Greg du Toit's 'once-in-a-lifetime shot' Essence of elephants took top prize tonight at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013, with 14-year-old Udayan Rao Pawar crowned Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for Mother's little headful.
Chair of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year judging panel Jim Brandenburg described Greg du Toit's winning portrait as capturing a 'unique moment'.
'Greg's image immediately catapults us to African plains,' Brandenburg said. 'This image stood out for both its technical excellence and the unique moment it captures. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime shot.'
Du Toit spent 10 years on a quest for the perfect portrayal of an elephant herd. His goal was 'to throw caution to the wind,' he said, 'to abandon conventional photographic practices in an attempt to capture a unique elephant portrait'.
He took the winning shot of African elephants on the Northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana. It beat 43,000 entries from 96 countries.
'Beautiful and thought-provoking', Mother's little headful, taken on the banks of the Chambal River, India, won the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 © Udayan Rao Pawar (India).
Fourteen-year-old Udayan Rao Pawar took his winning shot on the banks of the Chambal River in Madhya Pradesh, India, an area increasingly under threat from illegal sand mining and fishing.
Rao Pawar camped out overnight near a nesting colony of gharial crocodilians to capture his early morning shot. There are only around 200 gharials left in the wild. The Chambral Rivers is the gharials' last stronghold, but overhunting and destruction of the habitat through dam building has reduced their range significantly.
'When dawn broke, I saw this scene,' Rao Pawar said. 'The mother rose to the surface from the murky depths of the river in response to the guttural calls of the hatchlings, which then rushed towards her and climbed on her head.'
Judge Tui De Roy, a naturalist and wildlife photographer, said of the image, 'The composition and timing of Udayan's photograph is perfect. The mother's gaze seems directed at you, appealing to you to let her live and thrive in peace. This image is beautiful and thought-provoking, but at the same time wonderfully playful.'
You can see the grand title winners and all 100 finalists in the exhibition opening at the Museum on Friday 18 October.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 gallery, tour, exhibition and tickets