Termite tossing © Willem Kruger

First look: Wildlife Photographer of the Year 52

31 August 2016

Discover the stories behind the images in a first look at this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

Using the tip of its massive beak-like forceps to pick up termites, a hornbill flicks insects into the air in the above photograph by Willem Kruger.

Foraging beside a track in South Africa's semi-arid Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the southern yellow-billed hornbill was so deeply absorbed in snacking on termites that it gradually worked its way to within six metres of where Willem watched from his vehicle.

Though widespread, this southern African hornbill can be shy, and as it feeds on the ground it can be difficult for a photographer to get a clear shot among the scrub.

The bird feeds this way because its tongue isn't long enough to pick up insects. Though its huge bill restricts its field of vision, it can see the bill's tip and so can pick up insects with precision.

What Willem wanted was the hornbill's precision toss, which he caught after a 40-minute, 40°C wait.

Swarming under the stars

Swarming under the stars © Imre Potyó

Swarming under the stars © Imre Potyó, taken in Hungary

 

The chaotic swarming of mayflies on Hungary's River Rába is the subject of Imre Potyó's stunning image.

For a few days each year - at the end of July or beginning of August - vast numbers of the adult insects emerge from the Danube tributary, where they developed as larvae.

On this occasion, the mayflies emerged just after sunset. At first they stayed close to the water, but once they had mated, the females flew higher.

They filled the air with millions of silken wings, smothering Imre and his equipment in the race upstream to lay their eggs on the water's surface.

Then they died, exhausted, after just a few hours. This flight upstream is crucial to make up for the subsequent downstream drift of the eggs and nymphs.

To capture both the mayflies and the stars, Imre created an in-camera double exposure, adjusting the settings as the exposure happened. A flashlight added the finishing touch, tracing the movement of the females on their frantic mission.

Splitting the catch

Splitting the catch

Splitting the catch © Audun Rikardsen, taken in Norway

 

Sometimes it's the fishing boats that look for killer whales and humpbacks, hoping to locate the shoals of herring that migrate to these Arctic Norwegian waters.

But the whales have also recently started to follow these boats. This image by Auden Rikardsen shows a large male killer whale feeding on herring that have been squeezed out of the boat's closing fishing net.

Whales sometimes try to steal the fish, causing damage to the gear. They can also become entangled in the nets - sometimes fatally, especially in the case of humpbacks.

The search for solutions has begun, including better systems for releasing any whales that get trapped.

Having grown up in a small coastal fishing community in northern Norway, Audun has always been fascinated by the relationship between humans and wildlife. A homemade underwater camera allows him take split‑level pictures in low light. 

Visit the exhibition

Visit the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition and enjoy the world's best nature photography exhibited on backlit panels.

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Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Visit the exhibition to see 100 exceptional images, revealing the astonishing diversity of life on our planet.