34 stunning images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year c


(Pocket-lint) – Every year the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition gathers together a record-breaking number of submissions from all over the world and whittles down some really fantastic images to the final winners. This year is no different.

The winners have now been declared and as you’d imagine they’re truly magnificent. These photos show nature at its finest and worst too. Demonstrateing a breadth of undeniable photography talent for us to admire. 

We’ve been through the submissions and pulled out some of our favourites. These include amazing photos from this year and previous years too. With the People’s Choice Award as well as the images from the Grand title winners, Adult awards and Young awards too.  

To see the very best, you can visit the exhibition at the Natural History Museum. 

Deep Feelers

From the underwater category comes this wonderful photo that was selected as a highly commended entry.

These narwhal shrimps are seen captured fantastically against a beautiful blue backdrop. 

Storm Fox

Photographer Jonny Armstrong followed this fox for several days before taking this incredible image with a stormy backdrop. 

The result was another highly commended image, this time in the animal portrait category. 

Net Loss

Not all the images in the competition show the beauty of nature, sometimes they show man’s destruction of it. Like with this image by Audun Rikardsen. 

The photo shows the aftermath of overfishing. A boat had caught too many fish and the net broke, spilling tonnes of dead fish into the surrounding water. One good thing came from the photo though, as it was used to take the owner of the boat to court to answer for problem. 

Elephants at Twilight

With this image and more than 30 years of photography work, Frans Lanting was given the “Wildlife Photographer of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2018. A peaceful scene in the evening at the waterhole. 

“One evening during Botswana’s dry season, I waded into a water hole to capture a shimmering reflection of a gathering of elephants at twilight, with a full moon suspended in a luminous pink sky. The image is my homage to the primeval qualities of southern Africa’s wilderness, the grandeur of elephants, and the precious nature of water in a land of thirst.”

The golden couple

This image was snapped by Marsel van Oosten and was chosen from the submissions as the Grand title winner, earning him the title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018. 

“As the group of Qinling golden snub-nosed monkeys jumped from tree to tree, Marsel struggled to keep up, slipping and stumbling over logs. Gradually he learned to predict their behaviour, and captured this male and female resting. With the Sun filtering through the canopy, they are bathed in a magical light, their golden hair glowing against the fresh greens of the forest.

This pair belongs to a subspecies of golden snub-nosed monkey restricted to the Qinling Mountains. Among the most striking primates in the world, these monkeys are in danger of disappearing. Their numbers have steadily declined over the decades and there are now fewer than 4,000 individuals left.”

Lounging leopard

The other Grand title winner, Skye Meake won the title of Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018 for this image of a rather relaxed looking leopard. 

“Notoriously shy and elusive, the resident leopards of the Mashatu Game Reserve are hard to spot. But this time Skye was in luck. After tracking the leopards for a few hours, he came across Mathoja – a well-known female. In a fleeting moment, just before the leopard nodded off, Skye captured a peaceful portrait of this majestic creature.

Named by local guides, Mathoja means ‘the one that walks with a limp’ – a title given to her after a serious leg injury as a cub. Although her chances of survival were slim, Mathoja is now a healthy adult. She is one of the lucky ones – this species has been classed as vulnerable and many leopards are illegally hunted for their highly desirable skins.”

All that remains

One of the submissions from the LUMIX People’s Choice Award comes from Phil Jones and shows the scavenging side of nature as a bird comes into feast on a decaying Sea Lion.

“A male orca had beached itself about a week before Phil’s visit to Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands. Despite its huge size the shifting sands had almost covered the whole carcass and scavengers, such as this striated caracara, had started to move in.”

Family portrait

Not your average family photo, but certainly a magnificent one. This incredible portrait of a grey owl and her family was snapped by Connor Stefanison and is included in the  LUMIX People’s Choice Award category.  

“A great grey owl and her chicks sit in their nest in the broken top of a Douglas fir tree in Kamloops, Canada. They looked towards Connor only twice as he watched them during the nesting season from a tree hide 50 feet (15 metres) up.”


Love is in the air or is it under water? This photo shows a sperm whale getting a bit frisky but not having much luck. A brilliantly timed underwater image by Franco Banfi.

“Franco was free diving off Dominica in the Caribbean Sea when he witnessed this young male sperm whale trying to copulate with a female. Unfortunately for him her calf was always in the way and the frisky male had to continually chase off the troublesome calf.”

Curious Encounter

Another incredible and unbelievably well-timed photo shows an amazing encounter with a seal in Antarctica. We wonder if the seal was as surprised to see the photographer as he appeared. 

“Any close encounter with an animal in the vast wilderness of Antarctica happens by chance, so Cristobal was thrilled by this spontaneous meeting with a crabeater seal off of Cuverville Island, Antarctic Peninsula. These curious creatures are protected and, with few predators, thrive.”

A Polar Bear’s Struggle

A photographic scene that shows the hardship that’s also suffered in the animal kingdom. This terribly sad photo shows a starving underweight polar bear on the hunt for something to eat. 

“Justin’s whole body pained as he watched this starving polar bear at an abandoned hunter’s camp, in the Canadian Arctic, slowly heave itself up to standing. With little, and thinning, ice to move around on, the bear is unable to search for food.”

Under the Snow

A beautiful wintery scene sees a squirrel eying up their surroundings as the snow falls. This photo wasn’t the originally intended subject matter – the photographer Audren Morel was actually trying to take photos of birds. This incredible little squirrel happened to be nearby and captured the eye. 

“Unafraid of the snowy blizzard, this squirrel came to visit Audren as he was taking photographs of birds in the small Jura village of Les Fourgs, France. Impressed by the squirrel’s endurance, he made it the subject of the shoot.”

Bond of brothers

We love this photo of brotherly love. Even the most fierce of this planet’s creatures have a soft side. Family is everything, even for furry brothers. 

“These two adult males, probably brothers, greeted and rubbed faces for 30 seconds before settling down. Most people never have the opportunity to witness such animal sentience, and David was honoured to have experienced and captured such a moment.”

Leopard gaze

A beautiful and yet terrifying view of a leopard gazing back into the lens. Not something you’d want to see close-up in the wild yourself, but brilliant when captured by the expert eye of Martin van Lokven.

“During a three-week stay in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Martin encountered this female leopard several times. Called Fundi by local guides, she was well known in the area. Late one afternoon, Fundi left the tree she was resting in and stopped by Martin’s car, fixing him with her magnificent gaze.”

Pool party

It’s a party and everyone’s invited. A number of wonderfully colorful birds have flocked to a waterhole during a drought season and are seen frolicking in the cooling waters. A brilliant photo captured by Luke Massey.  

“As the drought in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park stretched on, the waterholes dwindled to pools. Flocks of Lilian’s lovebirds congregated together and when the coast was clear they descended to this pool. They shuffled forward, taking it in turns to drink and bathe, as if on a conveyor belt.”

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Another photo from the People’s Choice Award showing the power of predators in nature. This image by Federico Veronesi was taken in Zimbabwe and shows the terrifying beauty of animals at their most fierce. 

“On a hot morning at the Chitake Springs, in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe, Federico watched as an old lioness descended from the top of the riverbank. She’d been lying in wait to ambush any passing animals visiting a nearby waterhole further along the riverbed.”

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Red, silver and black

A brilliant snap of some foxes captured near their den in North America. This image was taken by Tin Man Lee after he patiently waited for the perfect weather to capture this incredible photo. 

“Tin was fortunate enough to be told about a fox den in Washington State, North America, which was home to a family of red, black and silver foxes. After days of waiting for good weather he was finally rewarded with this touching moment.”

Three kings

Not a sight you’re likely to see on a regular basis, but a beautiful view nonetheless. This photo by Wim Van Den Heever shows some fairly magnificent penguins involved in mating rituals.

“Wim came across these king penguins on a beach in the Falkland Islands just as the sun was rising. They were caught up in a fascinating mating behaviour – the two males were constantly moving around the female using their flippers to fend the other off.”

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Kuhirwa Mourns Her Baby

Nature is full of beauty as much as it is tragedy. This photo by Ricardo Núñez Montero shows a mountain gorilla nursing the body of her infant who has sadly passed away. 

“Kuhirwa, a young female mountain gorilla, would not give up on her dead baby. Initially she cuddled and groomed the tiny corpse, carrying it piggyback like the other mothers. Weeks later, she started to eat what was left of it. Forced by the low light to work with a wide aperture and a narrow depth of field, Ricardo focused on the body rather than Kuhirwa’s face.

From elephants stroking the bones of deceased family members to dolphins trying to keep dead companions afloat, there is an abundance of credible evidence to show that animals visibly express grief. Kuhirwa’s initial actions can be interpreted as mourning, her behaviour showing the pain of a mother who has lost her child.”

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Resting Mountain Gorilla

A peaceful and serene scene of a baby gorilla taking some rest. This image was captured by David Lloyd and appears in the LUMIX People’s Choice Award category. 

“The baby gorilla clung to its mother whilst keeping a curious eye on David. He had been trekking in South Bwindi, Uganda, when he came across the whole family. Following them, they then stopped in a small clearing to relax and groom each other.”

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Fox meets fox

One of the few photographs of nature that were actually snapped in the urban jungle. This image couldn’t be much more perfect as a real fox rounds the corner of a road near a mural. 

“Matthew has been photographing foxes close to his home in north London for over a year and ever since spotting this street art had dreamt of capturing this image. After countless hours and many failed attempts his persistence paid off.”

Lakshitha Karunarathna/Natural History MuseumIncredible Images From The Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Competition image 21

Roller Ride

Isn’t nature great? Creatures of all shapes and sizes just getting on along, living together in harmony. This photo brilliantly captured by Lakshitha Karunarathna shows a bird known as a lilac-breasted roller riding on the back of a zebra. What a colorful sight against a black and white striped background. 

“Lakshitha was on safari in Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, when he spotted an unusual sight – a lilac-breasted roller riding a zebra. Normally they prefer to perch high up in the foliage, but this roller spent an hour or more riding around and enjoying the occasional insect meal. Lakshitha waited for the surrounding zebras to form the perfect background before taking this tight crop.”

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The midnight passage

A half underwater snap captured at midnight not only wonderfully highlights the stars but also a red deer who’s almost posing for the photo. This image by Vegard Lødøen was selected for the Highly Commended 2018 category of animals in their environment.

“‘A dream came true when I took this picture,’ says Vegard. After years of searching, he had finally found a riverside location visited by the deer of Valldal. After partly submerging his camera in a waterproof box, he set up a flash above and below the water, along with motion sensors. Near midnight, a male crossed the river – the camera capturing its proud pose.

After moose, red deer are the largest species of deer. Only the males have antlers, which have been known to grow to more than a metre in length and weigh up to five kilogrammes. At the end of each winter they shed their antlers, which are made of bone – when spring comes they regrow, protected by a soft covering known as velvet.”

Night snack

Audun Rikardsen’s snap of a killer whale bathed in light from the surface was selected as the highly commended underwater snap. A brilliant image showing the underwater majesty of the sea. 

“Large numbers of herring were overwintering in the northern fjords, attracting hundreds of predators and night fishing boats. The killer whales had realised that the sound of nets being hauled up meant the possibility of an easy meal. Audun asked the fishermen to angle their strongest light into the water, to capture his shot.

Killer whales are the largest members of the dolphin family. Although one species, it’s now thought there are several kinds living in different areas, using specific hunting strategies and social structures. This is a male eastern North Atlantic form, which is known to work together with other killer whales to herd fish into dense shoals.”

Holding on

Another touching family photo shows a beautiful moment as a small child gently grasps its mother’s hand. Jami Tarris snapped this image while in Borneo and the photo then made its way into the LUMIX People’s Choice Award category. 

“This close-up captures the touching moment an infant lays its small hand in the big hand of its mother. Jami took this photograph while she was in Borneo working on a story about the effects of palm-oil agriculture on orangutan habitat. Loss of primary rainforest is a serious threat to this already critically endangered species.”

Sloth hanging out

This photo is a brilliant work of art. The sloth is certainly a happy looking chappy. In order to get the image, photographer Luciano Candisani had to climb high into the canopy to frame it perfectly. 

“Luciano had to climb the cecropia tree, in the protected Atlantic rainforest of southern Bahia, Brazil, to take an eye-level shot of this three-toed sloth. Sloths like to feed on the leaves of these trees, and so they are often seen high up in the canopy.”

The land of ice and snow

An incredible creature captured walking across a breathtaking landscape of ice and snow coloured by the rays of the sun. This amazing scene was snapped by Josh Anaon and appears in the LUMIX People’s Choice Award category. 

“The Arctic is beautiful all year-round, but in the late winter, when temperatures reach -30˚C (-22˚F) and everything is white and the sun stays low on the horizon, it’s stunning. Josh was on a boat in a fjord across from Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway, and encountered this polar bear walking along the edge of the ice. She was curious, walking past the boat twice – just long enough for Josh to take a shot with her white coat glowing in the setting sun. After satisfying her curiosity, she silently walked off into the distance.”

Kick back and relax

A fantastic and no doubt well-deserved relaxing session for these gorillas. The little chap looks like he’s thoroughly chilled after wearing out his parents. A feeling we know all too well! This image was captured by Alan Chung in the depths of Rwanda. 

“After more than two hours hiking with rangers in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Alan came across the ‘Hirwa’ family group (meaning ‘the lucky one’). This group of 16 mountain gorillas is led by a single strong silverback. They were feeding on young bamboo shoots and relaxing in a leafy open spot. Lucky for Alan indeed!”

Cool cat

It’s thirsty work being this cool. A lion takes a moment for a touch of refreshing liquid. This smashing photograph has been highly commended by the judges and for good reason too. 

“‘I love creating photos with impact,’ says Isak, who is often on the lookout for Zambia’s most iconic animals. He was photographing a pride of lions when this lioness wandered off. Anticipating it was going for a drink, he positioned himself by the nearest waterhole. It then appeared through the long grass, framed by a wall of lush green.

Lions kill more than 95 per cent of their prey at night, and spend the majority of the day resting. Although they drink readily when water is available, they are also capable of consuming sufficient moisture from their prey and plants – making them perfectly adapted to their arid landscape. Yet despite this, lion numbers are decreasing significantly.”


Another image chosen by the judges as highly commended, this photo by Emmanuel Rondeau is staggering. One of the most dangerous and majestic of the big cats snapped for all of us to enjoy. 

“Accompanied by rangers, Emmanuel had climbed 700 metres to set up eight cameras, selecting areas with previous tiger sightings and evidence of recent use such as tracks, scratches and faeces. ‘The forests were nothing like I had ever seen,’ he says. ‘Every species was something new.’ Twenty-three days later, this Bengal tiger gazed directly into one of his cameras.

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In the Kingdom of Bhutan, tigers are making a comeback. There are now thought to be 103 tigers living in the wild there – almost a third more than the last count in 1998. As Bhutan has developed, the country has created a network of wildlife corridors from one national park to the next to allow wildlife to roam relatively undisturbed.”

Mister Whiskers

A highly commend animal portrait image shows a close-up of some walruses relaxing in the icy waters. We love how moody this image is, it could almost be artwork for an album cover. 

“Extending his camera ahead of him using two monopod poles and a float, Valter slipped into the icy water to photograph the walruses he had spotted from his dinghy. This caught the attention of some curious youngsters who began to swim towards him. Exhilarated by this peaceful encounter, Valter captured this intimate portrait from a pole’s length away.

These walruses are likely to live for up to 40 years, spending their days trawling the seafloor, using their whiskers and muzzles to find and extract food. Their thick skin protects them from the cold as they forage mainly for molluscs, such as clams. In the Arctic water, blood flow to the surface of their skin is reduced to retain heat.”

Grizzly Leftovers

This is one of the award winners for 2021. Photographing animals in their environment is obviously difficult. Especially with a shot like this. 

“Zack decided these bull elk remains were an ideal spot to set a camera trap. Returning to the scene was challenging. Zack bridged gushing meltwater with fallen trees, only to find his setup trashed. This was the last frame captured on the camera.”

The squid finale

Another of Lasse Kurkela’s epic photographs appears as a highly commended image from the 2021 awards and it’s easy to see why. 

“As Laurent emerged from a diving bell 60 metres below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, he spotted shadows cast by this mating pair of veined squid. Surprised by the rare sight, he took this photo of their entwined arms and tentacles.”

A deadly huddle

Douglas Gimesy’s highly commended photo looks cute at first glance but actually tells a sad tale of misery for the pictured grey-headed flying foxes. These creatures are huddled while also trying to escape the scorching heat of the Australian summer . 

“Sadly, this ‘clumping’ behaviour only exacerbates their heat stress as the bats crowd together, getting hotter. Eventually one may fall, knocking others down, creating a pile at the bottom of the tree. Unable to move, the bats get even hotter and can suffocate each other.”

Writing by Adrian Willings. Originally published on .

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