Now in its 54th year, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, held by Britain’s own Natural History Museum, announced its winners earlier this month. Professionals as well as amateurs—from adult to youth as young as 10 years old—were challenged not only to demonstrate consummate technical skill but also to evaluate mankind’s place and responsibility toward nature through their art.
Sampling from both the top winners and some of the highly commended entries, here is just a small taste of what contestants across 95 countries have borne from their passion in the art of photography:
“The Golden Couple”
By Marsel van Oosten, The Netherlands
It’s spring in the temperate forest of China’s Qinling Mountains, the only place where these endangered monkeys live. A male Qinling golden snub-nosed monkey rests briefly on a stone seat. He has been joined by a female from his small group. Both are watching intently as an altercation takes place down the valley between the lead males of two other groups in the 50-strong troop.
Grand Title Winner 2018, 15–17 Years Old
By Skye Meaker, South Africa
Mathoja’s home is Botswana’s Mashatu Game Reserve, which Skye and his family regularly visit, always hoping to see leopards, though they are notoriously elusive. Mathoja was dozing when they finally found her, lying along a low branch of a nyala tree. And she continued to doze all the time they were there, unfazed by the vehicle. “She would sleep for a couple of minutes. Then look around briefly. Then fall back to sleep,” says Skye.
Winner 2018, Animals in their Environment
By Cristobal Serrano, Spain
It’s the end of summer in the Antarctic, and so sea ice here is in short supply. Crabeater seals are widespread in Antarctica and possibly the most abundant of all seals anywhere. But they are also dependent on sea ice for resting, breeding, avoiding predators such as killer whales and leopard seals, and accessing feeding areas. A small ice floe in the Errera Channel at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula provides barely enough room for a group of crabeater seals to rest, and the cracks are starting to show.
Highly Commended 2018, Animal Portraits
By Isak Pretorius, South Africa
“I love creating photos with impact,” says Isak, who is often on the lookout for Zambia’s most iconic animals. He was photographing a pride of lions when this lioness wandered off. Anticipating it was going for a drink, he positioned himself by the nearest waterhole. It then appeared through the long grass, framed by a wall of lush green.
Winner 2018, Behavior: Amphibians and Reptiles
By David Herasimtschuk, USA
It was not looking good for the northern water snake, clamped tightly in the jaws of a hungry hellbender, but it was a remarkable find for David. Drifting downstream in Tennessee’s Tellico River, in search of freshwater life (as he had done for countless hours over the past seven years), he was thrilled to spot the mighty amphibian with its struggling prey. North America’s largest aquatic salamander—up to 75 centimeters (29 inches) long—the hellbender has declined significantly because of habitat loss and degradation of the habitat that remains.
Winner, People’s Choice Award 2014
Bby Marsel van Oosten.
A tourist at Jigokudani Monkey Park, Japan, was so desperate to get a close-up of this young Japanese macaque in a natural hot spring that she held her phone ever nearer to her subject. Suddenly, the monkey snatched the device from her hand and retreated to the middle of the water to examine its prize. Marsel, who was leading a photographic tour at the time, saw the chance for a striking picture.
Winner 2018, Behavior: Invertebrates
By Georgina Steytler, Australia
It was a hot summer day, and the waterhole at Walyormouring Nature Reserve, Western Australia, was buzzing. Georgina had got there early to photograph birds, but her attention was stolen by the industrious slender mud-dauber wasps, distinctive with their stalk-like first abdominal segments. They were females, busy digging in the soft mud at the water’s edge, and then rolling the mud into balls to create egg chambers to add to their nearby nests. A female builds her external nest completely out of mud, cylindrical chamber by chamber, which cement together into one mass as the mud hardens.
Winner 2018, Wildlife Photographer Portfolio Award
Javier Aznar González de Rueda, Spain
Javier found this treehopper by the kitchen of the forest lodge he was staying in. He tried for several days to capture the scene, but the constant rain was a challenge. Eventually he succeeded in creating this touching portrait of a mother guarding her young on the underside of a stem, enhanced by the blue glow of the sky behind.
Winner 2018, Behavior: Mammals
“Kuhirwa Mourns Her Baby”
By Ricardo Núñez Montero, Spain
Kuhirwa, a young female member of the Nkuringo mountain gorilla family in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, would not give up on her dead baby. What Ricardo first thought to be a bundle of roots turned out to be the tiny corpse. Forced by the low light to work with a wide aperture and a very narrow depth of field, he chose to focus on the body rather than Kuhirwa’s face. Guides told him that she had given birth during bad weather and that the baby probably died of cold. At first, Kuhirwa had cuddled and groomed the body, moving its legs and arms up and down and carrying it piggyback like the other mothers. Weeks later, she started to eat what was left of the corpse, behavior that the guide had only ever seen once before.
Winner 2018, Underwater
By Michael Patrick O’Neill, USA
On a night dive over deep water—in the Atlantic, far off Florida’s Palm Beach—Michael achieved a long-held goal, to photograph a flying fish so as to convey the speed, motion, and beauty of this “fantastic creature.” By day, these fish are almost impossible to approach. Living at the surface, they are potential prey for a great many animals, including tuna, marlin, and mackerel. But they have the ability to sprint away from danger, rapidly beating their unevenly forked tails (the lower lobe is longer than the upper one) to build enough speed to soar up and out of the water.
Winner 2018, Earth’s Environments
By Orlando Fernandez Miranda, Spain
Standing at the top of a high dune on Namibia’s desert coastline, where mounds of wind-sculpted sand merge with crashing Atlantic waves, Orlando faced a trio of weather elements: a fierce northeasterly wind, warm rays of afternoon sunshine, and a dense ocean fog obscuring his view along the remote and desolate Skeleton Coast.
Highly Commended 2018, Animal Portraits
“Looking for Love”
By Tony Wu, USA
Accentuating his mature appearance with pastel colors, protruding lips, and an outstanding pink forehead, this Asian sheepshead wrasse sets out to impress females and see off rivals, which he will head-butt and bite. Tony has long been fascinated by this amazing fish, which you may recognize from BluePlanet2.
Highly commended 2018, Animals in Their Environment
By Emmanuel Rondeau, France
Accompanied by rangers, Emmanuel had climbed 700 meters to set up eight cameras, selecting areas with previous tiger sightings and evidence of recent use such as tracks, scratches and feces. “The forests were nothing like I had ever seen,” he says. “Every species was something new.” Twenty-three days later, this Bengal tiger gazed directly into one of his cameras.
In the Kingdom of Bhutan, tigers are making a comeback. There are now thought to be 103 tigers living in the wild there—almost a third more than the last count in 1998. As Bhutan has developed, the country has created a network of wildlife corridors from one national park to the next to allow wildlife to roam relatively undisturbed.
These people are going to feed some animals—but it’s not one and definitely not just two