In late November last year Divernet picked out the only four of 25 images shortlisted in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award that depicted sea – or in one case swamp – life, and speculated as to whether any of them might win the main prize.
They didn’t, although two were Highly Commended and so made the top five, which has just been announced.
All five photographs were taken topside but the winning image was very much marine-based and relevant to what is happening to the oceans today – the unforgettable Ice Bed by British photographer Nima Sarikhani shows a young polar bear drifting off to sleep, after making itself comfortable on a small iceberg.
“Nima’s breathtaking and poignant image allows us to see the beauty and fragility of our planet,” said Dr Douglas Gurr, director of London’s Natural History Museum (NHM), which organises the prestigious annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPOTY) competition.
“His thought-provoking image is a stark reminder of the integral bond between an animal and its habitat and serves as a visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss.”
The shot was taken from an expedition vessel off Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. “This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it,” commented Sarikhani.
“Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope; there is still time to fix the mess we have caused” (Taken with a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III + 70–200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm; 1/500th, f/5, ISO 400).
Where to see the images
The People’s Choice Award received a record number of more than 75,000 votes from around the world. The shortlist had been selected by the NHM and its international judging panel from almost 50,000 images submitted for the fifty-ninth WPOTY competition.
The first of the two marine-life Highly Commended images was Aurora Jellies by Audun Rikardsen, showing a moon jellyfish in autumnal waters in a fjord outside Tromsø in northern Norway, where it is common for the species to gather in their hundreds under the Aurora Borealis.
The photographer used his own system for adjusting focus and aperture during the single exposure, enabling him to capture the reflection of the sky’s colours on the water’s surface while also lighting up the jellyfish with strobes (Taken with a Canon EOS-1D X + Laowa 12mm f/2.8; 34 sec at f/2.8–22, ISO 1600; two Canon 600 strobes in underwater housing).
The Happy Turtle by Tzahi Finkelstein shows a Balkan pond turtle with a northern banded groundling dragonfly that had landed on its nose in Israel’s Jezreel Valley (Taken with a Nikon D500 + 500mm f/4, 1/3200th, f/5.6; ISO 320).
Entry to next year’s WPOTY is now closed. The book Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 33 is now available, priced at £28.