WPY 2011

Photograph Details

Specially commended 2011

Animal Portraits

Stefano Unterthiner, Italy

Arrangement of swans

Stefano spent six weeks at Lake Kussharo, in Hokkaido, Japan, before he found the perfect conditions to portray the winter gathering of whooper swans. One night, wind swept the snow across the surface of the frozen lake. The resulting snow crust was so hard that, though the 150 or so swans had walked all over it, their footprints could barely be seen. 'I wanted the swans to look as though they'd been 'painted' on top of the snow,' says Stefano. Lying on the ice for several hours, he experimented with compositions using parts of their bodies against the white canvas as graphic elements. The final touch was to increase the contrast and brightness slightly during processing.

Technical specification

Nikon D3 + 24-70mm lens; 1/320 sec at f16; ISO 1000.

Lake Kussharo, Hokkaido, Japan: latitude 43.6038, longitude 144.325 Lake Kussharo, Hokkaido, Japan: latitude 43.6038, longitude 144.325

Lake Kussharo, Hokkaido, Japan

Intellectual property rights to all WPY images are retained by the photographers. Reproduction without prior written consent constitutes an actionable infringement. For usage enquiries please contact us.

Sign up to receive emails from the Natural History Museum about events and exhibitions, including Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Stefano Unterthiner, Italy

Stefano works with his wife Stéphanie, with whom he founded the publishing house Ylaios and created The Little Wild Gallery, his personal photography gallery in the Forte di Bard (Italy). He was recently chosen by the Valle d'Aosta region to endorse their ecotourism project VIVA. Since 2009, he has regularly collaborated with National Geographic magazine.

  • Cat attack
  • Crane perfection
  • Illusion
  • Spirit of the mountains
  • A vision of self
  • Last glance
  • No man’s land
  • A taste of humanity
  • Portrait of Nona
  • Where yakis end up