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Press release

Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2006 winners announced

Winning image to take centre stage in exhibition at the Natural History Museum

Exhibition open to the public: 21 October 2006 - 29 April 2007

The winners of this year's Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition are to be announced on Wednesday 18 October 2006, at a special private viewing at the Natural History Museum, London.

Göran Ehlmé of Sweden will be awarded Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2006 for his image Beast of the sediment and Rick Stanley, 17, of the USA will be named Shell Young WildlifePhotographer of the Year 2006 for his image The dilemma. 

The award-winning images for 2006 are:
  • Eric Hosking Award - Serkan Günes of Turkey/Sweden with a portfolio of six images
  • Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife - Stig Frode Olsen of Norway with Eider lift-off
  • Animals in Their Environment - Jan Vermeer of The Netherlands with Coconut crab going up
  • Animal Behaviour: Birds - Vincent Munier of France with Snowy landing
  • Animal Behaviour: Mammals - Göran Ehlmé of Sweden with Beast of the sediment
  • Animal Behaviour: All Other Animals - Andre Seale of Brazil/USA with Turtle grooming
  • The Underwater World - Michael AW of Singapore with The great mimic
  • Animal Portraits - Tibor Dombovári of Hungary with Great barracuda
  • In Praise of Plants - Dirk Heckmann of Germany with Lily leaf
  • Urban and Garden Wildlife - Igor Shpilenok of Russia with Still life and bear
  • Creative Visions of Nature - Juhani Kosonen of Finland with Dewdrops
  • The World in Our Hands - Jocke Berglund of Sweden with Hurricane tree
  • Wild Places - Bernard van Dierendonck of The Netherlands with Dune
  • 15-17 years old - Rick Stanley of the USA with The dilemma
  • 11-14 years old - Péter Kovács of Hungary with Robin in a spin
  • 10 years and under - Nils Grundmann of Germany with Pelican glare
Winning image

The winning image, of a walrus whipping up the sediment at the bottom of the sea as it gorges on bivalve shells, was among over 18,000 entries from 55 countries. The Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition is the world's largest and most prestigious wildlife photographic competition, jointly owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine and sponsored by Shell.

'It's got everything, the feel of the picture is interesting, your attention goes straight to the eye. A very simple graphic image showing interesting behaviour' said chairman of the judges, Mark Carwardine.  Judge, Andy Mclane added, 'You get a real sense that you're seeing something you've never seen before. Epic. You could spend years trying to get this shot.'

Like most bottom-feeders, the walrus has messy table manners. Gorging on bivalve shells, it first uses its facial bristles to brush away the sediment. Then it roots around like a pig with its snout, or beats a flipper, to whip up the sediment, which is what this stunning image captures. Swimming with this huge beast off northeast Greenland, Göran took more than 400 images with his new digital camera.

This meant he wasn't limited to 36 before needing to surface to change film. The walrus, though, had to surface for air every four or five minutes. Hours later, after shooting from every angle, 'the moment came', says Göran. 'The walrus looked round, and we made eye contact.' It took Göran years of studying walrus behaviour before considering diving with them. 'At first I was very nervous,' he says, 'but now I know how to approach them safely and respectfully'. An underwater cameraman, Göran has 24 years of diving experience with 1,500 dives. This is the first time he has entered the competition.

The dilemma

The dilemma by 17-year-old Rick Stanley shows a Hispaniolan treefrog, which had been caught in the jaws of a green vine snake. While on an expedition with a group of naturalists in the Dominican Republic, Rick wandered off with his Dominican friend Rubio to look for wildlife in the forest. 'Suddenly,' says Rick, 'we heard a loud squeaking'. Rubio was the first to discover its source - a distressed Hispaniolan treefrog, which had been caught by a green vine snake. 'I photographed the drama as the frog dangled in front of me, but Rubio was unable to resist helping the victim and gently touched the snake, which promptly dropped its meal and slithered away along the branches.' The frog, seemingly unaffected by the snake's mild venom, hopped off. Rick was left wondering whether it would have been morally better to let the snake have its meal - and, indeed, if it would have succeeded in swallowing such a large frog had it been left to try.

Rick started taking photographs of nature at eight when he received his first camera and by the age of 12 one of his images had been published in a book about the birds of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. In 2004 his image of harlequin ducklings in Denali National Park was highly commended in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. 

All the judges agreed that Rick's image was a unanimous winner. Tim Flach commented, 'This works on several different levels. On a cursory glance the frog appears to be jumping, but then you notice the snake has grabbed it… then you look at the frog and it seems to be smiling! It's a complete contradiction.'

Beast of the sediment and The dilemma will join the other category winners in the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, which displays all 92 winning, specially and highly commended images from the 2006 competition. The exhibition opens to visitors 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.

The Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition

The Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, 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 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. 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.

The prize-winning pictures will feature in a special souvenir magazine free with the November issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine (on sale October 19). 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.

Photographers inspired by the 2006 winners have until the end of March 2007 to submit their entries to next year's competition. Entry forms will be available in the February issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine (on sale 18 January), from the Natural History Museum (020 7942 5015) and through the web, www.nhm.ac.uk/wildphoto .

Ends

Notes for editors
Mandatory credit: 'The Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, and is sponsored by Shell'.

Royal Dutch Shell plc is incorporated in England and Wales, has its headquarters in The Hague and is listed on the London, Amsterdam and New York stock exchanges. Shell companies have operations in more than 145 countries with businesses including oil and gas exploration and production, production and marketing of Liquefied Natural Gas and Gas to Liquids, manufacturing, marketing and shipping of oil products and chemicals and renewable energy projects including wind and solar power. For further information, please visit  www.shell.com  Shell is committed to supporting global diversity - through the promotion of knowledge and support of biodiversity conservation.  For more information, visit www.shell.com/biodiversity

The two overall winning titles, Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Shell Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, are selected from the category winners.

The 12 adult entry categories are:

Animals in Their Environment, Animal Behaviour: Birds, Animal Behaviour: Mammals, Animal Behaviour: All Other Animals, Animal Portraits, In Praise of Plants, Creative Visions of Nature, The World in Our Hands, Nature in Black and White, Urban and Garden Wildlife and Wild Places. The Underwater World category is supported by Project AWARE Foundation (International).

The two special awards are the Eric Hosking Award - given for the best portfolio of six images taken by a photographer in the age range 18-26 - and the Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife - given for the best image of a species officially listed in the 2005 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The Shell Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition is open to photographers aged 17 years and under, in three age categories: 10 years and under, 11-14 years and 15-17 years.

Microsoft Corporation is the digital technology sponsor for the competition.

The 2006 judges are: Mark Carwardine, (chairman) zoologist, writer and photographer; Laura Barwick, freelance picture editor; Rosamund Kidman Cox, editor and writer; Wanda Sowry, picture researcher BBC Wildlife Magazine; Emilie Marsh, picture editor, Getty Images; Paul Lund, photographer, Natural History Museum; Tim Flach, photographer; Rob Sheppard, group editorial director, Outdoor Photographer, PCPhoto, Digital Photo Pro magazines; Colin Prior, landscape photographer and author; Sophie Stafford, editor, BBC Wildlife Magazine; Manuel Presti, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2005; Norbert Wu, underwater photographer and film-maker; Staffan Widstrand, photographer and writer; Andy Mclane, creative partner, Tequila London.

For more information about Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 16, published by the BBC, please contact Edward Griffiths at EGriffiths@randomhouse.co.uk/ +44 (0) 207 840 8628

Visitor information:
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
Website: www.nhm.ac.uk/wildphoto

The Natural History Museum Press Office
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Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7942 5354
Email: wildpress@nhm.ac.uk