Finalists Announced For Wildlife Photographer Of The Year

See the stunning images from the world’s best photographers

Professionals and beginners from 96 countries have submitted more than 42,000 entries for the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Awards, and now the finalists have been announced.

Categories include black & white, urban wildlife, mammals, underwater, amphibians & reptiles, land and birds, as well as a separate groups for children 10 years and under.

The awards, which have been running for 52 years, are judged by a panel of industry experts.

FINALIST, AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES: Komodo Judo by Andrey Gudkov, Russia

Photo credit: Andrey Gudkov/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015

The fight was fast and unexpected. Andrey had been to Indonesia's Komodo National Park many times before, hoping to witness a battle between male Komodo dragons – the largest lizards in the world, measuring up to 2.5 metres (8 feet) long. And though he had visited in August, when males are most likely to battle over females, he had never been lucky. But on this December morning, on Rinca Island, he had found two large males hissing angrily at each other. To his surprise, the confrontation escalated. The lizards reared up on their hind legs, supported by their long, muscular tails, and suddenly everything came together: two formidable dragons 'dancing the tango' at the crest of a hill against a beautiful backdrop, without the usual tall grass obscuring the action. Andrey seized his chance, knowing that Komodo dragons can move fast and that their bites are venomous, secreting a mix of toxic substances from glands in their jaws into the wounds made by their teeth. The dragons fought two consecutive bouts of a few seconds each until one overpowered the other, knocking him over backwards, and the pair walked off in different directions. With quick reactions and a fast shutter speed, Andrey had nailed the shot he had dreamt of. 

FINALIST, BLACK & WHITE: Natural Frame by Morkel Erasmus, South Africa

Photo credit: Morkel Erasmus/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015

Morkel could hear every rumble. He could even smell the elephants. But his view was limited to the viewing slit of a cramped bunker sunk into the ground beside a remote waterhole in Namibia's Etosha National Park. Giraffes, zebras and kudu wandered in and out of view, but the elephants were right in front, sometimes so close that his view was blocked. Morkel used black and white to place the emphasis on the composition. His moment came when a mother framed his shot with her legs just as her calf walked into view framing a giraffe. Having caught his 'dream moment', Morkel put down his camera and just sat and enjoyed the 'bliss' of watching wild animals taking their turn to drink from this life-giving waterhole.

FINALIST, PHOTOJOURNALISM: SINGLE IMAGE: Gorilla Care by Marcus Westburg, Sweden

Photo credit: Marcus Westburg/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015

Ndeze, a nine-year-old orphan mountain gorilla, watches with concern as veterinarians check the health of her female companion, twelve-year-old Maisha, in the Senkwekwe Centre at the headquarters of the Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The resident 'gorilla doctor' Eddy Kambale (here with the former regional director Jan Ramer, left, assisted by two visiting vets) runs thorough health checks every year on the four orphan mountain gorillas, all of whom have been rescued from poachers and traffickers and have suffered traumatic experiences. The centre – named after Ndeze's father, who was murdered along with Ndeze's mother and several other members of her family in 2007 – is just part of the park's efforts to protect the surviving mountain gorillas. 'The deep bonds that exist between these orphans, their carers and Eddy is one of the most touching things I have ever had the privilege of witnessing,' says Marcus.

FINALIST, BIRDS: Great Egret Awakening by Zsolt Kudich, Hungary

Photo credit: Zsolt Kudich/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015

When the River Danube flooded into Hungary's Gemenc Forest, more than a thousand great egrets flocked to the lake to feed on the stranded amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Working on a project to document the last untouched regions of the Danube, including the floodplains, Zsolt was delighted to find a sixth of Hungary's great egret population in the one place. By 1921, hunting had reduced their number to just 31 pairs. Today, habitat loss is the big threat. Using the soft dawn light, Zsolt wanted to convey the impression of a multitude of birds. So he pitched his camouflaged tent nearby, sleeping just a few hours a night for five nights. His chance came when a fishing white-tailed eagle sent some of the egrets into the air. With a slow shutter speed to blur the wings and a large depth of field to keep in focus those standing, Zsolt got his memorable image.

FINALIST, LAND: Jagged Peace by Floris van Breugel, USA

Photo credit: Floris van Breugel/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015

'It was a rare opportunity,' says Floris, grateful to his companion, who was skilled at predicting weather patterns in this part of Patagonia. 'There was enough snow to stick to the trees but not so much as to make travel dangerous, no wind, an unfrozen lake and a clear view of Fitz Roy.' They had weathered a snowstorm before donning snowshoes and heading into the backcountry of Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park. A designated World Heritage site, the park boasts the largest ice mantle outside Antarctica, with numerous glaciers, lakes and towering mountains. Mount Fitz Roy – also known as the 'smoking mountain', after the cloud that usually forms around its peak – is the highest, rising a jagged 3,375 metres (11,000 feet) above sea level. While Floris was scouting for compositions, a little bird showed up – a black-billed shrike-tyrant (named after the aggressive nature of some species in its tyrant flycatcher family). With fresh snow and muted light evoking the quiet wilderness, the bird completed the shot, adding a sense of scale and connection to the landscape.

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