A Siberian tigress embracing a Manchurian fir, rubbing her cheek again the bark, has won a Russian photographer the 2020 Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. The awards, which are developed and produced each year by the Natural History Museum, London, are now in the fifty-sixth year. The contest received over 49,000 entries from amateur and professional photographers from around the world, but it was Sergey Gorshkov’s photo of the rare Siberian tiger (which took him nearly a year to capture) that took home the top prize.
Check out all the winners below and the gallery for the stories behind all the winning photos, provided by the National History Museum.
Grand Title Winner
“With an expression of sheer ecstasy, a tigress hugs an ancient Manchurian fir, rubbing her cheek against bark to leave secretions from her scent glands. She is an Amur, or Siberian, tiger, here in the Land of the Leopard National Park, in the Russian Far East. The race—now regarded as the same subspecies as the Bengal tiger—is found only in this region, with a small number surviving over the border in China and possibly a few in North Korea. Hunted almost to extinction in the past century, the population is still threatened by poaching and logging, which also impacts their prey—mostly deer and wild boar, which are also hunted. But recent (unpublished) camera‑trap surveys indicate that greater protection may have resulted in a population of possibly 500–600—an increase that it is hoped a future formal census may confirm. Low prey densities mean that tiger territories are huge. Sergey knew his chances were slim but was determined to take a picture of the totem animal of his Siberian homeland. Scouring the forest for signs, focusing on trees along regular routes where tigers might have left messages—scent, hairs, urine or scratch marks—he installed his first proper camera trap in January 2019, opposite this grand fir. But it was not until November that he achieved the picture he had planned for, of a magnificent tigress in her Siberian forest environment.”
Young Grand Title Winner
“It was on a summer holiday in Helsinki that Liina, then aged 13, heard about a large fox family living in the city suburbs on the island of Lehtisaari. The island has both wooded areas and fox-friendly citizens, and the foxes are relatively unafraid of humans. So Liina and her father spent one long July day, without a hide, watching the two adults and their six large cubs, which were almost the size of their parents, though slimmer and lankier. In another month, the cubs would be able to fend for themselves, but in July they were only catching insects and earthworms and a few rodents, and the parents were still bringing food for them—larger prey than the more normal voles and mice. It was 7pm when the excitement began, with the vixen’s arrival with a barnacle goose. Feathers flew as the cubs began fighting over it. One finally gained ownership—urinating on it in its excitement. Dragging the goose into a crevice, the cub attempted to eat its prize while blocking access to the others. Lying just metres away, Liina was able to frame the scene and capture the expression of the youngster as it attempted to keep its hungry siblings at bay.”
“It was Ritak’Uwa Blanco, the highest peak in the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes, that Gabriel had set out to photograph. Pitching his tent in the valley, he climbed up to photograph the snow-capped peak against the sunset. But it was the foreground of flowers that captured his attention. Sometimes known as white arnica, the plant is a member of the daisy family found only in Colombia. It flourishes in the high-altitude, herb-rich páramo habitat of the Andes, adapted to the extreme cold with a dense covering of woolly white ‘hair’ and ‘antifreeze’ proteins in its leaves. As the magic hour of sunset passed, there followed a blue hour that drenched the scene in an ethereal blue light. But while the silver-grey leaves were washed in blue, the flowers shone bright yellow. It was also strangely calm, enabling Gabriel to use a long exposure to capture the clouds flowing over the high peak without any blur of movement among the plants. Seeming to glow ever brighter as the light faded, the yellow blooms began to dominate the scene, leading the eye towards the mountain but stealing the limelight from it.”
Think you have what it takes to be named the next Wildlife Photographer of the Year? The 2021 competition—open to photographers of all ages and abilities—closes on December 10, 2020.