From lynx making a comeback to a striking ecological disaster to Narwhal shrimp communicating at great depths; these are just some of the unique and fascinating images in the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition now in it’s fifty-seventh year. 

A special selection of Highly Commended photographs has been released ahead of the opening of the highly anticipated exhibition on Friday 15 October 2021, at the Natural History Museum in London.

With a record-breaking number of entries from around the world, the judges of the fifty-seventh Wildlife Photographer of the Year have had the toughest job yet. The photographs are a compelling reminder of the importance of the variety and variability of life on Earth in securing the future of our planet, revealed just ahead of the first phase of the global UN conference of COP15 on biodiversity. 

This year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition was the most competitive yet, attracting over 50,000 entries from photographers in 95 countries. Every entry was judged anonymously on its creativity, originality, and technical excellence by an international panel of industry experts. 

The winning images, including the prestigious Grand Title Award winners, will be announced on 12 October 2021 during a not-to-be-missed online Awards show. Broadcast live from the Natural History Museum, the free event will once again be hosted by BBC presenters and wildlife experts Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin and feature photographers, Museum scientists and special guests. 

Among the newly revealed Highly Commended images is Sergio Marijuán’s young Iberian lynx framed in the doorway of an abandoned hayloft; a species that was once on the brink of extinction is now rising in numbers thanks to ongoing conservation efforts.

Other images tell the story of nature under pressure, like the vibrant designs captured by Gheorghe Popa, which are the result of heavy metals from mining seeping into the river.

Each photograph has a story. The photographer of the male cheetahs in Kenya said:

“Monstrous rains in Masai Mara Kenya during January of 2020 caused one of the major rivers to flood and become larger and more violent than ever before. The world’s only recorded coalition of 5 male cheetahs, were looking to cross this river in terrifyingly powerful currents. It seemed a task doomed to failure, with many famous cheetahs dying trying to cross much fewer daunting waters.

“After hours of careful searching along the banks, they suddenly jumped into the water and began trying to swim across this maelstrom of water as we watched terrified, they would be washed away or eaten by crocodiles. Their aim was to cross over to the other side, which was part of their territory and full of game.

“The lead cheetah looked straight at us during the crossing while gritting teeth with swimming effort, as if accusing us of not helping them and watching them about to die. We screamed with delight as we saw them finally cross over about a 100m downstream from where they jumped.”

Chair of the judging panel, Roz Kidman Cox says:

‘It was the overall quality of entries that took us by surprise. With most travel plans cancelled over the past year, photographers seem to have spent extra time considering what gems to submit. There are stand-out pictures of unforgettable scenes and encounters – those unique wild moments, skillfully framed, that result from knowledge, experience and planning – but also fresh, beautiful observations of nature close to home or in close-up. The result is a collection of both thought-provoking images and ones that, in these dark times, remind us of the joy and wonder to be had from nature.’

When thinking about mosquitoes, the word “pretty” is usually not among the first associations to pop up in our mind. And yet, there are some spectacular species of mosquitoes out there. Members of the genus Sabethes are a perfect example. There is no other mosquito in the world that has such an elegant appearance: its body is covered with blue and green iridescent scales, and its legs are long and bear wide flattened brushes of hairs, like paddles. Sabethes mosquitoes are found only in northern Latin America.

Dr Doug Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum adds:

‘These extraordinary images showcase the rich diversity of life on Earth and spark curiosity and wonder. Telling the story of a planet under pressure, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition illuminates the urgent challenges we face and the collective action we need to take. This year’s inspiring exhibition will move and empower audiences to advocate for the natural world.’ 

After the flagship exhibition is unveiled at the Natural History Museum, the 100 images will embark on a UK and international tour, bringing the emotive power of wildlife photography to millions of people. 


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