Nature Picture Library’s photographers were successful in many of the major photography competions last year. Here is our round-up of the 2019 Competition Winners and the highly commended images. We’ve also created a new 2019 winners gallery featuring all the winning and commended images.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Ingo Arndt was joint winner of the Mammal Behaviour category and Stefan Christmann won the portfolio section with his lovely set of emperor penguin images. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition has now been running for more than 40 years and the awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum in London is always a highlight of the nature photography calendar.
Ingo told us the story behind his amazing image of a puma attacking a guanaco
“I spent seven months in the Torres del Paine region of Patagonia. My goal was to photograph the first story of wild pumas, from behind the lens – not just using camera traps. Every day I followed the pumas and after month some of them got used to my presence. I was able to observe behaviour that was never documented before, because the pumas trusted me. The “key picture“ of the story was a puma hunting a guanaco, their main prey in many areas of Patagonia.”
“It was five months before I had the perfect situation, when a female puma tried to pull down a full grown male guanaco. The guanaco was huge but the puma tried to kill it anyway. The cat was close to killing the guanaco and already hanging onto his neck. But the very experienced guanaco was bumping with all his weight against the puma, his last chance, and the cat lost contact. Finally the guanaco survived, but I had all I wanted, a unique image of the puma in contact with the huge guanaco. The light was perfect, the background clear… you get such a situation just once in your life, a dream for every wildlife photographer!”
And Stefan reveals his unique experience with the emperor penguins of Antarctica
Stefan spent a year in Antarctica, working on the BBC Dynasties series, and had a rare opportunity to witness and photograph one of nature’s great survival stories – the winter breeding of emperor penguins, surviving driving blizzards and temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees. In Stefan’s words: “When I first picked up a camera as a student, the quality of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year was what I always aspired to. Now, almost 20 years later, I finally have proof that anyone can become a part of this amazing competition by pouring their heart and soul into something they really care about. I hope it will inspire other young photographers to embark on their own personal journeys and never ever give up!”
Alex Mustard, Cyril Ruoso, Joanne McArthur and Joris van Alphen all received commendations.
Cyril Ruoso tells us about his intriguing urban macaque image: “I followed this troop of long-tailed macaques into a disused building in Thailand and found them playing on a decrepit couch. One of them was reclining against it, and the scene looked like the end of a drunken party: the flat devastated, the couch destroyed, and the party-goer slumped on the floor. These macaques are tolerated by local people because of their religious status. They are believed by some to be the descendents of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god and one of the most celebrated and worshipped figures in Indian religion. The macaques have adapted well to their urban lifestyle and show little fear of humans. While I was busy taking pictures, one of them jumped on my back!”
GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Ingo Arndt won the mammals category with his dramatic shot of a puma hunting a guanaco. Ann & Steve Toon, Espen Bergersen, Alex Mustard and Stefan Christmann also enjoyed success in this competition. European Wildlife Photographer of the Year is run by the German Association of Nature Photographers, which holds a popular symposium in Lunen each October including presentations by photographers and an exhibition of the winning images.
Windland Smith Rice Nature’s Best Awards
The Nature’s Best Photography Awards carry on the legacy of photographer and conservation advocate, Windland Smith Rice, to support emerging nature photographers worldwide. This US competition counts many of North America’s top nature and wildlife photographers amongst its previous winners. Stefan Christmann won the Polar Passion category and had two other mentions for his emperor penguin images. Bence Mate, who has enjoyed much success in photo competitions, was also commended. Also successful this year was Andy Rouse with his portraits of lioness carrying her cub and a little bittern balancing on reeds.
Other 2019 Competition Winners
Our photographers also enjoyed success in a number of other international photo competitions in 2019.
Claudio Contreras was overall winner of the Spanish Cadiz Photo Nature competition with his black and white image of a Californian sealion. He described the experience of taking this image: ” I was floating in the kelp forest waiting for something to complete my composition, when in the distance a Californian sealion appeared. Being very curious, as soon as I released the shutter, it headed rapidly in my direction!”
Pal Hermansen’s goshawk image taken in the Norwegian forest won the gold award in Attention to Detail category of the Bird Photographer of the Year competition 2019. Pal found the goshawk at a feeding place and decided to use a long lens to capture the beautiful detail of the bird’s breast plumage. When the foot appeared, he knew he had captured the image he was after!
Robin Chittenden won the Animal Behaviour category of the British Wildlife Photography Awards. He reveals how he managed to capture this rare image of a swift drinking on the wing. “I spent several mornings photographing swifts as they came in to drink. They usually only arrived on the hottest, sunny days, which meant they were only photographable in the best light for an hour or so: the ‘golden hour’. Their speed of movement meant that many images were not in focus. After many hours, I finally managed to get some photographs that were really sharp.”
Alex Mustard tells us about his winning shots
Alex Mustard told us more about this surgeonfish shot, which won the underwater category of the Mont Photo compeition. “This shot is the one I am most proud of from my 2019 competition successes, because it is a unique image and one that won’t be copied, because it owes much to luck and would be very difficult to repeat. The photo shows a pair of yellowtail surgeonfish, endemic to the Red Sea, spawning at sunset. When these fish spawn they swim at full speed, the female flipping upside down to release her eggs alongside the male’s sperm. I was there to photograph their courtship, but was incredibly lucky that they swam right at my camera and into focus at the moment I pressed my shutter.”
Alex also won the overall coast and marine category of BWPA 2019 with his grey seal image. He told us more about the significance of this photo. “Forty percent of the world’s grey seals live in the UK, but of these 90% live in Scotland. Most of my underwater photos of them are from England, so I was keen to shot them north of the border too. My aim for this image was to show the seal as part of its ecosystem and I found this beautiful seaweed garden to frame it against. Then I just had to wait for it to swim into frame – curiosity eventually getting the better of it!”
2019 Winners Gallery
Take a look at our 2019 Winners Gallery to see all the 2019 Competition Winners and commended images. We’d like to congratulate all the successul photographers and wish them luck in the new round of 2020 competitions!