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The search is now on for the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 as the new competition opens today.

 

As ever, this popular and prestigious competition looks for outstanding wildlife photography from both talented amateurs and established professionals, young and old. Images must faithfully represent the natural world while showing technical and artistic creativity over the 18 categories.

 

This year we've got a few category award changes - so look out for these before you enter the competition. We also have a more diverse range of competition judge, 13 and counting as I write this.

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Pelican perspective, winner of 2011's Eric Hosking special award embodies the technical genius and artistic integrity this category is all about. From his kitchen table, photographer Bence Mate planned how he would achieve this image of Dalmation pelicans at water-level. He constructed his own catamaran-style floating photo system and used a fish-eye lens to achieve the remarkable shot taken on Greece's Lake Kerkini. Now 27 years old, Bence steps out of the Eric Hosking Portfolio award age group leaving the frame clear for others.

The Eric Hosking award becomes The Eric Hosking Portfolio Award this year and this special award looks set to be more hotly contested than ever before. This category is open to photographers between 18 to 26 years old, who must submit a portfolio of images that they think represents their best work. Bence Mate's 6 images won this special award in 2011 - he was of course 2010's overall winner too - but now at the grand old age of 27, Bence moves out of this category to make room for new contenders.

 

The Eric Hosking Portfolio award, named after this great photographer whose distinguished career spanned over 60 years, is particularly special because it bridges the gap between the young and the adult photographers in the competition. It's an award that celebrates a body of work which heralds a longevity in a developing photographic career, as well as seeking images that fuse technical innovation with artistic integrity. Bence's Pelican perspective (above) is probably the single image in his winning Eric Hosking portfolio that truly embodies the latter.

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Sandra Bartocha tells how she captured her beautiful snowdrops at sunset: 'I could hear great crested grebes calling. I took an in-camera double exposure image, with one sharp exposure and then one much softer one, so the scene would appear as dreamy as it felt.'

Another award worth a mention is In Praise of Plants and Fungi which for the 2012 competition becomes the more atmospheric-sounding Botanical Realms, exemplified in the 2011 winning image, Harbinger of spring by Sandra Bartocha (above).

 

Female photographers are still somewhat under-represented in the wildlife photographer of the year competition, so it's good to see Sandra's work at the forefront of this category award. And girl power is creeping in too among the young ones. For some reason I imagined this ferocious bug was photographed by a boy. But no, it's the work of a 10-year old Malaysian girl, Hui Yu Kim who's into macro-photography. She liked the look of this Alien looking tropical rainforest beetle (below).

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Hui Yu's Alien won the 10 Years and Under 2011 award. Hui is keen on macro-photography and chose the most colourful animal to take a portrait of. 'It had a strange look, like an alien, but it wasn't angry. It sat still on the branch all the time,' she says. 'I  want people to know that all creatures, even small ones, count. So don't destroy the forest,' she adds.

And if your work is more focused on documenting the relationship between people and the environment, whether constructive or destructive, then consider submitting your images in the new special award category The World in Our Hands.

 

Find out about the competition on the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year website Closing date for the compeition is 23 February 2012.

 

See the 2011 competition winners in the exhibition at the Natural History Museum here - book tickets in advance online.

 

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