A luminous Portuguese man o' war has floated onto our horizon to light up the last days of summer and herald the countdown to October's big reveal of all 100 winning images in the 50th Willdlife Photographer of the Year competition. Tickets for the 2014 exhibition have also just gone on sale.
Sailing by: Matthew Smith. Finalist in the Invertebrates category. Photographing at dawn's high tide in New South Wales, Matt used fibre-optic snoots to pinpoint the light and bring out the luminosity and beauty of an often unappreciated creature. Despite wearing a wet suit, he didn't avoid getting stung. Select images to enlarge.
The enigmatic shot (above) of a Portuguese man o' war, taken by Matthew Smith at sunrise in the strong winds and coastal waters off Australia's New South Wales, is one of the 100 fnalists chosen from almost 42,000 entries and will be the face of the WPY 2014 exhibition. Soon its presence will be felt in many London underground stations, around the Museum, and beyond to announce the opening of the exhibition here on 24 October.
Snake eyes: Marc Montes. Finalist in the 11-14 Years category. Marc took this skilful shot while trekking in a forest near his home in northern Spain. To snatch the portrait of the quick-moving three-foot snake, he used a wide aperture for a narrow depth of field.
A large Spanish grass snake's staring eyes, a Daubenton's bat snuggled in an abandoned German WWII bunker in Poland - taking a breath just once every 90 minutes - and a crowd of migrating cranes in a Rajasthan village are among several other wildlife wonders revealed now from the first finalists announced.
Lukasz Bozycki: Winter hang-out. Finalist in the Mammals category. Lukasz spent a week in an abandoned German WWII bunker in northern Poland photographing hibernating Daubenton's bats. He captured the frozen eeriness here with a cool-white balance camera setting and a flashlight on one bat on the ceiling.
This year of course is special for WPY. We celebrate the 50th competition, we launched our first ever People's Choice Award (which has received tens of thousands of votes to date), the exhibition will run a lot longer (all the way to next August), there are some great exclusive events coming up with big names in the photography world, and we have new categories to enjoy. I'm particularly intrigued to see the winning entries in the new mobile and timelapse awards.
The elegant crowd: Jasper Doest. Finalist in the Black and White category. Captivated by cranes and their migratory behaviour, Jasper took this on the roof of a friend's house in the village of Khichan in Rajasthan, where the demoiselle cranes flocked to feed. In black and white, the size and dynamics of the flock are emphasised.
We must wait now until October to discover who will be the 100 finalists and the overall winner of the 50th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Only the panel of judges (below), who came to their decision in May following a rigorous selection process, already know all.
Watch this space and feel the tension mount. The overall winner and all the finalists will be announced at the prestigious awards ceremony held on the evening of 21 October.