The winners of the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition 2011 have been announced at an awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum in London this evening.
Still life in oil by Daniel Beltrá is the overall winner © Daniel Beltrá/ Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011
The coveted title of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year was presented to Daniel Beltrá from Spain for Still life in oil (image on the right), a striking image of 8 brown pelicans rescued from an oil spill, from his 6-image portfolio for the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award.
Mateusz Piesiak from Poland was hailed as Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his image Pester power (image below), in the 11–14 Years category.
The international judging panel reviewed more than 40,000 entries from amateurs and professional photographers all around the world.
And the more than 100 prize-winning photos will be on show when the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition opens at the Museum this Friday 21 October.
Daniel took his Still life in oil image at a temporary bird-rescue facility in Fort Jackson, Louisiana.
‘Crude oil trickles off the feathers of the rescued brown pelicans, turning the white lining sheets into a sticky, stinking mess,' he says.
'The pelicans are going through the first stage of cleaning. They’ve already been sprayed with a light oil to break up the heavy crude trapped in their feathers.'
Chair of the judging panel, Mark Carwardine, described the image as ‘a strong environmental statement, technical perfection and a work of art all rolled into one. The sheer simplicity of this powerful image makes it really beautiful and shocking at the same time.’
To take his Pester power image, Mateusz wrapped his camera in a waterproof sack, dropped onto his belly and crawled along the wet sand off Long Island, New York.
The birds were so absorbed in their foraging that they ignored him, sometimes scuttling almost to within arm’s length in their search for shellfish.
Pester power by Mateusz Piesiak is the junior winner © Mateusz Piesiak/ Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011
One young oystercatcher kept trying to find its own food. ‘As soon as it saw an adult with a morsel,’ said Mateusz, ‘it would run over with loud, begging queep queep cries and try to snatch it from them. Sometimes the adult would give in.’
Mateusz spent so long watching this pester power at work that he didn’t notice the tide coming in until a big wave washed over him. ‘I managed to hold my camera up high,’ he says. ‘I was cold and wet, but I had my shot.’
Carwardine described the image. ‘Pin sharp, gorgeous subdued light, interesting behaviour, oodles of atmosphere, and beautiful composition. This would make any professional proud – and is doubly impressive for someone so young.’
A commemorative book, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 21, edited by Rosamund Kidman Cox and published by the Museum, will be available from 20 October 2011, priced £25. The book, with a foreword written by acclaimed landscape photographer Joe Cornish, contains all images from this year’s competition.
108 acclaimed photographs from the competition’s 17 categories will be shown when the stunning and inspiring exhibition debuts at the Museum on 21 October 2011.
Interactive stations provide an insight into what the judges, scientists and the photographers think about each photograph. The exhibition then goes on its popular tour of the UK and overseas.
Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year is owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine and is in its 47th year.
The competition's international reach is growing, with first-time submissions from countries such as Cambodia, Moldova, Brunei and Kyrgyzstan this year.
The competition celebrates the beauty and magnificence of the world we live in, as well as acting as a stark reminder of the fragility of nature. Photographers can enter next year’s competition from 5 December 2011.