The coveted title of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year was presented to Daniel Beltrá from Spain for Still life in oil, a striking image of eight brown pelicans rescued from an oil spill, from his six-image portfolio for the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award.
Daniel took the image at a temporary bird-rescue facility in Fort Jackson, Louisiana. He describes how ‘crude oil trickles off the feathers of the rescued brown pelicans, turning the white lining sheets into a sticky, stinking mess. The pelicans are going through the first stage of cleaning. They’ve already been sprayed with a light oil to break up the heavy crude trapped in their feathers’, making them look discoloured. Chair of the judging panel, Mark Carwardine, described the image as ‘a strong environmental statement, technical perfection and a work of art all rolled into one. The sheer simplicity of this powerful image makes it really beautiful and shocking at the same time.’
Mateusz Piesiak from Poland was hailed as Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his image Pester power, in the 11–14 Years category. To take the photograph, Mateusz wrapped his camera in a waterproof sack, dropped onto his belly and crawled along the wet sand off Long Island, New York. The birds were so absorbed in their foraging that they ignored him, sometimes scuttling almost to within arm’s length in their search for shellfish. One young oystercatcher kept trying to find its own food. ‘As soon as it saw an adult with a morsel,’ said Mateusz, ‘it would run over with loud, begging queep queep cries and try to snatch it from them. Sometimes the adult would give in.’
Mateusz spent so long watching this pester power at work that he didn’t notice the tide coming in until a big wave washed over him. ‘I managed to hold my camera up high,’ he says. ‘I was cold and wet, but I had my shot.’ Judge Mark Carwardine described the image. ‘Pin sharp, gorgeous subdued light, interesting behaviour, oodles of atmosphere, and beautiful composition. This would make any professional proud – and is doubly impressive for someone so young.’
These images will be among more than 100 acclaimed photographs from the competition’s 17 categories, and present a huge variety of stunning and inspiring photographs capturing nature’s rich diversity. The exhibition debuts at the Natural History Museum on 21 October 2011 before embarking on an ever-popular tour of the UK and abroad.
The international judging panel of respected wildlife experts and nature photographers reviewed more than 40,000 entries from aspiring amateurs and established professional photographers from all corners of the earth. As a sign of the competition’s growing international reach, this year saw first-time submissions from countries as far afield as Cambodia, Moldova, Brunei and
Kyrgyzstan. There was also a notable increase in photographs submitted from countries such as India, China and Russia.
A commemorative book, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 21, edited by Rosamund Kidman Cox and published by the Natural History Museum in the UK, will be available from 20 October 2011, priced £25. The book, with a foreword written by acclaimed landscape photographer Joe Cornish, contains all images from this year’s competition.
Now in its 47th year, the competition is owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine and is sponsored by Veolia Environnement. It is internationally recognised for taking a lead in the artistic representation of the natural world and continues to be held in high esteem with a reputation for being the Oscars of the wildlife photographic calendar.
Photographers can enter next year’s competition from 5 December 2011. For further details about the competition and its various categories, or to enter online, please visit www.nhm.ac.uk/wildphoto
Exhibition information for visitors
Dates and times: 21 October 2011 – 11 March 2012, 10.00–17.50
Visitor enquiries: 020 7942 5000
Admission: Gift Aid admission* adult £9, concessions £4.50, family £24 (up to two adults and three children)
Free for Members, Patrons and children under four
Nearest tube: South Kensington
* If you are a UK taxpayer and pay the Gift Aid admission ticket price, the Natural History Museum can reclaim the tax on the whole ticket price you pay. For every £100 worth of tickets sold, we can claim an extra £25 from Government. This means you can further support the work of the Museum. The standard admission charges are adult £8, concessions £4 and family £21. The right of entry is the same for visitors with or without the voluntary donation.