Just a short while ago, at the awards ceremony held here at the Museum, the grand title winners of the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition were announced by hosts Philippa Forrester and Yann Arthus-Bertrand at a gathering of 280 guests. As acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Yann describes, the annual awards ceremony has become 'rather like the Oscars of the world of photography... an event that puts the spotlight on wildlife, showing us how beautiful and strong it can be, but also how fragile.' Both grand title winners won their individual category awards, of which there are 18 varying from single images to stories and portfolios.
Bubble-jetting emperors (above) has made Canada’s Paul Nicklen the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Frozen-fingered, Paul took his shot of frenzied, surging Emperor penguins while immersed in Antarctica’s remote Ross Sea. The image won the Underwater Worlds category award. Select images to enlarge them.
The shimmering blues and bubbles framing the chaotic upward surge of a mass of Emperor penguins in Paul Nicklen’s astonishing underwater shot captivated the judges completely. The sheer energy and life force of Bubble-jetting emperors made Paul the deserving overall 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He waited submerged in the icy waters of the Ross Sea, Antarctica, to capture this scene on camera, climbing into the only likely exit hole to catch the blast of birds whooshing up to the surface to feed their chicks. No stranger to photographing polar regions, Paul is passionate about the creatures that inhabit such isolated and endangered environments.
Competition judge and acclaimed underwater photographer David Doubilet, said: ‘I love this image because it shows perfectly organised, infinite chaos. My eyes linger over it trying to absorb everything that’s going on here.’
Flight paths by British teenager Owen Hearn earned him the title of 2012 Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Owen’s topical and symbolic image of a perfectly poised red kite and ghostly airplane was taken in Bedfordshire. It captures two very different subjects at the right moment in exactly the right place. The image won the 11-14 Years category award.
In contrast, the airborne stillness of British teenager Owen Hearn’s Flight paths shows a poised and resplendent red kite mirroring a distant plane in the skies near his grandparents' farm in Bedfordshire. The judges loved the mastery and metaphor in the image and Owen has become the 2012 Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Owen’s grandparents’ farm is on the site that was nearly chosen as London’s third airport back in the late 1960s. Opposition to the runway was fierce but successful and as a result wildlife is now thriving in this region. The red kite is a particular success story: at one point facing extinction, their numbers have now increased dramatically. Owen says: ‘I sent in this image as I think it’s unique.’
These 2 exceptional images and the other 98 winners taken by the 77 winning photographers can now be viewed in the online gallery on our website. And from this Friday, 19 October, you can see them all close-up as large back-lit installations in the spectacular exhibition here at the Museum.
Another young talent, Finnish 9-year-old Liina Heikkinen hard at work on her bird photographs - one of which, Squabbling jays, is runner-up in the 10 Years and Under category award this year.
And for those of you who, like me, often want to know more about the people behind the pictures, here is a great shot (above) of young Finnish photographer, Liina Heikkinen, on the job. Look out for her brilliant image of Squabbling jays which is runner-up in the 10 Years and Under category award, and one of my favourites of all the winners so far.