Tonight, at a star studded awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum, London, the overall winners of the prestigious Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 competition were revealed. The awards ceremony hosts were wildlife expert and Chair of the Judges, Mark Carwardine, and eco lifestyle campaigner and advocate for organic living, Jo Wood.
The coveted title of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year was presented to Daniel Beltrá from Spain for Still life in oil, a haunting image of 8 brown pelicans rescued from an oil spill, from his 6-image story for the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award.
Still life in oil by Daniel Beltra, 2011 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Daniel took his winning image at a temporary bird-rescue facility in Fort Jackson, Louisiana. It’s the final frame in his incredible story of 6 photographs entered in the Wildlife Photojournalist category. Select all images to enlarge them.
Describing his winning image, Daniel says:
‘Crude oil trickles off the feathers of the rescued brown pelicans, turning the white lining sheets into a sticky, stinking mess. The pelicans are going through the first stage of cleaning. They’ve already been sprayed with a light oil to break up the heavy crude trapped in their feathers.'
The sheer simplicity of this powerful image makes it really beautiful and shocking at the same time, ’ said the Chair of the judging panel, Mark Carwardine. He and the international jury of photography experts pored over tens of 1000s of entries earlier in the year to make their winning selection.
The price of oil by Daniel Beltra. The 6-frame winner of the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award 2011. Flying over BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 made Daniel grasp the immensity of the problem. Photographing from a plane, Daniel 'was blown away by the insane colours' of oil gushing to the surface. He captured flashes of fluorescent orange as the boat propellers churned up the dispersant and left paths of clean water through the patches of black oil. Oiled brown pelicans awaiting a second bout of cleaning were for Daniel, 'an icon of the disaster'.
The Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award category was introduced in the 2010 competition and is given to a group of 6 photographs that tell a memorable story, whether about animal behaviour or environmental issues (both positive or negative).
Daniel Beltra reflects on his photographic work and interest: ‘It is in nature’s beauty and complexity that I find my inspiration. While in college in Madrid, I studied biology and forestry and developed a passion for the environment. Over the past two decades, I have honed my focus to concentrate on the need for conservation through photography.
‘Photographing from the air has allowed me to showcase the stark reality of the state of our environment. This perspective reveals a broader context to the beauty and destruction I witness, as well as a delicate sense of scale.’
Mateusz Piesiak from Poland was named 2011 Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his image Pester power above, in the 11–14 Years category. The 14-year-old Mateusz spent so long watching this pester power at work as he crawled along the wet sand off Long Island, New York, he didn’t notice the tide coming in until a big wave washed over him. ‘I managed to hold my camera up high,’ he says. ‘I was cold and wet, but I had my shot.’
Judge Mark Carwardine described the 2011 Young Wildlife Photographer's winning image, Pester power, as ‘Pin sharp, gorgeous subdued light, interesting behaviour, oodles of atmosphere, and beautiful composition. This would make any professional proud – and is doubly impressive for someone so young.’
See the true beauty and power of these images and the other commended and award-winning photographs at the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 exhibition when it opens on Friday 21 October.
Book exhibition tickets online now.
In the meantime feast your eyes on all the 2011 exhibtion photographs on the website's online gallery.