NATURE’S BEST IN PICTURES
1. THE VICTOR
When Adam first spotted the Titiwangsa horned tree lizard on the road near his home in the mountains of Pahang, Malaysia, it was in a furious life-and-death battle with a venomous Malaysian jewel centipede. There was a lot of chasing, writhing and thrashing about, and Adam was so fascinated that he completely forgot about his camera and simply watched. Only when the lizard finally overpowered the centipede did Adam think about framing a picture. He jumped into the ditch and crawled towards the lizard for an eye-level portrait of the victor standing over its prize. The species is one of Adam’s favourite lizards.
Picture: Adam Hakim Hogg, Malaysia Highly commended, 11-14-year-olds
2. LOOKING FOR LOVE
Accentuating his mature appearance with pastel colours, protruding lips and an outstanding pink forehead, this Asian sheepshead wrasse sets out to impress females and see off rivals, which he will head-butt and bite. Tony has long been fascinated by the species’ looks and life history. Individuals start out as females, and when they reach a certain age and size – up to a metre long – can transform into males. Long-lived and slow-growing, the species is intrinsically vulnerable to overfishing. It favours rocky reefs in cool waters in the Western Pacific, where it feeds on shellfish and crustaceans.
Picture: Tony Wu, US Highly commended, animal portraits
3. SCHOOL VISIT
Adrian was exploring the derelict schoolroom when the red fox trotted in, perhaps curious about the human or perhaps just on its rounds. It stopped just long enough for a picture, and then exited through a broken window. The school in Pripyat, Ukraine, was abandoned in 1986, following the catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, just three kilometres away. There were areas of the zone that Adrian was advised not to enter because radiation levels were still too high, and though the long-term effect of radiation on the animals is far from clear, wildlife appears to be thriving.
Picture: Adrian Bliss, UK Highly commended, urban wildlife
4. GLASSHOUSE GUARD
On the sandy seabed off the coast of Mabini in the Philippines, a yellow pygmy goby guards its home – a discarded glass bottle. . The female will lay several batches of eggs, while the male performs guard duty at the entrance. Setting up his camera a few centimetres in front of the bottle’s narrow opening, Wayne positioned his two strobes – one at the base of the bottle to illuminate the interior, and the other at the front to light the goby’s characteristic surprised face. Opting for a shallow depth of field, Wayne focused on the goby’s bulging blue eyes, allowing the movement of the fish to blur the rest of its features.
Picture: Wayne Jones, Australia Highly commended, underwater
5. THE MEERKAT MOB
When an Anchieta’s cobra reared its head and moved towards two meerkat pups near their warren on Namibia’s Brandberg Mountain, the rest of the pack reacted almost instantly. The 20-strong group split into two: one group grabbed the pups and huddled a safe distance away, the other took on the snake. Fluffing up their coats, tails raised, the mob edged forwards, growling. When the snake lunged, they sprang back. This was repeated over and over for about 10 minutes. Tertius relished the chance to capture such intense interaction between the meerkat pack and the little known Anchieta’s cobra.
Picture: Tertius A Gous, South Africa Highly commended, behaviour: mammals
6. SIMPLE BEAUTY
In a shallow tidal pool, a colourful cluster of detached fronds of egg wrack and bladder wrack form an abstract pattern against white sand. They have been washed off the rocks surrounding Mangersta Sands, on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. The air-filled bladders of these marine algae keep their fronds floating and exposed to light so they can photosynthesise. Using a polarizing filter to avoid reflections and to reveal details beneath the surface, Theo experimented with focal lengths – while waiting for the wind to stop causing ripples and moving the seaweed. He finally settled on this composition.
Picture: Theo Bosboom, Netherlands Highly commended, creative visions
For days, Sue scanned rough seas in the Indian Ocean. ‘We’d often see flying fish,’ she says, ‘but only occasionally would there be boobies.’ Then, one morning – northeast of D’Arros Island in the Outer Islands of the Seychelles – she awoke to find tranquil water and a single juvenile red-footed booby, circling. Sharp-eyed, they swoop down to seize prey, mainly squid and flying fish. Sue kept her eye on the bird. She had no idea when and where a chase might happen. ‘Suddenly, a fish leapt out’, she says, ‘and down came the booby.’ Sue captured the fleeting moment of the pursuit. The booby missed, and the fish got away.
Picture: Sue Forbes, UK Highly commended, behaviour: birds
As soon as he saw Emily, the sun bear hurried to the front of his filthy cage. ‘Every time I moved, he would follow me.’ He was just one of several sun bears kept behind the scenes at a zoo in Sumatra, Indonesia, in conditions Emily says were ‘appalling’. Sun bears are the world’s smallest bears, now critically endangered. In the lowland forests of Southeast Asia, they spend much of their time in trees, eating fruit and small animals, using their claws to prise open rotten wood in search of grubs. When this sun bear saw the keeper, he started screaming. It was a chilling noise.
Picture: Emily Garthwaite, UK Highly commended, wildlife photojournalist award: single image
9. EYE TO EYE
The stench was unbearable as Emanuele searched the carcasses for life. The desert coast of Peru’s Paracas National Reserve teems with life. A colony of South American sea lions supplies the corpses – the result of illness, injuries (some from conflict with fisheries) or occasional die-offs triggered by El Nino events (when warming of the sea reduces prey availability). A young male Peru Pacific iguana (distinctive black chevrons on its throat) had joined the feast within. Lying on the beach, choked by the vile smell until the iguana peeped through the eye socket, Emanuele encapsulated the dependence of terrestrial life on the ocean.
Picture: Emanuele Biggi, Italy Highly commended, animals in their environment
10. KITTEN COMBAT
It had been more than a year since Julius set up his camera trap in Germany’s Upper Bavarian Forest, and he had got just two records of Eurasian lynx. He was on the brink of giving up when a biologist colleague insisted that this was ‘such a typical spot for lynx’. They hunt mainly herbivores, such as deer, which brings them into conflict with hunters. Julius went on to weather problems including failed batteries, humidity, deep snow and spider webs before his luck changed. Two six-month-old kittens turned up to play. Honing their hunting skills with joyful exuberance, they rewarded Julius with pictures.
Picture: Julius Kramer, Germany Highly commended, behaviour: mammals
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is a showcase for the world’s best nature photography. With the power to inspire curiosity and wonder, the images showcase wildlife photography as an art form, while challenging us to consider our place in the natural world. The overall winners are announced on October 16. The exhibition opens at the Natural History Museum in London on October 19. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. Here we bring you a selection of the Highly Commended Images.