From the sub-Arctic wilderness of northern Quebec to the neon-lit backyards of northern Tokyo, the search for the year's best wildlife photographer has begun.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition is the world's greatest wildlife photography. Every year, it showcases the very best photographic images of nature to a worldwide audience, giving people an insight into the beauty, drama and variety of the natural world.
Now in its 44th year, the 2008 competition is open to anyone with an appreciation of wildlife and a passion for fresh, innovative photography.
Mark Carwardine, zoologist, award-winning writer and photographer and chairman of the competition judging panel said, 'Nothing speaks louder than an evocative photograph that stirs the imagination, tugs at the heartstrings and engages the mind.'
A new award for 2008 is the Photographers' Award for Lifetime Commitment to Wildlife Photography. Created to honour a photographer whose commitment to wildlife photography is considered worthy of commendation, be it through the power of imagery or the impact their photography has had.
From 17 January you can enter your images into the competition and they must be submitted by 24 March by post or 31 March online at www.nhm.ac.uk/wildphoto. Entrants can win an impressive £10,000 prize if they are given the coveted title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008 or a share of a £23,550 prize fund if successful in one of the categories.
Last year's competition was the most competitive ever with more than 32,000 entries from 78 countries, and 91% were digital - the highest ever for the competition.
Ben Osborne from the UK was named Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2007 for his image Elephant creation. Ben's winning image of a large bull elephant kicking and spraying mud in a waterhole was judged to be the best picture of 2007 for its originality and unusual portrayal of a very familiar subject.
Mark continues, 'It's not what you photograph - it's the way you do it. Despite many people's fears, pictures of common and familiar species close to home stand just as much chance of winning as pictures of more exotic, rare and unfamiliar ones.'
Winning photographers will have their images showcased in an international exhibition that debuts at the Natural History Museum in October 2008 before touring venues across the world. Winning images are also featured in a special supplement to the November issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine and in a hardback commemorative portfolio by BBC Books.
A free 20-minute podcast is available to download featuring interviews with 2007 competition judges and winning photographers. They give tips on how to capture dramatic images and investigate the rise of digital photography and the decline of traditional film. Narrated by BBC Front Row presenter Charlotte Mullins.