Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009

Clash of the Yellowhammers

Every year, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the Natural History Museum manages to impress me for the freshness, quality and originality of the winning images. Though, it is not wonder, as it is the most famous wildlife competition and attracts submissions from professional photographers and amateur enthusiasts. This year, with 43,000 submissions from 94 countries, a new exhibition room with black panels and low lighting, I spotted many recurring themes from the previous year but several new interesting photos, as well.

One of the most interesting categories was this of the young photographers, consisting of three different subcategories: those of ten years and under, 11-14 years and 15-18 years. Indeed, if you were not told that these images were captured by young children, you would have probably imagined that they were taken by professional adult photographers. Among those, the prize for the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year went to Fergus Gill from the UK, who won the title for the second time after turning his photography hobby into a passion, with his captivating image of the “Clash of the Yellowhammers”.



But the most astonishing category for the exhibition was the “One Earth Award” category, which depicts conservation issues or actions and the interaction between humans and the natural world. Among the images, the “Footprints” was my personal favourite: an image of a penguin who pauses and inquisitively examines human footprints at a sea shore in the United States.

Unfortunately, this year’s competition was surrounded by controversy, regarding its top prize, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. When I visited the exhibition, the judges had given the top prize to “Storybook Wolf” by José Luis Rodriguez; an image of a wolf jumping a fence to search for his pray. The judges not only commended the technique of the photographer, who seems to have invented it especially for these types of shots, but the excellent composition of the image, which elegantly captures thousands of years of wolf predation in a single moment. But others who saw the image recognised the wolf as not being a wild animal but a tamed one that the photographer allegedly hired to get his shot. After some discussion with wolf experts, who questioned why the wolf would jump the gate when a wild animal was more likely to squeeze between the bars. and the photographer himself, the judges were not convinced that the wolf was wild and decided to strip the photographer of his award because of violation of the competition rules. The photographer strongly denied that the wolf was tame.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition has now ended in London, but you will still be able to see the wining images in the exhibition roadshow touring around the globe. You can also find them at the website of the Natural History Museum.


P.S.: All images © of the respective owners and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year owners.


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