High-flying majesty and underwater mayhem

The winners of the internationally acclaimed Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition were announced last night, amid much excitement at a gala awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum in London., The world-renowned exhibition opens tomorrow, featuring 100 awe-inspiring images of nature, which will enthral London audiences before being enjoyed by millions with a UK and international tour.

Now in its 48th year, the competition attracted more than 48,000 entries from 98 countries, with Paul Nicklen’s Bubble-jetting emperors, a spectacular image of the chaotic underwater world of emperor penguins at the edge of the Ross Sea, Antarctica, claiming the overall title of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Paul remained motionless, his legs locked under the ice, waiting for the penguins. Suddenly the birds blasted from the depths and, with frozen fingers, Paul instinctively captured this incredible image. ‘It was a fantastic sight,’ says Paul. ‘Hundreds launched themselves out of the water and on to the ice above me. It was a moment that I felt incredibly fortunate to witness and one I’ll never forget’.

Competition judge and esteemed underwater photographer David Doubilet, remarked, ‘This image draws us in for a glimpse of the emperor penguin’s private world at the end of the earth. I love this image because it shows perfectly organised, infinite chaos. My eyes linger over it trying to absorb everything that’s going on here.’

Teenager Owen Hearn, from the UK, proved to be a high-flier as he was hailed Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his image Flight paths, featuring a resplendent red kite mirroring a distant plane, captured on his grandparents’ farm. 

This shot is especially symbolic as the photo was taken on the site originally chosen for London’s third airport in the late 1960s, when British red kites faced extinction. Opposition to the airport and the reintroduction of red kites to the UK means the birds now fly freely and Owen could snap this stunning image.

‘It’s not unusual to see me leaving the house at dawn or lying in a hedge at 9.30 at night waiting to take that perfect shot,’ says Owen. ‘I sent in this image as I think it’s unique. I feel very proud that one of the images taken on my grandparents’ farm was so successful’.

Judge Jari Peltomaki, an acclaimed wildlife photographer specialising in birds, said of the image, ‘The kite is looking straight at the camera and the aeroplane is perfectly positioned. All this against the white sky makes this image a winner. The photographer must have worked hard to get this image – and when you work hard you might just get very lucky one day.’ 

The two images were selected from eighteen individual category winners, depicting nature at its finest, from displays of peculiar animal behaviour to stunning landscapes. Judged by a panel of industry-recognised professionals, the images, submitted by professional and amateur photographers alike, were selected for their creativity, artistry and technical complexity.

Exhibition information for Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum, London

Dates and times: 19 October 2012 until 3 March 2013, 10.00–17.50
Visitor enquiries:  020 7942 5000
Admission:   Adult £10*, child and concession £5*, family (up to two adults and three children) £27*. Free for Members, Patrons and children aged three and under
Website:   www.nhm.ac.uk/wildphoto

* These are Gift Aid prices and include an optional donation to the Museum

Media contact
For more information, to obtain high-resolution images or to arrange interviews with photographers or spokespeople, please contact Sarah Baldwin, Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year Communications Officer, at the Natural History Museum Press Office. 

Tel: 020 7942 5156  
Email: [email protected]

Notes to editors

•Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 22, edited by Rosamund Kidman-Cox, is published by the Natural History Museum on 18 October 2012, priced at £25.
•As well as being a top tourist attraction, the Natural History Museum is a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world, with groundbreaking projects in more than 70 countries.
•Wildlife Photographer of the Year was founded in 1965 by BBC Wildlife Magazine, then called Animals. The Natural History Museum joined forces in 1984 to create the competition as it is known today. Every month, BBC Wildlife Magazine invites you to discover the wonders of nature through beautiful photography, compelling stories and fascinating facts. Learn about animal behaviour, understand the wildlife you see around you every day and stay up to date with the issues facing the world’s wildlife. Each issue is packed with the world’s finest wildlife photography, insights from leading experts and award-winning writing. Find out more at www.discoverwildlife.com
•Veolia Environnement, a world leader in environmental services, has been the proud sponsor of the competition for four years and has supported the UK regional tour since 2011. With more than 330,000 employees worldwide, the company provides tailored solutions to meet the needs of municipal, commercial and industrial customers, helping them to reduce their environmental impact in water, waste and energy. 

Please note: Veolia Environnement is the official company name, with a French spelling. For more information, please visit www.veolia.co.uk
Key dates

•A media preview will be held on 18 October 2012 at the Natural History Museum, London. Please contact [email protected] if you wish to attend.
•Publications with long production lead times may receive images earlier on an embargoed basis if they sign a non-disclosure agreement.