An enchanting image of willow branches mirrored by the surface of a frozen Italian lake, submitted in dedication to a lost friend, has won Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award 2021.

Italian photographer Cristiano Vendramin’s photograph touched the hearts of over 31,800 wildlife and nature enthusiasts who voted online for his breath-taking landscape to win from a shortlist of 25 images.

The shortlist was chosen by the Natural History Museum, London, from a record breaking 50,000 images from 95 countries submitted to the fifty-seventh annual competition.

Whilst visiting Santa Croce Lake in northern Italy in 2019, Cristiano noticed the water was unusually high and the willow plants were partially submerged, creating a play of light and reflections on the surface of the water. Cristiano was reminded of a dear friend, who had loved this special place and is no longer here.

© Cristiano Vendramin, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021
‘Lake of ice’ © Cristiano Vendramin, Italy

Cristiano Vendramin says: 

‘I hope that my photography will encourage people to understand that the beauty of nature can be found everywhere around us, and we can be pleasantly surprised by the many landscapes so close to home. I believe having a daily relationship with nature is increasingly more necessary to have a serene and healthy life. Nature photography is therefore important to remind us of this bond, which we must preserve, and in whose memory, we can take refuge.’

Director of the Natural History Museum, Dr Douglas Gurr, says: 

‘Cristiano’s poignant image symbolises the positive impact nature can have on our wellbeing and lives. It can provide solace and a space to reflect on the past and even spark hope for the future. These past two years have redefined what truly matters in life, the people and the environments that play a crucial role in our own personal ecosystems. I hope those who look at this landscape frozen in time, are reminded of the importance of connecting to the natural world and the steps we must all take to protect it.’ 

Cristiano’s winning photograph and the top four ‘Highly Commended’ finalists will be displayed in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London. 

The four ‘Highly Commended’ finalists that captured the fascination of nature enthusiasts across the globe include ‘Shelter from the rain’ by Ashleigh McCord, a tender moment between two male lions in the rain and Jo-Anne McArthur’s striking portrait of a kangaroo and her joey emerging from the aftermath of the Australian bushfires, ‘Hope in a burned plantation’. ‘The eagle and the bear’ by Jeroen Hoekendijk, is a dynamic photograph showing a surprising encounter between two unlikely subjects, and a truly magical depiction of two male golden pheasants is the subject of Qiang Guo’s ‘Dancing in the snow’.

© Ashleigh McCord, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021
© Ashleigh McCord, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum and offers a truly global platform for amateur and professional photographers alike.

Using photography’s unique emotive power to engage and inspire audiences, the exhibition shines a light on stories and species around the world and supports the Museum in its mission of creating advocates for the planet. The fifty-eighth competition is currently being judged by an esteemed panel of experts, and the winners will be revealed in October 2022. 

The Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in London is sponsored by renewable energy company Ørsted and non-alcoholic beverage company Seedlip.

The Exhibition at Natural History Museum, London is open until Sunday 5 June 2022.

The exhibition is open Monday – Sunday, 10.00-17.50 (last admission at 16.30), and weekends sell out quickly.



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