These 15 amazing wildlife photographs show the quiet beauty of nature. Striking, brutal moments

An alliance of cheetahs crosses Kenya’s deadly Talek River. In far northern Queensland, Australia, bioluminescent mushrooms glow bright green. In Quito, Ecuador, a deadly battle between two tarantulas and one tarantula-hawk wasp.

Having been run for 57 years by the Natural History Museum in London, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition showcases exceptional nature photography from around the globe — and despite the obvious technical prowess of the photographers, it can be a challenging, unsettling, and often disturbing collection of images to look at, to be honest. They are hauntingly beautiful, just as in nature.

Over 50,000 submissions were received from 95 countries this year. The overall winner will be announced on Oct. 12, and the annual exhibition of the photographs opens on Oct. 15 at the Natural History Museum itself. Here are 15 of the highly commended winners in categories such as animal portraits, behaviour, and underwater, to name a few, as well as images from younger photographers in their teens and under 10.

Be aware that some images contain savage moments.

Jonny Armstrong (U.S.) – “Storm fox”. Animal Portraits is highly commended.
Credit: Jonny Armstrong

The fox spent his time searching the shallows in search of salmon carcasses, sockeye salmon which had been killed after they spawned. Jonny lay on his back, looking for an angle that would allow him to see the bottom of the lake. According to the competition statement, the vixen, one of two red foxes that lived on the small island at Karluk Lake on Alaska’s Kodiak Island was “surprisingly bold”.

He wanted a dramatic portrait and took advantage of the storm’s deepening atmosphere light. He had to set the power of a manual flash to soften the spotlight, just enough to highlight the texture and color of the coat. He hoped she would get closer. His companion, a fellow researcher, raised the diffused flash in his favor. Jonny was captivated by the image and asked for more. Jonny received his studio portrait just moments before it was flooded with rain.

Buddhilini de Soyza (Sri Lanka/Australia): “The great Swim” Highly commended: Behaviour, Mammals span>
Credit: Buddhilini de Soyza

Dilini was afraid that the Tano Bora alliance of male cheetahs jumped into the Talek River in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. The changing climate had caused unseasonable and relentless rains that had caused flooding like no other. The Cheetahs can swim well, even if they are not skilled swimmers. With more prey at their feet, the pair were determined. “Dilini followed them from the other bank for hours as they sought a crossing point,” the statement reads.

Dilini says that the lead cheetah once waded in the river and then turned around. Calmer stretching — possibly with greater danger of lurking Crocodiles — was rejected. She says, “Suddenly, the leader leapt in.” The next three followed and the fifth. Dilini watched as they were swept away in torrents with their faces grimacing. All five of them made it, despite her hopes and to her great relief.

Audun Rikardsen (Norway): “Net Loss” Oceans – The Bigger Picture is highly commended.
Credit: Audun Rikardsen

A slick covered in dead and dying herrings lies on the ocean floor off Norway’s coast, following a fishing boat. After the boat caught too many fish it was unable to close the net and winch up. The purse-seine net broke and released tons of dead and injured animals. The statement states that Audun was aboard a Norwegian coastguard ship, working on a satellite-tag project for killer whales.

The spectacle of waste and carnage was a crime scene for the Norwegian coastguard, who were responsible for monitoring the fishing fleet. Audun’s photos were used as visual evidence during a trial that saw the boat owner convicted and punished with a fine.

Juergen Freund (Germany/Australia): “Mushroom magic.” Highly recommended, plants and fungi
Credit: Juergen Freund

Juergen discovered the ghost fungus on the dead tree of a rainforest in Queensland near his Queensland home. It was on a hot summer night after the monsoon rains. To keep the track straight, he used a torch. However, every few meters he switched it off to check the darkness for the ghostly glow. The statement says that his reward was this group of fruiting bodies, each about the size of a small hand.”

A very few species of fungi can make light this way. It is possible through chemical reactions: Luciferin reacts with the enzyme, luciferase. It is not clear why ghost fungus glows. The light is not produced continuously and does not seem to attract spore-dispersing insects. It may be just a side effect of the fungi metabolism. Juergen sat on the forest floor and took eight exposures of five minutes each. These were taken at various focal points to capture the dark glow. The images were then merged (focus stack) to produce one sharp-focus picture.

Jaime Culebras from Spain, “Natural Magnetism”. Urban Wildlife is highly praised.

Jaime was shocked to see a tarantula-hawk wasp carrying a tarantula on his Quito kitchen floor. He ran for his camera. The statement reads that the four-centimetre long giant wasp was lifting its victim to the refrigerator by the time Jaime returned.

The stings of tarantula hawks, which are deadly when applied to spiders, have been described as some of the most severe on the planet. The hawks eat nectar and pollen but they also feed on tarantulas. Jaime then set his frame to add this temporary addition to his collection after he waited for the wasp to come to eye level with one of his refrigerator magnets.

Laurent Ballesta (France) – “Deep Feelers”. Underwater, highly commended
Credit to Laurent Ballesta

Laurent stumbled upon a remarkable sight in deep waters off France’s Mediterranean coast. It was a community of thousands of Narwhal Shrimps. They weren’t touching their legs, but they were touching their extremely long and mobile antennae. The statement states that it appeared each shrimp could be in contact with their neighbours, and signals might have been being transmitted across an extensive network.”

Research suggests such contact is crucial to shrimps’ social behavior, including their competition and pairing. Laurent was able to reach deep waters (78m down — 256ft) and use helium as an air source (to reduce nitrogen absorption), in order to stalk shrimps, compose images at close quarters, and stay there longer.

Gheorghe Popa from Romania, “Toxic Design” Highly rated, Natural Artistry.
Credit to Gheorghe Popa

Gheorghe was taken by surprise when he saw this eye-catching feature of the Geamana Valley’s small river, which is part of Romania’s Apuseni Mountains. Although he’d been to the area for many years and used his drone to take images of its changing patterns, Gheorghe hadn’t seen such an amazing combination of colors or shapes. These designs, perhaps sharpened by the recent heavy rainfall, are the result of an ugly fact,” the statement reads.

In the 1970s more than 400 people from Geamana had to move to the Rosia Poieni mine, which was exploiting the richest copper ore-gold deposits in Europe. This picturesque valley was transformed into a “tailings pool” containing an acidic mixture that contained pyrite, iron, and other heavy metals. It also had cyanide. The groundwater has been contaminated with these toxic substances, which have also threatened the waterways. Millions of tonnes of toxic waste slowly buried the settlement.

Sergio Marijuan from Spain, “Lynx at the threshold”. Urban Wildlife is highly commended.
Credit: Sergio Marijuan

A young Iberian Lynx stops at the doorway to the abandoned Hayloft, where it was born, in eastern Sierra Morena (Spain). Soon, he will be moving out of his mother’s country. The lynx were once widespread across the Iberian Peninsula in Spain and Portugal. However, there was less than 100 in Spain in 2002 and no in Portugal in 2002. According to the statement, their decline is due to hunting and killing by farmers as well habitat loss.

The Iberian Lynx, although still threatened, have survived extinction thanks to continued conservation efforts, including reintroductions, rewildings, prey boosting, and creation of natural tunnels and corridors. They have only recently begun to benefit from human habitats, despite their increasing numbers. The latest member of a long line that has emerged from the old barn is this individual. Sergio finally got the shot he desired after months of waiting.

Douglas Gimesy from Australia, “A caring and kind hand.” Highly commended in Photojournalism.
Credit to Douglas Gimesy

After receiving special formula milk, a grey-headed, orphaned flying-fox pup is placed on a “mumma” roll, sucking on an empty stomach, and held in Bev’s hand. The statement says that she was only three weeks old at the time when she was discovered on the ground in Melbourne. She was taken to shelter.

The enviable grey-headed flying-fox, which is endemic in eastern Australia, faces threats from heat-stress and the destruction of their forest habitat. They play an important role in pollination and seed dispersal. Their behavior can also lead to conflict, with them getting caught on wires and barbed wires and being electrocuted by power lines. The pup will start to eat fruit and then flower eucalyptus at eight weeks. She will be moved to a creche after a while and trained in flight, then released into the Yarra Bend bat colony.

Jack Zhi (U.S.) – “Up for Grabs” Highly commended. Behaviour: Birds
Credit to Jack Zhi

A juvenile white-tailed kite in southern California grabs a mouse and its father. An experienced bird might have approached from the back (it is easier to coordinate an mid-air transfer when you both move in the same direction), but the youngster with cinnamon streaks had only been flying for two days and had still much to learn,” reads the statement.

Jack needed to get his shot. He had to leave his tripod and grab his camera. This was the culmination of three years worth of work. The action and the circumstances were perfect. The fledgling was unable to catch the mouse, but he circled and grabbed it.

Emelin Dupieux (France) – “Apollo Landing” Highly commended. 11-14 years
Credit: Emelin Dupieux

An Apollo butterfly settles down on an oxeye flower as dusk begins to fall. Emelin had longed to photograph the Apollo. This large mountain butterfly has a wingspan of up 90 millimetres (about 3 1/2 inches). It is now at high risk due to extreme weather and warming conditions.

Emelin was on vacation in Haut-Jura Regional Natural Park on the French-Swiss border. He found himself among alpine meadows filled with butterflies including Apollos. After many adjustments to his settings and focus, Emelin achieved the emblematic image.

“Lockdown chicks” by Gagana Mendiswickramasinghe (Sri Lanka). Highly commended for their 10 year and younger age.
Credit: Gagana Mendis Wickramasinghe

Three parakeet chicks with rose rings emerge from the nest hole to see their father returning with food. Gagana (10 years old), was watching from the balcony of Gagana’s parents’ room in Colombo (Sri Lanka). According to the competition statement, the hole was located at the eye level of the balcony in a dead palm tree in his backyard. His parents deliberately left it standing in order to attract wildlife.”

Gagana, his brother and older brother spent hours watching parakeet families and playing with cameras. They shared lenses and tripods, and were always aware that any noise or movement would prevent the chicks from showing their faces.

Lara Jackson from the UK, titled “Raw Moment” Animal Portraits is highly recommended.
Credit: Lara Jackson

Her muzzle was bright red with oxygenated blood. This indicated that she had eaten wildebeest. This young lioness, possibly inexperienced, had started eating the struggling animal. Lara was staring at her intently, as she held the animal down with one paw. On their annual migration to greener grass in search for more food, over 2 million wildebeest pass through Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. This provides the Serengeti Lions with an abundance of food. Lara had seen the lioness as soon as she leapt,” says the statement.

The primary strategy of lions is to stalk, however this wildebeest was just resting in long grass when it walked by. Lara says that she was quite satisfied with her meal the previous night, and so took advantage of the chance to eat a quick bite.

Rakesh Pulapa from India, “The nurturing wetland”. Wetlands: The Bigger Picture is highly commended.
Credit to Rakesh Pulapa

The estuary is bounded by the mangrove swamps that remain at the shores of Kakinada City. According to the statement, 90 percent of India’s eastern coast mangroves have been destroyed by development. These are salt-tolerant shrubs and trees.

Mangroves have been recognized for their vitality in coastal ecosystems, both human and non-human. The roots of mangroves trap organic matter and provide carbon storage. They also slow down incoming tides. Rakesh was able to see how humans had affected the region, including plastic waste, pollution and mangrove clearing. But this image seemed to capture the protection that the mangroves offer for storm-prone tropical areas.

Wei Fu Thailand, “The grasping end”. Highly commended: Behaviour: Reptiles and Amphibians.
Credit: Wei Fu

A red-spotted tokay geoko is held in place by the coils of an orange tree snake. This last defense attempt involves keeping its head clamped on to its attacker. Tokay geckos, named for their distinctive to-kay sound, are big and strong. They can grow up to 40cm (16 in) long. They are also the preferred prey for the golden tree snake,” the statement reads.

The snake is common in lowland forests throughout South and Southeast Asia. It can also be found hunting lizards, amphibians and birds. Wei was taking photos of birds in a park close to his Bangkok home when the hissing and croaking warnings from the gecko caught his attention.

Publited at Wednesday, 01 September 2021 00.17:21 +0000

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