The winners of the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 competition were announced at a gala awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum tonight.
Paul Nicklen’s Bubble-jetting emperors (shown above) is a spectacular image of the chaotic underwater world of emperor penguins at the edge of the Ross Sea, Antarctica, and claimed the overall title of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
And teenager Owen Hearn was hailed Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his image Flight paths (shown below), featuring a resplendent red kite mirroring a distant plane, captured on his grandparents’ farm.
Owen Hearn's image Flight paths won him the title Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year © Owen Hearn/ Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year
The world-renowned exhibition, opening this Friday 19 October, features 100 awe-inspiring images of nature, and will enthral London audiences before being enjoyed by millions with a UK and international tour.
Now in its 48th year, the competition attracted more than 48,000 entries from 98 countries. The two winning images were selected from 18 individual category winners.
For this photo, Paul remained motionless, his legs locked under the ice, waiting for the penguins. Suddenly the birds blasted from the depths and, with frozen fingers, Paul instinctively captured this incredible image. ‘It was a fantastic sight,’ says Paul. ‘Hundreds launched themselves out of the water and on to the ice above me. It was a moment that I felt incredibly fortunate to witness and one I’ll never forget’.
Competition judge and esteemed underwater photographer David Doubilet, remarked, ‘This image draws us in for a glimpse of the emperor penguin’s private world at the end of the earth. I love this image because it shows perfectly organised, infinite chaos. My eyes linger over it trying to absorb everything that’s going on here.’
This photo is especially symbolic as it was taken on the site originally chosen for London’s third airport in the late 1960s, when British red kites faced extinction. Opposition to the airport and the reintroduction of red kites to the UK means the birds now fly freely and Owen could snap this stunning image.
‘It’s not unusual to see me leaving the house at dawn or lying in a hedge at 9.30 at night waiting to take that perfect shot,’ says Owen. ‘I sent in this image as I think it’s unique. I feel very proud that one of the images taken on my grandparents’ farm was so successful’.
Judge Jari Peltomaki, an acclaimed wildlife photographer specialising in birds, said of the image, ‘The kite is looking straight at the camera and the aeroplane is perfectly positioned. All this against the white sky makes this image a winner. The photographer must have worked hard to get this image – and when you work hard you might just get very lucky one day.’
The winning images were judged by a panel of industry-recognised professionals. The images, submitted by professional and amateur photographers alike, were selected for their creativity, artistry and technical complexity.