Veolia Enviroment Wildlife Photographer of the year 2012 winners

On an earlier post we showed you some of the entries for the Veolia Enviroment Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012.

The winners have now been announced and below are a selection of the winning images, and well deserved too!

The 100 spectacular prize-winning photographs from the 2012 competition are now on show in a dramatic cinematic setting at the Natural History Museum.
Find out more about the exhibition and tickets


Bubble-jetting emperors
Paul Nicklen (Canada)
This was the image Paul had been so hoping to get: a sunlit mass of emperor penguins charging
upwards, leaving in their wake a crisscross of bubble trails. The location was near the emperor colony at
the edge of the frozen area of the Ross Sea, Antarctica. It was into the only likely exit hole that he lowered
himself. He then had to wait for the return of the penguins, crops full of icefish for their chicks. Paul locked
his legs under the lip of the ice so he could remain motionless, breathing through a snorkel so as not to
spook the penguins when they arrived. Then it came: a blast of birds from the depths. They were so fast
that, with frozen fingers, framing and focus had to be instinctive. ‘It was a fantastic sight’, says Paul, ‘as
hundreds launched themselves out of the water and onto the ice above me’ – a moment that I felt
incredibly fortunate to witness and one I’ll never forget.
Underwater Worlds

The Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Species
Dog days
Kim Wolhuter (South Africa)
Kim has been filming African wild dogs at Zimbabwe’s Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve for more than four
years. He knows one pack intimately. ‘I have travelled with them, on foot, in the pack itself, running with
them as they hunt. It’s a privilege, and it’s given me a true insight into their life.’ Kim has also witnessed
first hand the many threats that have made African wild dogs endangered, including increased conflict
with humans and domestic animals (poachers’ snares, habitat loss, traffic and disease). ‘At times, it’s heartwrenching,’
he says. ‘My mission is to dispel the myth that they’re a threat and help raise awareness of
their plight.’ African wild dogs require huge territories, and so protecting them can protect entire
ecosystems. When this picture was taken, the pack had travelled four kilometres to the Sosigi Pan, only
to find it totally dried up. ‘The mosaic of mud seemed to epitomise the increasingly fragmented world
this puppy is growing up in.’

Last Look
Steve Winter (USA)
This is a very special tiger. He is one of fewer than 400-500 wild, critically endangered Sumatran tigers. It
was a huge challenge for Steve to photograph one, as those that have escaped poaching and forest
clearance are mostly confined to patches of forests or the mountains and are extremely shy. A former
tiger hunter, now employed as a park ranger, advised Steve where to set up his camera trap. But the
challenge remained to position the remote-control camera and the lights in exactly the right position so
the tiger would be lit centre-stage in front of a backdrop of forest habitat. The seemingly unstoppable
growth of oil-palm plantations in Sumatra and continuing poaching for body parts for use in traditional
Chinese medicine indicate that this subspecies of tiger is destined to become extinct in the wild, as have
its Javan and Balinese relatives.

The World in Our Hands Award
Ice matters
Anna Henly (UK)
Anna was on a boat in Svalbard – an archipelago midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole
– when she saw this polar bear at around four in the morning. It was October, and the bear was walking
on broken-up ice floes, seemingly tentatively, not quite sure where to trust its weight. She used her
fisheye lens to make the enormous animal appear diminutive and create an impression of ‘the top
predator on top of the planet, with its ice world breaking up’. The symbolism, of course, is that polar
bears rely almost entirely on the marine sea ice environment for their survival, and year by year,
increasing temperatures are reducing the amount of ice cover and the amount of time available for the
bears to hunt marine mammals. Scientists maintain that the melting of the ice will soon become a major
problem for humans as well as polar bears, not just because of rising sea levels but also because
increasing sea temperatures are affecting the weather, sea currents and fish stocks.

Behaviour: Cold-blooded Animals
Into the mouth of the caiman
Luciano Candisani (Brazil)
Motionless but alert, a yacare caiman waits, ‘like a small tyrannosaurus’ for fish to come within snapping
reach, says Luciano. Caimans are usually seen floating passively on the surface. Under the water, it’s
another story. It’s this secret life that has fascinated Luciano ever since he first came face to face with a
caiman while snorkelling. Once he’d recovered from the shock, he realised that the reptile was neither
aggressive nor fearful – and that he could approach it. Luciano now regularly documents the underwater
life of caimans in the shallow, murky waters of Brazil’s Pantanal (the biggest wetland in the world),
which contains the largest single crocodilian population on Earth. Caimans can grow to be three metres
in length. Most aren’t aggressive, but some individuals can be. ‘The safest way to get close is when they
are concentrating on a shoal of fish,’ says Luciano. ‘While I was concentrating on this caiman emerging
from the gloom, I had a field biologist with me all the time.’ The result was ‘the picture that’s been in my
imagination since my father first showed me a caiman 25 years ago’.

Nature in Black and White
Hare in a landscape
Robert Zoehrer (Austria)
This steep, ploughed field, in Burgenland, Austria, with a ribbon of dazzling yellow oilseed rape on the
horizon and a swathe of green to the side, was just what Robert was looking for. ‘But it lacked a focus
point’, he says. As if on cue, a brown hare entered stage right from the grass and sat motionless on the
furrowed soil. ‘But once I saw the image in black and white,’ says Robert, ‘not only was the stark
geometry highlighted but also the small hare became the centre of the composition rather than being
lost among the colour.’

Behaviour: Mammals
Practice run
Grégoire Bouguereau (France)
When a female cheetah caught but didn’t kill a Thomson’s gazelle calf and waited for her cubs to join
her, Grégoire guessed what was about to happen. He’d spent nearly a decade studying and
photographing cheetahs in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, and he knew that the female’s
behaviour meant one thing: a hunting lesson was due to begin. The female moved away, leaving the calf
lying on the ground near her cubs. At first, the cubs took no notice of it. But when it struggled jerkily to
its feet ‘the cubs’ natural predatory instincts were triggered,’ says Grégoire. ‘Each cub’s gaze locked on
to the calf as it made a break for freedom.’ The lesson repeated itself several times, with the cubs
ignoring the calf when it was on the ground and catching it whenever it tried to escape – ‘an exercise
that affords the cubs the chance to practise chases in preparation for the time they’ll have to do so for

Urban Wildlife
Secret lives
Kai Fagerström (Finland)
Once, some 40 or so years ago, a family of 13 people lived in this cottage in Suomusjärvi, Salo, Finland.
They have long gone, but though the building has fallen into disrepair, it is still a winter home to many
woodland creatures, including this red squirrel, which lives in the attic. Kai has spent the past 15 years
documenting the secret life of such places. ‘Deserted buildings are so full of contradictions,’ he says. ‘I
am fascinated by the way nature reclaims spaces that were, essentially, only ever on loan to humans.’
He usually starts off with a particular image in mind. Sometimes, he achieves that relatively quickly. But
it often takes a considerable time for all the elements to come together in just the right way, subject
included. ‘This is fine with me,’ he says. ‘The journey is more important than the destination.’

City gull
Eve Tucker (UK)
Some of the tallest buildings in London surround the docklands at the heart of the business and financial
district of Canary Wharf. As Eve walked along the wharf, a bird caught her eye. It was a black-headed
gull, of which there are many in the city. But this one was resting on a very remarkable area of water.
Eve realised that she was looking at reflections of the straight lines of the nearby office block, distorted
into moving swirls. ‘The effect was so unusual – it gave a beautiful setting for an urban wildlife image.’
Like all true photographers, Eve had noticed what others most often fail to see, even when it’s right in
front of them.

Animal Portraits
arning night light
Larry Lynch (USA)
One evening, while walking along the riverbed of the Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida, USA,
Larry came across a group of alligators. It was the dry season, and they had been gorging on fish trapped
in the pools left behind as the water receded from the river. One big alligator had clearly eaten its fill. ‘It
wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry,’ says Larry. ‘So I set my tripod and camera up about seven metres in
front of him and focused on his eyes.’ Just after sunset, Larry set his flash on the lowest setting to give
just a tiny bit of light, enough to catch the eyeshine in the alligator’s eyes. Like cats, an alligator has a
tapetum lucidum at the back of each eye – a structure that reflects light back into the photoreceptor
cells to make the most of low light. The colour of eyeshine differs from species to species. In alligators, it
glows red – one good way to locate alligators on a dark night. The greater the distance between its eyes,
the longer the reptile, in this case, very long.

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