Media preview: 19 October 2006, 10.00-13.00
Exhibition open to the public: 21 October 2006 - 29 April 2007
Seven images including one taken by 14-year-old Fergus Gill and one taken by 17-year-old Luke Marazzi have today been highly commended in this year's Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. These diverse images were selected from nearly 18,000 entries in the world's largest and most prestigious wildlife photographic competition.
The highly commended images will join the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, which displays all 92 winning photographs from the 2006 competition. The exhibition opens to visitors in London at the Natural History Museum on Saturday 21 October 2006 and runs until 29 April 2007. It will then tour across the country and five continents after its London debut.
'This is a fabulous opportunity to have a first glimpse of some of the best photographs from this year's competition,' said Deborah Sage, Competition Manager. 'The winning images celebrate the beauty and diversity of nature caught through the artistry and dedication of each photographer.'
Every picture tells a story, and each image in the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is captioned to reveal the tale of how and why it was taken. For most wildlife photographers, raising awareness of the threats faced by animals, plants and habitats is just as important as capturing the beauty of a moment with perfect composition and timing.
Moss mimic - Image number 19
Pete Oxford, originally from Torquay, UK (now living in Ecuador)
Looking like an extra from a sci-fi movie, this katydid, related to the grasshopper, has taken natural selection to new heights. In a camouflaged ensemble resembling twigs, mosses and lichens, it blends perfectly with the branch, from its twig-like abdomen right down to its crinkled antennae. It's ideal for fooling visually orientated predators such as birds and monkeys. 'The katydid was feeding on the moss when I discovered it,' says Pete, who was photographing in the cloudforest of Mindo, on the western slopes of the Andes in Ecuador. 'It made me marvel at the level of mimicry and camouflage, especially at insect level, that has evolved in this incredibly species-rich habitat.'
Flight of the albatross - Image number 20 (embargoed until 19 October)
Pat Douglass from Cumbria, UK
Friend to the sailor and icon of the long-distance traveller, an albatross can soar for thousands of kilometres without touching land. South of the Falkland Islands off the tip of South America, on a ship heading for South Georgia, Pat was enjoying a calm, sunny afternoon on deck, 'trying to photograph birds as they skimmed along the water, rising and falling on the air currents at the stern'. As this black-browed albatross dipped close to the water, its wave-rippled reflection provided the extra dimension she was after. 'It was only the second day at sea with many more to come,' explains Pat, 'but I knew I had caught an image symbolic of my journey in the Southern Ocean'. It is also an image few may be able to photograph in the future. So many albatrosses have died on the hooks of longline fisheries that the species is now highly endangered.
Rival kings - Image number 28 (embargoed until 19 October)
Andy Rouse from Winchester, UK
Christmas morning on the Falkland Islands, in the South Atlantic Ocean, was bright and beautiful. 'On the beach I met this squabbling threesome,' says Andy, 'and ended up spending four hours with them, as their antics made me laugh so much'. The penguin on the left is the female. The two males are squabbling over her by slapping each other with their flippers. 'Kings are such cool penguins,' adds Andy, 'but it's the emperors who get all the media attention by hanging out in winter blizzards for months on end. The kings are far more active, though, and therefore much more interesting to photograph.'
Snappers in synchrony - Image number 37 (embargoed until 19 October)
Alexander Mustard from Southampton, UK
Swimming off the edge of a coral atoll into the big blue is exciting for a diver. But it's less exciting for fish high on the menu of local predators. Guraidhoo Corner off South Malé Atoll, in the Maldives, is outside the reef and attracts many reef sharks. Paddletail snappers in this exposed environment respond to anything bigger than them, including a human diver, by bunching into a tight, defensive ball. 'The shape of the formation continually morphed as the fish jostled for position,' says Alex. 'I waited for the fish to create different shapes and took a series of frames. When they formed this perfect sphere, I knew I had an interesting picture.'
Big fish, little fishes - Image number 40
Gavin Parsons from Sawbridgeworth, UK
The world's largest fish - whale sharks, which can be up to 20 metres long - gather off Mafia Island, Tanzania, between November and January. They come to filter-feed on the masses of plankton there. Local fishermen use them to locate shoals of small fishes, which shelter around them, and Gavin used fishing boats to locate the giants. 'We found a shark being shadowed by a couple of boats,' says Gavin. 'It moved under our boat and just hung there, possibly sheltering from the glare. As I slipped into the sea and it lifted its huge head, the little fishes fled for fear of being chased to the surface.'
Plover at dusk - Image number 85
Fergus Gill from Perthshire, UK
While photographing one evening on a beach on the Isle of Luing, Scotland, Fergus encountered a ringed plover that seemed far more approachable than normal. 'I soon realised why,' says Fergus. 'It had a tiny chick, which couldn't have been more than three days old.' Watching from behind a large slate dyke, Fergus saw the plover parent gather the chick under its breast to keep it warm. 'Though a beautiful sight,' says Fergus, 'it didn't make a great photograph'. Then he saw the other parent posing on top of the slate stones, the setting sun behind it. 'This was what I was looking for,' he says. 'The bird had a lovely halo around it, and the black rocks were burnished with gold.'
Leopard stare - Image number 92
Luke Marazzi from West Horsley, UK
'Strength, power, authority, even a touch of malevolence exuded from this big leopard,' says Luke, who was in Samburu National Park in Kenya specifically to see leopards. 'We had passed through a small wooded area at the end of an unsuccessful drive and looked back to see this big male watching us intently.' He was resting on a limb, after having fed on a kill that hung in the nearby tree. His mesmerizing eyes were, for Luke, 'the key' to this powerful image.
The Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine and sponsored by Shell, is the most successful event of its kind. It is open to amateur and professional photographers, and this year a panel of wildlife and photography experts scrutinised entries from over 55 countries for their composition and originality.
The competition showcases the very best photographic images of nature to a worldwide audience, displaying the splendour, drama and variety of life on Earth and inspiring people to care for its future.
It also aims to show the artistry involved in wildlife photography and encourage a new generation of photographers to produce visionary and evocative interpretations of nature.
An exclusive selection of highly commended pictures will be previewed in the October issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine (on sale 28 September). The prize-winning pictures will feature in a special souvenir magazine free with the November issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine (on sale 19 October). All the winning and commended images will also be published by the BBC in a commemorative book, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 16, priced £25, available from the Museum Shop, through BBC Wildlife Magazine, bbcshop.com and all good retailers.
Notes for editors
Admission: £6, £3.50 concessions, £15 family, free to under fives, Members and Patrons
Venue: the Natural History Museum
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 10.00-17.50
Visitor enquiries: 020 7942 5000 Monday-Friday, 020 7942 5011 Saturday and Sunday
For photographs, to arrange interviews or for further information, please contact the Press Office:
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7942 5156 / 5654
Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7942 5354