Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Part of the annual cultural calendar for many, the renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition from the Natural History Museum is a glorious lens into a world that we often don’t see. The complexities of our natural world and all who inhabit it become starkly apparent through beautiful shots of extraordinary spectacles and amazingly intricate activities, and the competition is a celebration of the talent and passion of the artists who participate – all 50,000 of them in 2016.

This year they set photographers the task of telling tell visual stories about society’s interactions with the natural world. Winner Tim Laman, from America, was chosen for his image Entwined Lives, which frames a critically endangered Bornean orangutan above the Indonesian rainforest. Nosy Neighbour by Sam Hobson in the UK captures the curious nature of the urban fox, whilst in India leopards can be just as familiar, as the glowing streets of Mumbai slums show in Nayan Khanolkar’s shot The Alley Cat.

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Much more a familiar a sight, but rarely seen in such a way, Gideon Knight, 16, from the UK, won the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year title for his image of a moonlit crow on a sycamore tree in London’s Valentine’s Park, an image with eerie beauty with its sprawling dark branches and silhouette against the full moon. The Moon and the crow is an image that is rightly referred to as a poem by its taker.

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I’m always struck by the tenacity and patience that photographers have. Many go to extraordinary lengths to capture their image, including push ups to keep warm in the Antartic, hang gliding with their equipment, or months hiding out. But there’s also those moments of perfect serendipity. Roberto Bueno was looking to capture some rare birds, but when they failed to show, turned his attention to a small hair grass species and was struck by its ethereal beauty, resulting in this beautiful Grass at sunrise.

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Once again the exhibition amazes, delights, and educates, bringing its audience closer to the world in which they live. Beautifully.

At Bristol M Shed until 5 March 2017.

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