star, a rare shot of whales copulating and other extraordinary moments in the lives of wild animals are among the winning images of London Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

The overall title was won by American photographer Karine Aigner for “The Big Buzz,” a close-up shot of a “buzzing ball of cactus bees spinning over the hot sand on a Texas ranch.”

Aigner is the fifth woman to win the title in the almost six decades of the annual international competition’s history which was founded in 1965 to showcase the best nature photography.

“Karine was on a routine drive around a ranch in Texas…when something caught her eye. She recounts how ‘the ground suddenly become pockmarked with hundreds of volcano-like turrets’ and that her immediate thought was ‘what kind of ants are these?’ Pulling over for a closer look, Karine soon discovered that the ‘ants’ were in fact bees,” the organizers explain.

The winners of this year’s 58th contest were chosen from more than 38,500 entries from 93 countries.

All the winning and runners-up images are now on display in a freshly-redesigned exhibition at London’s Natural History Museum that started on October 14 and runs to July 2, 2023.

The exhibit will then tour the United Kingdom, continental Europe, North America (including Texas and Michigan), Australia and New Zealand.

The next competition is now open for entries from photographers of all ages, experience levels and nationalities and closes on December 8, 2022.

The Overall Winner

Karine Aigner gets close to the action as a group of cactus bees compete to mate in a flurry of activity creating a buzzing ball turning over the hot sand. After a few minutes, the pair at its center – a male clinging to the only female in the scrum – flew away to mate.

The world’s bees are under threat from pesticides, climate change, habitat loss and disruptive farming practices.

The specie belongs to the genus Diadasia, which are considered solitary bees. This means that unlike honeybees, for example, they don’t build hives and live as a collective. Instead, they nest individually in the ground, and the female has the sole responsibility of building her own nest.

The word solitary, however, can be misleading. These bees build their nests close together and forage within a 50-2,000-meter radius of their nest site.

The concentration of so many nests in one area means that when the time comes for mating, the place seemingly comes alive with thousands of bees buzzing just a few inches above the ground.

With 70% of bee species nesting underground, it’s increasingly important that areas of natural soil are left undisturbed.

The best of wildlife photography

Junji Takasago powers through altitude sickness to produce a dream-like scene of preening Chilean flamingos in Bolivia.

He framed their choreography within the reflected clouds high in the Andes, at Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt pan. It’s also one of Bolivia’s largest lithium mines, which threatens the future of these flamingos.

Lithium is used in batteries for phones and laptops. Recycling old electronics is one solution.

Fernando Constantino Martínez waits in darkness in Kantemo, Quintana Roo, Mexico as a Yucatan rat snake snaps up a bat.

Using a red light to which both bats and snakes are less sensitive, he kept an eye on this Yucatan rat snake poking out of a crack. He had just seconds to get the shot as the snake retreated into its crevice with its bat prey.

Every evening at sundown in the Cave of the Hanging Snakes, thousands of bats emerge for the night’s feeding. It’s also when hungry rat snakes emerge, dangling from the roof to snatch their prey in mid-air.

In this poignant portrait of a disappearing habitat and its inhabitant in Peñas Blancas, Quito, Ecuador, Daniel Mideros set up camera traps along a wildlife corridor used to reach high-altitude plateaus to show the disappearing natural landscape, with the bear framed at the heart of the image.

These bears, found from western Venezuela to Bolivia, have suffered massive declines as the result of habitat fragmentation and loss. Around the world, as humans continue to build and farm, space for wildlife is increasingly squeezed out.

An unusual perspective of a snow leopard (middle left) charging a herd of Himalayan ibex towards a steep edge in India’s Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary at Himachal Pradesh.

From a vantage point across the ravine, Anand Nambiar watched the snow leopard maneuver uphill from the herd. It was perfectly suited for the environment – unlike Nambiar, who followed a fitness regime in preparation for the high altitude and cold temperatures.

Snow leopards live in some of the most extreme habitats in the world and are now classified as vulnerable. Threats include climate change, mining and hunting of both the snow leopards and their prey.

A Canary Islands houbara struts its stuff in a dizzying courtship display on Spain’s Fuerteventura island.

José Juan Hernández arrived at the houbara’s courtship site at night. By the light of the moon, he dug himself a low hide. From this vantage point, he caught the bird’s full, puffed-out profile as it took a brief break from its frenzied performance.

A Canary Islands houbara male returns annually to its courtship site to perform impressive displays. Raising the plumes from the front of its neck and throwing its head back, it will race forward before circling back, resting just seconds before starting again.

Captured here is a hopeful moment for a population of whales that has survived against all odds.

Female tohorā whales mate with numerous males. There’s no aggression among the males during these congregations, which suggests competition instead occurs in the uterus — the male that produces the most, and best, sperm wins. When ready to mate, the female southern right whale rolls onto its back, requiring the male to reach its penis across the female’s body.

Known by the Māori as tohorā, the New Zealand population was hunted to near extinction in the 1800s — so every new calf offers renewed hope.

Hindered by poor visibility, Robinson used a polecam to photograph the whales gradually moving towards his boat off New Zealand’s Auckland Islands. Pushing his camera to its limits in the dark water, he was relieved to find the image pin-sharp and the moment of copulation crystallised in time.

The bird is very much alive in this glimpse into the secret life of wrens.

Nick Kanakis spotted the young grey-breasted wood wren foraging in Colombia’s Tatamá National Park in Risaralda. Knowing it would disappear into the forest if approached, he found a clear patch of leaf litter and waited. Sure enough, the little bird hopped into the frame, pressing its ear to the ground to listen for small insects.

This prey-detecting technique is used by other birds, including the Eurasian blackbird. Grey-breasted wood wrens are ground-dwelling birds, often heard but not seen. They broadcast loud, melodious songs and rasping calls while hidden in the undergrowth.

A haunting scene of polar bears shrouded in fog was taken at the long-deserted settlement on Russia’s Kolyuchin Island in Chukotka.

On a yacht while seeking shelter from a storm, Dmitry Kokh spotted the bears roaming among the buildings of the long-deserted settlement. As they explored every window and door, Kokh used a low-noise drone to take a picture that conjures up a post-apocalyptic future.

In the Chukchi Sea region, the normally solitary bears usually migrate further north in the summer, following the retreating sea ice they depend on for hunting seals, their main food.

If loose pack ice stays near the coast of this rocky island, bears sometimes investigate.

Two Alpine ibex spar for supremacy at Pian della Mussa, Piedmont, Italy.

It was near the end of a spring day-trip with her family when Ekaterina Bee spotted the fight. The two ibex clashed horns and continued to trade blows while standing on their hind legs like boxers in a ring.

In the early 1800s, following centuries of hunting, fewer than 100 Alpine ibex survived in the mountains on the Italy-France border.

Successful conservation measures mean that, today, there are more than 50,000.

In this monochromatic scene at Embalse de los Hurones in Cádiz, Spain, an osprey sits on a dead tree, waiting for the fog to lift.

When Ismael Domínguez Gutiérrez arrived at the wetland, he was disappointed not to be able to see beyond a few meters – and certainly had no hope of glimpsing the grebes he wanted to photograph. But as the fog began to lift, it revealed the opportunity for this striking composition.

Ospreys are winter visitors to the province of Andalucía. Here, the many reservoirs offer these widespread fish-eating raptors shallow, open water clearer than many rivers and lakes.

Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn is intrigued by the contrasting colors and textures of a Bryde’s whale, which surfaced close by.

Following Thai government tourism guidelines for the Upper Gulf in Phetchaburi, the tour boat Wuttichaitanakorn was travelling on turned off its engine as the whale appeared close by, giving him the chance to capture this close-up composition as the boat rocked in the swell.

Bryde’s whales have up to 370 pairs of grey-coloured plates of baleen growing inside their upper jaws. The plates are made of keratin, a protein that also forms human hair and nails, and are used to filter small prey from the ocean.

A ‘pyramid of life’ is displayed in these living towers of marine invertebrates in the seabed off Antarctica’s Adelie Land, 32 meters under East Antarctic ice. At the center, a tree-shaped sponge is draped with life from giant ribbon worms to sea stars.

Laurent Ballesta endured below-freezing dives to reveal the diversity of life beneath Antarctica’s ice. An underwater photographer and biologist, he’s led a series of major expeditions resulting in unprecedented images.

He has won multiple prizes in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, including the grand title award in 2021. His expedition to Antarctica, exploring its vast underwater biodiversity, took two years to plan, a team of expert divers and specially- developed gear.

His 32 dives in water temperature down to -1.7˚C (29°F) included the deepest, longest dive ever made in Antarctica.

Placing his remote camera on the mud of a Polish reed bed, Mateusz Piesiak seized the opportunity to capture the moment when a passing peregrine falcon caused some of the dunlins to launch skyward.

With carefully considered camera angles, he produced a series of intimate photographs exploring the behavior of birds. Winner of the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award when he was 14, Mateusz explored his locality during the Covid-19 lockdown. “Even a small pond or park in the city center turned out to be a very good place for photographing wildlife,” he found.

This shot immortalizes the electrifying reproductive dance of a giant male Leiaster leachi sea star broadcasting sperm into murky water in a shallow bay in Japan’s Kinko Bay in the Kagoshima Prefecture.

Other nearby sea stars were broadcasting sperm and eggs into the water in synchrony, although not within visual distance of one another.

As the surrounding water filled with sperm and eggs from spawning sea stars, Tony Wu faced several challenges. Stuck in a small, enclosed bay with only a macro lens for photographing small subjects, he backed up to squeeze the undulating sea star into his field of view, in this galaxy-like scene.

Over the course of an hour or more, the sea star swayed and twirled as it released streams of sperm — a five-limbed dancer gyrating to a silent, timeless rhythm of life.

The ‘dancing’ posture of spawning sea stars may help release eggs and sperm, or may help sweep the eggs and sperm into the currents where they fertilize together in the water.

A fairytale scene aptly found in the forests of Mount Olympus frames the interplay among fungi for the magical scene Agorastos Papatsanis wanted to create.

He waited for the sun to filter through the trees and light the water in the background, then used a wide-angle lens and flashes to highlight the morels’ labyrinthine forms.

Morels are regarded as gastronomic treasures in many parts of the world because they are difficult to cultivate, yet in some forests they flourish naturally.

The Human Factor

Daniel Núñez used a drone to capture the contrast between the forest and the algal growth and to raise awareness of the impact of contamination on Lake Amatitlán, which takes in around 75,000 tons of waste from Guatemala City every year.

“It was a sunny day with perfect conditions,” he recalled of the moment in Villa Canales. “But it was a sad and shocking moment.” Cyanobacteria flourishes in the presence of pollutants such as sewage and agricultural fertilisers forming algal blooms. Efforts to restore the Amatitlán wetland are underway but have been hampered by a lack of funding and allegations of political corruption.

A Cuban bullfinch is positioned alongside a road so that it becomes accustomed to the hubbub of street life and therefore less likely to be distracted during a competition. These birds are highly prized for their sweet voice and feisty spirit.

Karine Aigner explores the relationship between Cuban culture and songbirds, and the future of a deep-rooted tradition. For hundreds of years, some Cubans have caught and kept songbirds and held bird-singing contests. Throughout a turbulent period of economic sanctions and political unrest, these small, beautiful birds have provided companionship, entertainment and friendly competition within the community.

Now with regular travel and emigration between Cuba and North America, the tradition of songbird contests has crossed an ocean. As songbird populations plummet, U.S. law enforcement is cracking down on the trapping, trading and competing of these birds.

Ndakasi’s Passing

Brent Stirton shares the closing chapter of the story of a much-loved mountain gorilla in Virunga National Park at the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Senkwekwe Center.

Stirton photographed Ndakasi’s rescue as a two-month-old after her troop was brutally killed by a powerful charcoal mafia as a warning to park rangers.

Here he memorialized her passing as she lay in the arms of her rescuer and caregiver of 13 years, ranger Andre Bauma.

As a result of unrelenting conservation efforts focusing on the daily protection of individual gorillas, mountain gorilla numbers have quadrupled to more than 1,000 in the last 40 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post A Major New Jannis Kounellis Retrospective Shows That Art Is The Meaning Of Life—And Vice Versa
Next post Virgin Hotels Edinburgh Makes A Splash In Scotland’s Capital City