Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition results are always keenly awaited, but each year organiser the Natural History Museum puts out a teaser with a preview of images rated as Highly Commended by the judges.
And among the 14 photographs released early for the 2022 contest are three striking underwater shots, including that of the coconut octopus above, taken by Samuel Sloss (Italy/USA) and entered in the “15-17 Years” category.
Sloss was muck-diving in Lembeh Strait in Indonesia when he noticed the octopus peeking out from its clamshell. He reduced his strobe power to avoid distressing it and, although the octopus closed the lid as he approached, it then slowly reopened it to reveal its colours and coils (Nikon D300 with 105mm f2.8 lens in a Nauticam housing with two Inon Z-240 strobes, 1/320th @ f/6.3, ISO 200).
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the NHM, London and its redesigned 58th exhibition, which opens at the museum on 14 October, features 100 winning images selected from the entries of photographers of all experience levels from 93 countries.
Each entry was judged anonymously for creativity, originality and technical excellence by an international panel of industry experts, says the NHM. The winning images, including the prestigious Grand Title and Young Grand Title Awards, will be announced on 11 October at a ceremony hosted by wildlife TV presenter and conservationist Chris Packham.
“These inspiring images convey human impact on the natural world in a way that words cannot – from the urgency of declining biodiversity to the inspiring bounce back of a protected species,” commented NHM director Dr Doug Gurr.
For his shot The Right Look, Richard Robinson (New Zealand) was fortunate enough to become the object of fascination for a young southern right whale off Port Ross, Auckland. As it investigated him, Robinson’s challenge was to swim far enough away to be able to photograph it (under a Department of Conservation permit).
The encounter lasted 30 minutes, as the calf would circle him and swim off before returning for another look. The population has bounced back after being hunted almost to extinction, and now numbers more than 2,000 individuals. The image was Highly Commended in the “Animal Portraits” category (Canon EOS 5DS R with 8–15mm f4 lens at 15mm in an Aquatica housing, 1/500th @ f/4.5, ISO 640).
Underwater Wonderland was Highly Commended in the “Under Water” category and resulted from photographer Tiina Törmänen (Finland) floating through sheets of pink-tinged algae on her annual lake snorkel at Posio before running into a school of inquisitive European perch.
During the previous three years she had only ever found dead fish, reflecting the fact that while the scene might look attractive, algal blooms can cause big problems for aquatic wildlife (Canon EOS R5 with 15–35mm f2.8 lens at 15mm in a Nauticam housing, 1/250Th @ f/8, ISO 500)
A less attractive fish subject was captured by Srikanth Mannepuri (India) and Highly Commended in the “Oceans: The Bigger Picture” category. Shocked to see so many recently caught marlin and sailfish in a single place in one morning, he used a drone to photograph the market at Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh (DJI Mavic 2 Pro with Hasselblad L1D-20c & 28mm f2.8 lens, 1/500th @ f/5.6, ISO 100)
“What’s stayed with me is not just the extraordinary mix of subjects in this year’s collection – a vast panorama of the natural world – but the emotional strength of so many of the pictures,” commented judging panel chair Roz Kidman Cox.
After the launch of the London exhibition, which runs there until 2 July 2023 co-sponsored by green energy company Ørsted, it will embark on a UK and international tour. Book tickets here.
Entries for the 2023 competition are accepted from 17 October 2022 until 8 December. Up to 25 images can be submitted for a £30 fee, but entrants aged 17 and under can enter up to 10 images free.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 32 book will be on sale from 12 October, priced at £25.
Paid internships in wildlife conservation TV
Younger divers from under-represented backgrounds looking to pursue a career in TV and wildlife conservation might be interested in a new scheme created by a Bristol-based conservation charity.
Backed by WWF-UK, the Wildscreen Storytelling Internship Scheme is offering paid internships for six UK-based and six internationally based 18-25-year-olds. Twelve wildlife TV production companies and conservation organisations will provide hands-on professional skills and experience to aspiring storytellers and content creators, promising to cover aspects “from camera-operating to editing, and from story development to scriptwriting”.
The hosts will provide one-to-one mentoring and a year’s membership of the Wildscreen Network, claimed to be the world’s biggest professional community for the wildlife film and TV genre, comes with the offer.
The scheme is aimed particularly at those young people Wildscreen says might normally encounter systemic barriers to entry “including ethnically diverse individuals, in-country talent, LGBTQIA+ individuals, those living with disability, womxn, individuals who identify as neurodiverse, and individuals from low socio-economic backgrounds”.
“To grow and diversify audiences watching wildlife content and engaging with conservation organisations’ campaigns, it’s critical we address the lack of representation in those creating the content,” says Wildscreen CEO Lucie Muir. “We hope this scheme will demonstrate the huge benefits of democratising who tells nature’s stories.”
Planta Alta in Argentina and Brighton-based Big Wave Productions are the first hosts signed up and applications are now open on the Wildscreen website.