Might mudskipper be People’s Choice?

Neighbourhood Dispute (Ofer Levy / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)
Neighbourhood Dispute (Ofer Levy / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

A mudskipper fiercely defending its territory from a trespassing crab in Roebuck Bay, Western Australia is the main subject of the eye-popping image above, Neighbourhood Dispute by photographer Ofer Levy. 

It is one of 25 entries that were pre-selected from among those for this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which is developed and produced by London’s Natural History Museum (NHM). The main competition was decided in October, as reported on Divernet, but now these additional images get their own time in the limelight – through the annual People’s Choice Award.

Mudskippers can live both in and out of water, as long as they remain wet, and they thrive in intertidal mudflats and mangroves, often building mud walls around their feeding and breeding territories. This one is opening its mouth and raising its dorsal fin in a threatening display calculated to scare off the crab.

Levy witnessed a series of confrontations between fish and crab on the mudflat, each one initiated by the mudskipper. (Taken with a Canon EOS R5 + 800mm f11 lens; 1/5000th at f/11, ISO 6400)

Of the 25 People’s Choice contenders this year, only three depict marine life, and in two of those images the creatures are above the surface. The exception is Missed Sip of Milk by diver Karim Iliya (USA/Lebanon), who captured a humpback whale calf that had missed some of its mother’s milk and left it swirling in the French Polynesian currents. 

Might mudskipper win? Missed Sip of Milk (Karim Iliya / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)
Missed Sip of Milk (Karim Iliya / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Iliya has spent seven years and hundreds of hours documenting humpback whales but this was only the second time he had seen whale milk floating – both times on a diving trip off Rurutu, and with the same whale and her calf. He caught this image just as he was about to surface. (Taken with a Canon EOS R3 + 15-35mm f2.8 lens @ 15mm in a Nauticam housing; 1/400th at f/5.6, ISO 500) 

Aurora Jellies by Audun Rikardsen shows moon jellyfish swarming in the cool autumnal waters of a fjord outside Tromsø in northern Norway, illuminated by the Aurora Borealis under which the species is known to gather. 

Aurora Jellies (Audun Rikardsen / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)
Aurora Jellies (Audun Rikardsen / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Rikardsen used a self-made waterproof camera housing, and his own system for adjusting focus and aperture during the single 34-second exposure. This enabled him to capture the reflection of the sky’s colours on the surface of the water, and at the same time light up the jellyfish with flashes.

The moon jellyfish’s distinctive four rings are their genitals, he points out. (Taken with a Canon EOS-1D X + Laowa 12mm f2.8 lens, two Canon 600 flashes; 34sec at f/2.8-22, ISO 1600)

One other People’s Choice image depicts not marine but swamp life – Happy Turtle shows a Balkan pond turtle with a northern banded groundling dragonfly in Israel’s Jezreel Valley.

Photographer Tzahi Finkelstein had been in a hide photographing shore birds when he spotted the insect landing on the turtle’s nose in shallow water. Instead of snapping up the dragonfly, the turtle gave every appearance of savouring the interaction. (Taken with a Nikon D500 + 500mm f4 lens; 1/3200th at f/5.6 (-0.3 e/v), ISO 320)

Happy Turtle (Tzahi Finkelstein / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)
Happy Turtle (Tzahi Finkelstein / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

“Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s People’s Choice Award always offers an astounding selection of images, and this year is no different,” said NHM director Dr Douglas Gurr. “We invite the public to join the jury and vote for their favourite; whether breathtaking beauty or a powerful story, it’s sure to be a difficult decision!” 

The 25 contenders were picked from among 49,957 Wildlife Photographer of the Year entries from 95 countries. They are now on display at the NHM along with the 100 shortlisted and winning entries to the main competition.

They can also be viewed on the People’s Choice online site, and votes can be cast either there or at the exhibition. Voting closes on 31 January, 2024, and the winner and top four images will be announced in February and displayed online alongside the 59th competition winners until the end of June.

60th anniversary competition

2024 sees Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s 60th anniversary, and the competition is open to photographers of all ages, nationalities and experience levels, but it closes soon – on 7 December. The jury will be awarding a special prize within the 100 winning images in any category to recognise a conservation success, a story of hope and/or positive change.

Adults can enter up to 25 images for a £30 entry fee, which is waived for those photographers living in Africa, South-east Asia and Central and South America. The competition is free to enter for those aged 17 and under, who can enter up to 10 images.

Also on Divernet: Ballesta named Wildlife Photographer of the Year again

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