Ten of the Best from the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition

| 29 August 2012
In Pictures: Ten of the Best from the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, opening at the Natural History Museum, London on October 19 2012...

More than 50 commended and specially commended images from this year's Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition have been revealed by the Natural History Museum.
Co-owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide, the fiercely contested competition has attracted more than 48,000 entries from 98 countries.

The images will debut in the exhibition at the Natural History Museum, before embarking on a UK and international tour.

In the meantime here’s our selection of ten of the best.

Treading water, Charlie Hamilton James (UK). Commended

a photo of an otter's head emerging from the surface of the water
© Charlie Hamilton James / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012
While making a film about giant otters in Cocha Salvador, Manu National Park, Peru, Charlie got to know this youngster well. "He was full of personality," says Charlie. "These animals have a lot of attitude."

The portrait of the four-month-old cub was taken lying down in his boat, and the cub was as curious about Charlie as Charlie was about him, craning up its neck while treading water.

Caught in the act, Hannah Bedford (UK), Commended.

a photograph of a fox on top of a chicken coup with feathers in its mouth
© Hannah Bedford / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012
"There was a commotion in the garden," says Hannah, "and this was what was causing it." The fox had killed all four hens in the chicken run and was in the process of eating one of them.

Hannah dashed in to get her camera, and caught the fox still on top of the hen house, mouth full of feathers, frozen in fear at seeing the family of humans. "I loved seeing a fox so close up," adds Hannah, "but we don’t keep chickens any more."

Fly-by drinking, Ofer Levy (Israel/Australia), Specially commended

a photograph of a bat swooping to take a drink from a lake
© Ofer Levy / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012
The grey-headed flying fox is the largest bat in Australia – and one of the most vulnerable. Ofer spent several days in Parramatta Park in New South Wales photographing the bat’s extraordinary drinking behaviour.

“At dusk, it swoops low over the water, skimming the surface with its belly and chest,” he says. “Then, as it flies off, it licks the drops off its wet fur.”

To photograph this in daylight, Ofer had to be in the right position on a very hot day.

“This required standing in chest-deep water with the camera and lens on a tripod for three hours a day for about a week in temperatures of more than 40 degrees.”

The lion pack, David Hall (USA), Commended

a photo of sea lions underwater
© David Hall / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012
David had tried many times to get close-ups of Steller sea lions – large and very active mammals that can grow up to an impressive four metres in length and weigh more than a ton.

On this particular winter day, he got more than he bargained for. Waiting patiently off Hornby Island, British Columbia, with appalling visibility, he suddenly realised he wasn’t alone. There were at least 30 huge, inquisitive sea lions, swimming ever closer through the gloomy, green water.

As their numbers increased, they grew bolder, and soon they were tugging on his arms and legs, and pushing him about. “The situation was potentially dangerous,” says David, who was diving alone. “So I grabbed a few hasty shots, without checking camera settings or even looking through the viewfinder, and then made a sharp exit.

"That night in my bunk, I couldn’t sleep. All I could see were eyes staring at me in the dark.”

Relaxation Jasper Doest (The Netherlands), Commended

a close up photograph of a monkey with eyes closed and ice droplets on its fur
© Jasper Doest / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012
In winter, Japanese macaques in the Jigokudani Valley of central Japan congregate in the hot-spring pools, to stay warm and to socialise. The colder it gets in the mountains, the more of them head for the pools, as do humans.

Jasper found about 30 macaques enjoying a steamy soak, their heads covered in fresh snow. “The warm water has a very relaxing effect on the monkeys, and most of them were asleep.”
He watched with delight as this youngster became increasingly drowsy and eventually closed its eyes. “It’s such an honour when an animal trusts you enough to fall asleep in front of you,” says Jasper.

“I used a close-up shot to capture the moment of tranquillity and to emphasise the human likeness in both face and pleasure.”

In the light of dawn, Frits Hoogendijk (South Africa), Commended

a photograph of a lion sniffing the air in the morning
© Frits Hoogendijk / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012
The pride hadn’t eaten for several days. They were hungry, and a hunt was very likely. A blanket of fog lay thickly over the Okavango Delta’s Duba Plains, Botswana, and the dawn light was very low.

It was hard to make out anything, but fortunately the lions were still lying where Frits had left them the evening before. A short while later, the females set off to hunt.

“I wanted to photograph one out in the open, in the wet and misty weather. So we positioned the vehicle where they might walk towards us. When this lioness stopped by a tuft of grass and peered into the distance, it was perfect.

"I love the intense green, the drops of dew on the grass and the soft light and detail on her body. Her focused gaze captures the energy and intensity of a hunt that hasn’t yet happened.”

Woodland magic, Andrés Miguel (Spain), Commended

a photo of a misty forest with toadstools and leaf mulch in the foreground
© Andrés Miguel / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012
It was a cold, foggy, drizzly day – perfect conditions for searching for and photographing the many types of fungi pushing up through the fallen leaves on the forest floor of Los Alcornocales Natural Park in Andalucía, southern Spain.

"It had been a very wet year, and the atmosphere in the woodland was wonderful," says Andrés. "I love photographing fly agaric fungi, but I’d never tried using a wideangle lens to capture the perspective in this way before."

To do so required spending some time lying in the leaf-litter in the rain, not just to get on eye-level with the fruiting bodies but also to show the overarching, ancient, pollarded Andalucían oak in the background.

The fungal fruiting bodies are produced by a vast web of mycelium threads – the main body of the fungus – spread through the soil and leaf-litter and living in association with trees, in this case, birch.

A movement of trees, Cezariusz Andrejczuk (Poland), Commended

a blurred photograph of tall poplar trees bending in the breeze
© Cezariusz Andrejczuk / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012
Cezariusz is fascinated by creating what he calls "movances" – images of stationary subjects made by moving the camera in various ways, a style derived from his work as a film cameraman.

He frequently travels in his home area, Podlasie in eastern Poland, with the sole purpose of taking movances, especially of trees.

For this picture, he says, “I first searched for the most beautiful silver birches in the region,”. Then, from the train, he used a long exposure to achieve a series of images, moving the camera in the direction of travel. For Cezariusz, such pictures “reveal the underlying and mysterious vibrations of nature”.

Midnight snack, Alexander Badyaev (Russia / USA), Specially commended

an interior night photograph of a kitchen with a mouse taking food from a hob
© Alexander Badyaev / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012
Alexander’s research cabin in the Blackfoot Valley, Montana, USA, is permanently occupied. But not by him. He just goes there every so often to work. Instead, a range of forest creatures makes full use of the shelter and food remains. He doesn’t see much of them, but there are always signs, particularly in the kitchen.

“I had long suspected that a family of mice was living under my cooker and tasting my food,” he says.

“Then, late one evening, I returned to retrieve a peanut-buttered slice of bread I’d left briefly in the kitchen and discovered a deer mouse sampling it. When it disappeared into the hob, I grabbed my camera, quickly put a flash on the shelf behind the cooker, and when the mouse popped up again, shot a single frame.

"It took much longer to convince myself to finish my snack.”

Lookout for lions, Charlie Hamilton James (UK), Specially Commended

a photograph of two cheetahs on a hill seated apparently symmetrically, back to back
© Charlie Hamilton James / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012
Charlie was filming lions around the Gol Kopjes area of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania when he came across these cheetahs. They, too, were watching lions.

“Once the danger had gone, they relaxed into a gloriously symmetrical pose, in the middle of a curved rock, under a symmetry of clouds, crowned by a perfectly positioned small cloud at the top," he says.

"Normally when taking wildlife pictures, everything conspires against the photographer, but with this picture it was the reverse. Everything worked in harmony.”

The cheetahs stayed posed for only a few minutes and afterwards, as though on cue, went straight to sleep. Charlie chose to photograph them with a converted infrared camera, which in bright sunlight makes an azure sky dark and dramatic.

Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year is owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide.
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