Two of the first images from the world’s most prestigious wildlife photography competition, 2009 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year, are revealed today.
London’s Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine unveil the first two winning images, Footprints by Robert Friel and Hare spat by Morten Hilmer, as the ticket sales open today.
Judges have completed the mammoth task of selecting the winning photos from a record 43,135 entries from 94 countries.
Competition Manager Gemma Webster said the record entries, up 33% on 2008, highlighted that the international appeal continues to grow.
‘While the UK and the US remain our major source of entrants, the greatest growth in entries is happening in China and Russia. This year we had the first-ever entries from photographers in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Macedonia, Oman, Qatar, Tunisia and Bahrain, and we’ve had our first category winners from Estonia, Zambia and the Czech Republic,’ Gemma said.
The winning selection of nearly 100 images will be showcased at an exhibition at the Natural History Museum from 23 October. This year’s exhibition will be in a larger gallery space with images displayed in their largest formats ever. The exhibition also tours to regional and international venues.
Tickets go on sale early because of the huge popularity of the exhibition at the Natural History Museum. Last year, it attracted 161,000 visitors. People can buy tickets in person at the Museum or online.
British photographer Robert Friel was highly commended in the One Earth Award category, which seeks to highlight interaction between humans and the natural world.
He captured his amusing, but thought-provoking, footprints photo (shown above) of a curious king penguin chick on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia.
‘As I was walking back along the foreshore to the landing site, I was looking at the tracks penguins were making in the wet sand when a chick walked towards my footprints. It seemed to consider them briefly before moving back to the other groups of penguins.'
'I thought it merely a quirky moment, but later it became a more poignant reminder that, however brief and well managed our visits, we are intruding on their environment,’ Robert said.
Danish photographer Morten Hilmer lived for 3 months in an isolated Greenland weather station and braved temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celsius to capture his hare spat image, which won him a runner-up award in the Behaviour: Mammals category.
‘I had been observing fighting Arctic hares for several weeks so I knew where to find them and positioned myself where they would be backlit by the sunset. All animals in the Arctic have to fight for their survival because of these extreme weather conditions and the limited amount of food,’ Morten said.
Chair of the judging panel, zoologist and broadcaster Mark Carwardine, said the growth in entries was daunting but the quality of the winning photos was inspiring.
‘Among the judges, we have some of the world’s most renowned wildlife photographers and they were wowed by the finalists in the kid’s categories, let alone by what the winning adult professional and amateurs had captured,’ Mark said.
‘We obviously saw thousands of beautiful images, but the winners found a creative or original way to show the drama, beauty or unique behaviour of wildlife. That gave their photos an extra impact that set them apart.’
The overall winner, Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year, will be chosen from the winners of the competition’s 14 adult categories. The Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year will be chosen from the winners of the three junior categories.