Wildlife Photographer of the Year: 14 Stunning Highly Commended Images

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: 14 Stunning Highly Commended Images Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A magnificent lioness, an amorous fish and a curious Chernobyl fox are just three of the phenomenal images from the 54th annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

The world renowned exhibition opens on October 19 at the Natural History Museum in London, which runs the annual competition.

This year's competition attracted over 45,000 entries from professionals and amateurs across 95 countries. The competition showcases the world's best nature photography and photojournalism. The overall winners will be announced on October 16 at an awards ceremony in the Natural History Museum's iconic Hintze Hall. Winning images are selected for their creativity, originality and technical excellence.

Ian Owens, Director of Science at the Natural History Museum and member of the judging panel, said: "We were captivated by the outstanding quality of the images entered into this year's competition, which spoke volumes to us about the passion for nature shared by talented photographers across the world. I look forward to seeing the winning selection on beautiful lightbox displays in the exhibition. I'm sure the images will surprise and inspire our visitors, and raise awareness for threatened species and ecosystems."

After the flagship exhibition opening at the Natural History Museum, the images will embark on a tour of the UK and across the world, bringing the beauty and fragility of the natural world to millions beyond London.

Ahead of the results, Newsweek presents 14 superb images that were highly commended by the contest judges.

01 © Tony Wu - Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Looking for love by Tony Wu, USA. Highly commended 2018, Animal Portraits. Accentuating his mature appearance with pastel colours, protruding lips and an outstanding pink forehead, this Asian sheepshead wrasse sets out to impress females and see off rivals, which he will head-butt and bite. Tony has long been fascinated by the species’ looks and life history. Individuals start out as females, and when they reach a certain age and size – up to a metre (more than 3 feet) long – can transform into males. Long-lived and slow-growing, the species is intrinsically vulnerable to overfishing. It favours rocky reefs in cool waters in the Western Pacific, where it feeds on shellfish and crustaceans, though little more is known about it. In a window of calm, amid high seas, Tony reached Japan’s remote Sado Island, to reveal some of the drama of the wrasses’ lives. Here, he conveys the suitor’s earnest intentions, written large on his face. Nikon D800 + Sigma 15mm f2.8 lens; 1/200 sec at f11; ISO 200; Nauticam housing; ProOne dome port; two Nikon SB-910 flashes + custom Zillion housings.Tony Wu / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
02 © Valter Bernadeschi - Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Mister Whiskers by Valter Bernardeschi, Italy. Highly commended 2018, Animal Portraits. It was a bright summer’s night when Valter came across the walruses. They were feeding just off an island in the Norwegian archipelago off Svalbard. Putting on his wetsuit, and using a couple of monopod poles and a float to extend his camera in front of him, Valter slipped into the icy water. Immediately, a few curious walruses – mainly youngsters – began swimming towards him. Clumsy on land, these weighty giants now moved with ease and speed. Keeping at pole’s length, he was able to take this intimate portrait of the distinctive whiskered faces of a youngster and its watchful mother. Walruses use their highly sensitive whiskers and snout to search out bivalve molluscs (such as clams) and other small invertebrates on the ocean floor. In the cold water, their thick protective skin appears grey when blood flow to its surface is reduced, but darker, reddish-brown when they are out of water and have warmed up. The tusks are not used for feeding but for display among the males, for defence against polar bears and for hauling themselves out, especially onto sea ice. They will rest on ice floes between bouts of feeding and even give birth on them. Sony ILCE-7RM2 + 28mm f2.8 lens + ultrawide converter; 1/800 sec at f8; ISO 1250; Nimar II housing; Nikonos remote control; Feisol monopod.Valter Bernardeschi / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
03 © Isak Pretorius - Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Cool cat by Isak Pretorius, South Africa. Highly commended 2018, Animal Portraits. A lioness drinks from a waterhole in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. She is one of the Mfuwe Lodge pride—two males, five females and five cubs. Isak had been keeping watch on them while they slept off a feast from a buffalo kill the night before. Lions kill more than 95 per cent of their prey at night and may spend 18–20 hours resting. When this female got up and walked off, Isak anticipated that she might be going for a drink, and so he headed for the nearest waterhole. Though lions can get most of the moisture they need from their prey and even from plants, they drink regularly when water is available. Isak positioned his vehicle on the opposite side of the waterhole, close to the edge, steadying his long lens in the low light on a bean bag. Sure enough, the lioness appeared through the tall, rainy-season grass and hunched down to drink, occasionally looking up or sideways. With perfect timing, Isak caught her gaze and her tongue, lapping the water, framed by the wall of lush green. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II + 600mm f4 lens; 1/400 sec at f4; ISO 1600.Isak Pretorius / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
04 © Wayne Jones - Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Glass-house guard by Wayne Jones, Australia. Highly commended 2018, Underwater. On the sandy seabed off the coast of Mabini in the Philippines, a yellow pygmy goby guards its home—a discarded glass bottle. It is one of a pair, each no more than one and a half inches long, that have chosen a bottle as a perfect temporary home. The female will lay several batches of eggs, while the male performs guard duty at the entrance. Setting up his camera in front of the bottle’s narrow opening, Wayne positioned his two strobes—one at the base of the bottle to illuminate the interior, and the other at the front to light the goby’s characteristic surprised face. Opting for a shallow depth of field, Wayne focused on the goby’s bulging blue eyes, allowing the movement of the fish to blur the rest of its features into a haze of yellow, and framing its portrait with the circular entrance to the bottle. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV + 100mm f2.8 lens + Nauticam super macro converter (SMC-1); 1/200 sec at f8; ISO 200; Nauticam housing; two Sea & Sea strobes. Wayne Jones / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
05 © Tertius-A-Gous - Wildlife Photographer of the Year
The meerkat mob by Tertius A Gous, South Africa. Highly commended 2018, Behaviour: Mammals. When an Anchieta’s cobra reared its head and moved towards two meerkat pups near their warren on Namibia’s Brandberg Mountain, the rest of the pack – foraging nearby – reacted almost instantly. Rushing back, the 20-strong group split into two: one group grabbed the pups and huddled a safe distance away, the other took on the snake. Fluffing up their coats, tails raised, the mob edged forwards, growling. When the snake lunged, they sprang back. This was repeated over and over for about 10 minutes. Tertius had a ringside seat from his vehicle and relished the chance to capture such intense interaction between the meerkat pack and the little known Anchieta’s cobra. Focusing on the snake’s classic profile and flicking tongue, he also caught the expressions of fear and aggression among the meerkats, some facing their attacker and one fleeing. Finally, the cobra gave up and disappeared down a burrow into the warren. The meerkats reunited and scurried away, most probably to an alternative—snake-free—warren in their territory. Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + 500mm f4 lens; 1/1000 sec at f16; ISO 640 flashes; Trailmaster trail monitor.Tertius A Gous / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
06 © Emily Garthwaite - Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Witness by Emily Garthwaite, UK. Highly commended 2018, Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Single Image. As soon as he saw Emily, the sun bear hurried to the front of his filthy cage. "Every time I moved, he would follow me." He was just one of several sun bears kept behind the scenes at a zoo in Sumatra, Indonesia, in conditions Emily says were "appalling". Sun bears are the world’s smallest bears, now critically endangered. In the lowland forests of Southeast Asia, they spend much of their time in trees, eating fruit and small animals, using their claws to prize open rotten wood in search of grubs. They are threatened by rampant deforestation and the demand for their bile and organs for traditional Chinese medicine. People involved in illegal logging and clearance for oil palms are also linked to animal trafficking. When this sun bear saw the keeper, he started screaming. It was a chilling noise. Even more chilling was the nearby taxidermy museum with its stuffed pangolins and Sumatran tigers. Leica M240 + Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f2 lens; 1/125 sec at f5.6; ISO 1000.Emily Garthwaite / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
07 © Antonio Fernandez - Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Forest on a tree by Antonio Fernandez, Spain. Highly commended 2018, Plants and Fungi. The arms of immense trees stretched eerily into the mist permeating Madeira’s Fanal Forest. Among them was this low tilo branch with ferns growing all along it, ‘like a forest within a forest’, says Antonio. The mighty tilo tree – an evergreen laurel which can reach more than 40 meters (130 feet) tall – is found only in Madeira and the Canary Islands. It is a dominant element of the island’s laurisilva – the largest relic of the laurel forest that once extended across southern Europe and northwestern Africa. Now threatened mainly by invasive species, this humid expanse is home to a wealth of plants and animals, many of them found nowhere else. Key to Antonio’s miniature forest was the hare’s foot fern, with broad, finely-divided fronds. It occurs in the western Mediterranean, Canary Islands and Madeira. Like other epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants), it garners water and nutrients from the air, rain or plant debris and relies on the host plant for support. As the breeze threaded through the trees, it stirred up the ubiquitous fog, frustrating Antonio’s desire for a uniformly intense backdrop. But in a moment of calm, he realized the simple elements of his composition, isolated against pure white. Nikon D810 + Nikon 70–200mm f2.8 lens at 185mm; 1/20 sec at f10; ISO 250; Benro tripod + Arca-Swiss head. Antonio Fernandez / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
08 © Emmanuel Rondeau - Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Tigerland by Emmanuel Rondeau, France. Highly commended 2018, Animals in their environment. In a remote forest, high in the Himalayas of central Bhutan, a Bengal tiger fixes his gaze on the camera. The path he treads is part of a network linking the country’s national parks – corridors that are key to the conservation of this endangered subspecies but unprotected from logging and poaching. Emmanuel and a team of rangers climbed rugged terrain, with enough kit to set up eight still and eight video cameras along one route, in the hope of glimpsing a tiger pass by (there were just 103 in Bhutan at the last count). Concentrating on areas with previous tiger records, they searched for evidence of recent use – tracks, scratches and feces – and then Emmanuel installed cameras on wooden posts in the most likely spots, composing the view so the subject would be framed within its mountain environment. After 23 days (and hundreds of false triggers by leaves and high winds), he hit the jackpot: a magnificent male tiger, and from his distinctive stripe pattern, one previously unrecorded in Bhutan. The tiger inspected the kit closely before disappearing into the forest, leaving this rare image, as if looking to us to protect his realm. Canon EOS 550D + Sigma 10–20mm f4–5.6 lens at 16mm; 1/20 sec at f9; ISO 200; two Nikon SB-28 flashes; TrailMaster camera trigger + Camtraptions wireless flash triggers.Emmanuel Rondeau / Wildlife Photographer of the Year