A colour-infused mandrill and an ominous-looking Japanese warbonnet are just two of the incredible creatures that have beaten out almost 49,000 other wildlife stars to the shortlist. Now you can help decide who will win the People’s Choice Award in the Natural History Museum’s prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
You have 25 images to choose from – starting with this array of captivating photographs.
Behind the lens, the contenders include Ami Vitali, whose 2018 image of Joseph Wachira saying goodbye to Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on the planet, was chosen as the National Geographic best photo of the decade by the Instagram community. Also in the line-up are Mogens Trolle, a Denmark-based zoologist and mammal researcher turned wildlife photographer, and Robert Irwin, 16, an award-winning image-maker whose startling shot of the Australian bush fires captured the imagination of the competition’s selectors.
Voting for the People’s Choice Award ends on 2 February 2021. The winning image will be showcased in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London, until 4 July 2021.
Enjoy the full shortlist here
‘The alpha’ by Mogens Trolle, Denmark
Of all the different primate species that Mogens Trolle has photographed, the mandrill has proved the most difficult to reach as it tends to hide in tropical forests in remote parts of Central Africa. This made the experience of sitting next to this impressive alpha, as he observed his troop above, even more special for Trolle. When a male becomes alpha, he undergoes physical changes that accompany a rise in testosterone levels, and this results in the colours on his snout becoming much brighter. With the loss of status, the colours fade. Trolle used a flash to enhance the vivid colours and textures against the dark forest background.
‘The last goodbye’ by Ami Vitale, USA
Joseph Wachira comforts Sudan, the last male northern white rhino left on the planet, moments before the animal passed away at Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya. Suffering from age-related complications, Sudan died surrounded by the people who had cared for him.
‘Eye to eye’ by Andrey Shpatak, Russia
This Japanese warbonnet was photographed in the north of the Gulf of Oprichnik in the Sea of Japan. These unusual fish lead a territorial lifestyle among the stones and rocks of shallow coastal waters. They use their sharp-edged jaws to snap off sea cucumbers and gastropods. The Japanese warbonnet were once thought to be timid and almost impossible to observe, but curiosity has taken over and they will now often swim right up to divers, who are usually startled by the fish’s extraordinary appearance.
‘Hare ball’ by Andy Parkinson, UK
Andy Parkinson spent five weeks watching the mountain hares near Tomatin in the Scottish Highlands, waiting patiently for any movement – a stretch, a yawn or a shake – which typically came every 30 to 45 minutes. As Parkinson watched, frozen and prostrate, with 50 to 60mph winds surging around him, the cold started to distract and his fingers clasping the icy metal camera body and lens began to burn. Then relief came as this little female moved her body into a perfect spherical shape. A movement of sheer joy. Parkinson craves such moments: the isolation, the physical challenge and, most importantly, time with nature.
‘Border refuge’ by Joseph Dominic Anthony, Hong Kong/UK
Taken within the Frontier Closed Area on the Chinese border, the idea for this photograph came to Joseph Dominic Anthony on a visit to Mai Po Nature Reserve in Hong Kong in 2016. Strictly timed access rules meant Anthony spent years studying tide tables, waiting for the perfect weather. He wanted to convey the story and mood of Mai Po in a single balanced photograph, combining individuals and the behaviour of multiple species in the context of their wider environment, particularly the proximity of encroaching urban development.
‘Drey dreaming’ by Neil Anderson, UK
As the weather grew colder, two Eurasian red squirrels (only one is clearly visible) found comfort and warmth in a box that Neil Anderson had put up in one of the pine trees near his home in the Scottish Highlands. In the colder months, it’s common for the squirrels, even when unrelated, to share dreys. After discovering the box was full of nesting material and in frequent use, Anderson installed a camera and LED light with a diffuser on a dimmer. The box had a lot of natural light so he slowly increased the light to highlight his subjects – and using the WiFi app on his phone he was able to take stills from the ground.
‘Bushfire’ by Robert Irwin, Australia
A fire line leaves a trail of destruction through woodland near the border of the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Cape York, Queensland, Australia. The area is of high conservation significance, with more than 30 different ecosystems found there, and is home to many endangered species. The fires are one of the biggest threats to this precious habitat. Although natural fires or managed burns can be quite important in an ecosystem, when fires are lit deliberately and without consideration, often to flush out feral pigs to hunt, they can rage out of control and have the potential to devastate huge areas.
‘Turtle time machine’ by Thomas Peschak, Germany/South Africa
During Christopher Columbus’s Caribbean voyage of 1494, green sea turtles were said to be so numerous that his ship almost ran aground on them. Today the species is classified as endangered. However, at locations like Little Farmer’s Cay in the Bahamas, green turtles can be observed with ease. An ecotourism project run by fishermen – some of whom used to hunt turtles themselves – uses shellfish scraps to attract the turtles to the dock. Without a time machine back to the past it is impossible to see the pristine turtle population, but Thomas Peschak hopes that this image provides just a glimpse of the bounty the seas once held.
‘Lion king’ by Wim van den Heever, South Africa
As Wim van den Heever watched this huge male lion lying on top of a large granite rock, a cold wind picked up and blew across the vast open plains of the Serengeti, Tanzania. A storm was approaching and, as the last rays of sun broke through the cloud, the lion lifted its head and glanced in the photographer’s direction, giving him the perfect portrait of a perfect moment.
The RPS Journal is available exclusively to members. Join us to receive our award-winning magazine and read more inspiring features. Explore full member benefits here