The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is running from now until 13 March 2012 at the Iziko South African Museum. The UK competition is run by the Natural History Museum in conjunction with BBC Wildlife Magazine and it is one wildlife photography exhibition that you simply cannot miss!
A Glimpse of the Cape Town wildlife photography exhibition:
Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award
Daniel Beltrá, Spain
Still Life In Oil
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 at a temporary bird rescue facility in Fort Jackson, Louisiana. They’ve already been sprayed with a light oil to break up the heavy crude trapped in their feathers, which has turned their normally pale heads orange and their brown and grey feathers mahogany.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II + 35mm f1.4 lens at 35mm; 1/30 sec at f4 (-0.7 e/v); ISO 800.
Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife
WINNER: Peter Chadwick, South Africa
With space at a premium, the normally territorial African black oystercatchers on Malgas Island, South Africa, are forced to congregate when feeding on the rocky shore. It’s a time of intense, high pitched, raucous social interaction, different breeding pairs flying in to claim their turn at the seaside table, prising shellfish off the rocks both to eat and to take back for their chicks. All the while, among the greetings and the squabbles, they keep an eye on the waves. ‘They usually know exactly when to run from a crashing wave,’ says Peter, ‘but this wave seemed to take them by surprise.’ Found only along the coastline of southern Africa, the charismatic species is the subject of a conservation success story. Back in the 1980s, the African black oystercatcher had declined to some 4,500 birds, mainly because its breeding beaches are also where humans with their dogs and off-road vehicles go, resulting in the death of many of the chicks. But though the species remains near-threatened, protection from disturbance in the breeding season has resulted in an increase in numbers to about 6,000.
Nikon D300S + 500mm f4 lens; 1/1600 sec at f8; ISO 640; Manfrotto tripod.
Eric Hosking Award
WINNER: Bence Máté, Hungary
From his kitchen table, Bence planned the way he would photograph Dalmatian pelicans. He wanted a water-level perspective, so he designed and constructed a catamaran-style floating system, incorporating an underwater camera housing and specially positioned lights and flashes, and set off for Lake Kerkini in northern Greece. ‘It was a huge buzz,’ says Bence, ‘to find that the contraption actually worked.’ Using cables, Bence took photos from a distance away on a boat, monitoring the scene on a screen and altering the settings the ever-changing light. The fish-eye lens gave the unusual perspective of the pelican’s pouch as it caught a fish thrown back into the lake by a fisherman.
Nikon D300S + Tokina 10-17mm f3.5-4.5 lens; 1/16
WINNER: Paul Souders, USA
The Grace of Giants
‘Even before I slid off the iceberg into the sea, my heart was racing and my lips were turning blue,’ says Paul. ‘I had no idea what to expect, other than that, under water, these huge masses of flesh and tusk would swim with grace and power. And that’s what I wanted to show.’ Paul had gone to Svalbard in Arctic Norway hoping to photograph walruses under water. He knew they could be dangerous, but he planned to appear as unthreatening as possible and hoped that the walruses would just be curious about him. The first sight of one approaching out of the gloom was the gleam of white tusk. Paul instinctively used the glass dome of his camera housing as a shield. The walrus investigated him, pressing up against the dome, while its giant herd-mates slowly circled Paul. ‘Their curiosity satisfied,’ says Paul, ‘they moved off in search of something more entertaining than a hyperventilating photographer.’ Walruses were hunted nearly to extinction for their ivory tusks, and they are still very wary of people. Though their numbers are slowly increasing, the biggest danger they face now is climate change.
Canon 1Ds II + 16-35mm lens; 1/160 at f6.3; Seacam housing.
Eric Hosking Award
WINNER: Bence Máté, Hungary
This line of fern-laden ants and their guards, their dainty bodies reflected in the water below, belies how resilient leaf-cutter ants are. The female workers transport leaves to their nest from a radius of more than 100 metres (300 feet). Each load is chewed up and used as compost for cultivating fungi, the food they grow in their indoor garden. Earlier in the year, a tornado flattened the trees in the Costa Rican rainforest where Bence was photographing the ants, but their nest survived. And, as Bence witnessed one night, torrential rain did not stop them, though it washed many of them away. As soon as the rain stopped, the ants resumed their work, bypassing the potholes as they toiled to and fro.
Nikon D700 + 28-105mm lens; 1/250 sec at f13; ISO 200; two SB-800 flashes; Gitzo tripod.
WINNER: Steve Mills, UK
A severe freeze in December 2010 caused major problems for British birds, especially those needing to feed in mud. Even secretive birds were forced into the open. Knowing any snow-free area was a precious resource; Steve located a tiny patch of exposed grass near where he lives in Whitby, North Yorkshire, and waited. Eventually a snipe emerged and began feeding frantically. ‘I was only a few metres away,’ says Steve. ‘In normal conditions, a snipe would be more cautious.’ Within a few moments, though, it had paid the ultimate price. A merlin swooped in fast and low and grabbed it in a flurry of snow. The struggle was short. The merlin pinioned the snipe, stared briefly at Steve and then killed its prey with a series of rapid blows to the head. ‘The attack was so unexpected, so dramatic and so close,’ says Steve, ‘that I was overjoyed to find I had captured the moment, but I also felt great sympathy for the loser.’
Canon EOS 50D + 500mm f4 lens; 1/500 sec at f5 (+1.7 e/v); ISO 400.
WINNER: Joe Bunni, France
After three days on a small boat looking for polar bears in Repulse Bay, Nunavut, Canada, Joe finally got lucky. ‘We cruised at a distance, so we didn’t disturb the bear. Then, once we were sure it was relaxed with our presence, I slipped quietly into the water with just a mask and fins, attached to the boat by a rope.’ The polar bear now started to swim towards the boat, powering itself with its front legs, the toes of its huge paws spread wide. It didn’t appear to notice Joe, and for 20 minutes he was able to take photographs from the water. But then the bear caught sight of its own reflection in the dome port and swam up to Joe. ‘It’s amazing when a huge, powerful animal comes beside you.’ It came so close that its nose touched the housing, startling it. The second after Joseph took this shot; the bear reached out and touched the dome with its paw. Then it turned and swam away, leaving Joe with an unforgettable split-level image of a swimming polar bear – symbolic, he says, ‘of the power and elegance of a wonderful creature struggling to survive in a fast-changing climate.’
Nikon D2X + 10.5mm f2.8 fisheye lens; 1/320 sec at f12; ISO 400; Aquatica housing.