© Robert Irwin, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

In the line of fire: Robert Irwin’s drone image of raging bushfire in Australia wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award

Robert Irwin’s dramatic record of the devastation wreaked in the wake of a bushfire in Northern Australia is the winner of this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award.

From a staggering 55,486 votes from around the world, wildlife photography fans decided the photo, entitled ‘Bushfire’, by the Australian nature photographer was a vital story that needed the spotlight.

After spotting smoke billowing out of the horizon, Robert knew he had a prime opportunity. Launching his drone, he sent it straight over to the location of the fire. With only a few minutes of battery left, he knew he had to act fast. Taking it right into the thick of the smoke, he managed to frame a clear 50:50 shot, with a pristine natural conservation area on one side juxtaposed with the blackened, devastated remains on the other. Taken near the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Cape York, Queensland, the area is of high conservation value and is home to over 30 different ecosystems with many endangered species.

Robert Irwin says, ‘I am incredibly excited to win the Wildlife Photographer of The Year People’s Choice Award. For me, nature photography is about telling a story to make a difference for the environment and our planet. I feel it is particularly special for this image to be awarded, not only as a profound personal honour but also as a reminder of our effect on the natural world and our responsibility to care for it.’

Director of the Natural History Museum, Dr Doug Gurr, says: ‘Robert's image is both stirring and symbolic. Last year the world stood aghast at the devastating wildfires that struck much of Australia, and this photograph depicts just one example of a staggering biodiversity loss caused by the detrimental impacts of climate change, habitat loss and pollution. But it is by no means too late for us to act. I hope those who see this image are enthused to learn more about the problems our natural world faces but also to take action in their daily lives – be it changing dietary or travel habits or even joining a local wildlife volunteering group.’

Selected from a shortlist of 25 images, chosen by the Natural History Museum from over 49,000 images that were submitted for their annual competition, Robert's, and four other photographs, arose as favourites. These five images will be displayed in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London when the Museum reopens. The exhibition will now be open until 1 August 2021.

The four 'Highly Commended' images that won over nature photography enthusiasts include Ami Vitale's heart-warming portrayal of a bond between ranger and rhino in ‘The last goodbye’, the wonderfully composed wintry portrait ‘Hare ball’ from Andy Parkinson, an innovative remote capture of two squirrels in ‘Drey dreaming’ from Neil Anderson and a ‘Close encounter’ between a worried looking Labrador in a car and an enormous moose taken by Guillermo Esteves.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum and offers a truly global platform for amateur and professional photographers alike. Using photography's unique emotive power to engage and inspire audiences, the exhibition shines a light on stories and species around the world and encourages a future of advocating for the planet. The fifty-seventh competition is currently being judged by an esteemed panel of experts, and the winners will be revealed in October 2021.

The Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in London is sponsored by renewable energy company Ørsted and camera manufacturer Leica.

Notes to editors

Please email wildpress@nhm.ac.uk in order to gain access to the presss pack.

Media contact: Josephine Higgins or Alexander Killeen at the Natural History Museum press office.

Email: wildpress@nhm.ac.uk Tel: +44 (0) 20 7942 6110 Mobile: +44 (0) 7799 690151

Wildlife Photographer of the Year channels

Website:                       www.wildlifephotographeroftheyear.com         

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Hashtag: #WPYPeoplesChoice 

Sponsors

About Ørsted 
Orsted logo

Ørsted develops, constructs and operates offshore and onshore wind farms, solar farms, energy storage facilities, and bioenergy plants, and provides energy products to its customers. Globally, Ørsted is the market leader in offshore wind and it is constructing the world’s biggest offshore wind farms off the East Coast of the UK. Its UK offshore wind farms generate enough clean electricity for over three million UK homes. Ørsted ranks as the world’s most sustainable energy company in Corporate Knights' 2021 index of the Global 100 most sustainable corporations in the world and is recognised on the CDP Climate Change A List as a global leader on climate action. Headquartered in Denmark, Ørsted employs 6,179 people, including over 1000 in the UK. Ørsted's shares are listed on Nasdaq Copenhagen (Orsted). In 2020, the group’s revenue was DKK 52.6 billion (EUR 7.1 billion). https://orsted.co.uk/en/About-us

About Leica
Leica logo

Leica stands for craftsmanship, design and experience. With over 100 years of history, the brand represents a beautiful combination of art and engineering with the future of form and functionality. Based in Wetzlar, the original birthplace of Leica, the German company is an internationally operating, premium-segment manufacturer of cameras and sport optics products. Leica’s legendary status is founded on its long tradition of excellence and supreme quality found in their cameras and lenses. Leica are committed to supporting the creation and preservation of iconic photography, past, present and future and the artists behind them. https://uk.leica-camera.com

About Wildlife Photographer of the Year:

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum and offers a truly global platform for amateur and professional photographers alike. The fifty-sixth exhibition will immerse you in the breath-taking diversity of the natural world. Encounter the beauty and fragility of wildlife, see fascinating animal behaviour and get to know extraordinary species, exhibited on 100 stunning lightbox displays. Go deeper and discover the surprising - and often challenging - stories behind the images during a time of environmental crisis. A panel of international experts selected the awarded images from almost 50,000 entries by the world's best photographers. Advance booking is highly recommended for this exhibition. Book online now to guarantee entry. www.wildlifephotographeroftheyear.com        

Wildlife Photographer of the Year products featuring images from the People’s Choice shortlist are available now from the Natural History Museum online shop: http://www.nhmshop.co.uk/wildlife-photographer-of-the-year

About the Natural History Museum:

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited natural history museum in Europe. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.

It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens. The scale of this collection enables researchers from all over the world to document how species have and continue to respond to environmental changes - which is vital in helping predict what might happen in the future and informing future policies and plans to help the planet.

The Museum’s 300 scientists continue to represent one of the largest groups in the world studying and enabling research into every aspect of the natural world. Their science is contributing critical data to help the global fight to save the future of the planet from the major threats of climate change and biodiversity loss through to finding solutions such as the sustainable extraction of natural resources.

The Museum uses its enormous global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet - to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome over five million visitors each year; our digital output reaches hundreds of thousands of people in over 200 countries each month and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 30 million people in the last 10 years.