Highly commended images from the 44th annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition have been announced today.
Among the 83 best photos chosen for the exhibition in October are the Bee-eater ballet by Chris van Rooyen from South Africa and Starling genie by Bariş Koca from Turkey.
The competition is regarded as the international leader in the artistic representation of the natural world. This year it attracted a record 32,351 entries from 82 countries.
When Chris’s boat moored on the Zambezi in Caprivi, Namibia, it became the perfect place from which to observe a colony of 1,000 bee-eaters.
The bee-eaters are expert aerial insect hunters, with a characteristic sailing style of flight, with little flapping, seen in the photograph (at the top of the page).
‘I had the distinct impression some were just having fun,’ said Chris. ‘They would weave around in the wind, hover in the updraft created by the riverbank, and then fold their wings to parachute back into the nest-hole’.
Competition judge Flip Nicklin says, ‘I loved this shot, it was so light and free it would have passed right by if not for the turn of the bird’s head.’
When asked to describe his entry Chris said, ‘This image embodies what I love about wildlife photography – the African continent, working with precision equipment, seeing fascinating behaviour and celebrating the unique beauty of birds.’
Starling genie, highly commended image © Bariş Koca / Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008
Bariş’s image captures the spectacular aerobatic behaviour of flocks of starlings at Lake Mohan.
He spent several days at the lake in freezing weather to photograph the amazing shapes of the huge flocks coming in to roost.
‘You definitely have to look twice at this photograph’ said a competition judge, Phil Keevil. ‘The pattern created by the flock actually looks like a giant bird.’
‘I chose this image because the shape looked fascinating, and the light on the wings and the reeds complement each other photographically,’ Bariş said.
The category winners and overall winners – Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year – will be announced at an awards ceremony on 29 October, two days before the exhibition opens at the Natural History Museum.
Last year, the exhibition at the Natural History Museum attracted nearly 134,000 visitors. More than a million others are expected to have seen the 2007 images at international and regional venues when the tour concludes
Chair of the judging panel, Mark Carwardine, said ‘The competition plays an increasingly crucial role in raising the profile of wildlife photography and generating awareness of conservation. Nothing speaks louder than an evocative photograph that stirs the imagination, tugs at the heart strings and engages the mind.’
Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is owned by London’s Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife magazine and the exhibition is open 31 October to 26 April at the Museum.