UK Wildlife Photography Awards 2024

June 6,2024

Lifestyle And Beauty

Barnacles Transform Ordinary Football into Wildlife Photography Winner 

The prestigious British Wildlife Photography Awards crowned a most unexpected champion this year – a football, its surface transformed into a living tapestry of goose barnacles. Ryan Stalker's captivating image stood out amongst more than 14,000 submissions, highlighting both the beauty and the challenges within our oceans. 

"What appears ordinary above the surface hides a vibrant colony below," Stalker emphasizes. "This football wasn't always a home for marine life; its journey across the Atlantic brought it to Dorset's shores." His compelling image also sparks concern about ocean pollution: "As debris fills our seas, the chance of invasive species hitchhiking to our coastlines grows." 

Young Wildlife Photographer Captures the Magic of Dawn 

Another standout winner, Max Wood, was awarded the RSPB Young British Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his mesmerizing photograph of a coot. The image depicts the bird dashing across a mist-cloaked lake in the soft light of sunrise. This award, backed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, shines a spotlight on the next generation's passion for nature. 

Diverse Winners: A Celebration of British Wildlife 

The competition's diverse categories showcased exceptional talent. Mark Williams took home the top prize in the Animal Portraits category with a striking portrait of a common starling. His image captures the bird in mid-flight, demonstrating his masterful timing. "I studied the starlings frequenting my garden, aiming to translate their dynamic movement into a still photograph," Williams explains. "Balancing ambient light and flash was essential to freeze their flight while showcasing their delicate features." 

The hidden wonders of slime mould earned Jason McCombe the award in the Botanical Britain category. "Slime moulds exist in a world of their own; they're neither plant nor fungus," He elaborates, "Their minute size often keeps them hidden from our eyes. The fruiting bodies in this image are incredibly tiny, each head barely a millimetre wide. I created this detailed image by carefully combining 160 separately-focused shots." 

Additional Notable Winners 

Other noteworthy winners showcased the intricate beauty and surprising adaptability of wildlife in the British Isles: 

  • Habitat: Daniel Valverde Fernandez captured the remarkable agility of a red fox in his winning image. Titled "The Tightrope Walker," the photograph features the fox fearlessly balancing on a tree branch high above the ground in Sherwood Pines Forest Park, Nottinghamshire. "These creatures navigate their environment with the skills of true acrobats," Fernandez notes, highlighting the fox's silhouette framed by sunlight. 
  • Hidden Britain: With a keen eye for the interconnectedness of nature, Ross Hoddinott won this category with his image of common blue butterflies. "I find blue butterflies utterly captivating," Hoddinott expresses. "They bring a vibrant energy to any meadow or garden. On a summer evening, I discovered a group of these beautiful insects resting in close proximity, offering a lovely glimpse into their social nature." 

Wildlife Photography

Celebrating the Beauty and Vulnerability of Nature 

The British Wildlife Photography Awards bring into sharp focus the incredible diversity and resilience of life in the British Isles. However, amidst captivating images like Stalker's barnacle-covered football, the competition also subtly emphasizes the fragility of our natural world and the increasing dangers posed by pollution and habitat loss. 

Exploring the Hidden World of British Woodlands 

The Wild Woods category of the competition delves into the heart of Britain's forests, unveiling their hidden beauty and ecological importance. This year's winner, Graham Niven, captured a stunning image of beech trees in East Lothian, Scotland. His photograph highlights a fascinating phenomenon known as 'canopy shyness'. "When the leaves have mostly fallen, the intricate network of branches becomes truly visible," explains Niven. "The trees seem to avoid touching one another, forming a web of pathways against the sky. It's a beautiful spectacle and a wonderful reason to simply lie down in the woods and look up!" 

The stark beauty of the natural world took center stage in the Black and White category. Robin Dodd secured a win with his image of a raven in flight over the Isle of Arran. "Arran's highest peak, Goatfell, offers dramatic views," Dodd describes. "After a delightful hike to the summit, we found its solitude broken only by two ravens who seemed to rule the mountaintop. We watched these graceful birds soar as effortlessly as any raptor, their stark forms a perfect subject for black and white photography." 

The Intrigue of Animal Behaviour 

The Animal Behaviour category rewards the photographer's patience and keen eye, often revealing humorous or poignant moments in the lives of wild creatures. Ian Mason's image, titled "Three Frogs in Amplexus," took home the top prize. "Each spring, my garden ponds come to life with hundreds of frogs," Mason notes. "I've been observing and photographing them for years, fascinated by their antics. Here, a female frog finds herself with not just one, but two suitors. Sometimes their interactions seem frenzied, but occasionally, they pause long enough for a picture like this!" 

The life cycles and habitat preferences of British wildlife are often a central theme for photographers. Simon Withyman won the Urban Wildlife category with his intimate portrait of a fox. "This vixen found a safe haven within an electricity substation, likely after being forced from her original territory," Withyman explains. "The enclosure gave her respite from the busy city. I was able to capture her through the gaps in a fence, taking advantage of a striking flare of sunlight to add another dimension to the image." 

Inspiring the Next Generation of Nature Enthusiasts 

The British Wildlife Photography Awards consistently highlight the immense talent of young photographers with dedicated awards for those under 18. Felix Walker-Nix, winner in the 12-14 years age category, shares the story behind his captivating shot of roe deer: "While walking in the woods, I noticed this roe doe feeding amongst the foliage. I moved slowly as to not alarm her, and to my surprise, a tiny fawn peeked out at me. I quietly took some photographs and retreated, leaving this beautiful mother and baby undisturbed. It was such a special moment to see a 'humbug' patterned fawn before it loses its spots." 

The youngest age category, for photographers 11 and under, was won by Jamie Smart. His delightful photo, taken in Wales, showcases a pheasant amidst a backdrop of blackthorn blossom. "My dad and I woke up extra early on a frosty spring morning (-5°C!) hoping to spot some boxing hares up on the moorland," Smart recalls. "We ended up finding this beautiful pheasant perched on a gate instead. The morning sun lit up his feathers and Dad helped me get this amazing photo. Even though we didn't find hares, the pheasant certainly made up for it!" 

Documenting the Impact of Climate Change 

The British Wildlife Photography Awards offer more than just visual artistry; they often tell stories about the challenges facing our natural ecosystems. One recurring theme, particularly prevalent in recent years, is how climate change subtly shifts the rhythms of the British landscape. Lewis Newman's photograph "Sleeping with Dandelions" won this year's Animal Portrait category, but its poignant beauty raises important questions. 

"The sight of a red squirrel nestled amongst blooming dandelions may be familiar," Newman reflects, "yet this image was taken in January, an unusual time for both flowers and a hibernating squirrel. Our changing climate creates these disruptions – sometimes whimsical, oftentimes worrying." 

James Roddie captured another example of changing seasonal patterns with his image "Hitching a Lift." This photo, which won the Animal Behaviour category, depicts a group of mayflies finding shelter on the back of a brown trout. "Mayflies usually emerge en masse in the summer," explains Roddie. "Unexpected warm spells in late winter can cause an early hatching. These delicate insects are then reliant on fish and other wildlife for protection from the elements... a fascinating yet fragile relationship." 

Wildlife Photography

The Transformative Power of a Single Moment 

While many categories celebrate the careful observation of nature, the Wildlife in HD Video category specifically rewards those photographers capable of capturing a decisive moment in motion. This year's winner, Henley Spiers, did just that with his footage titled "Welcome to the Zoo(plankton)." 

Spiers describes the context: "A single drop of seawater can teem with tiny creatures known as zooplankton. They're often invisible to the naked eye, but under magnification, an extraordinary world is revealed. My goal was to capture the dynamic movement and diverse forms within this miniature ecosystem." Spiers' winning video showcases the strange and mesmerizing ballet of life that exists just beyond our immediate perception. 

A Showcase of British Habitats 

The British Isles may be relatively small, yet they encompass an astonishing array of landscapes. The British Wildlife Photography Awards celebrate this diversity with dedicated award categories. Matthew Turner took home the prize in Landscapes with his image of the Great Mell Fell, a peak in the Lake District National Park. "This fell has a distinctive pyramid shape," says Turner. "Its exposed summit is frequently shrouded in cloud, creating an ever-changing vista." 

The Importance of Sharing Our Natural World 

The British Wildlife Photography Awards don't simply recognize outstanding photography; they encourage deeper appreciation for the wonders and challenges of Britain's wildlife. Through compelling imagery and the stories behind the photographs, the competition creates a platform for dialogue – dialogue about our relationship with nature and our responsibility to protect it. 

Celebrating the Power of Citizen Science 

Several categories within the British Wildlife Photography Awards highlight the value of collaborative wildlife observation. The Documentary Series category rewards photographers who craft a narrative through a connected set of images. Will Jenkins secured a win in this category with his series, "Death of the Aral Sea." 

"The Aral Sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world, has been catastrophically reduced over the last 60 years due to irrigation diversions," Jenkins explains. "My series documents the impact this environmental disaster has had on both wildlife and the communities that once depended on the lake." Jenkins emphasizes the significance of documenting change: "Through my photographs, I hope to raise awareness and inspire action to protect what precious water resources remain." 

The British Ecological Society Award celebrates visual storytelling that shines a light on important scientific concepts. This year, the award went to Theo Cooper for his series "The Destruction of the Cerrado." Cooper notes that Brazil's Cerrado region supports a stunning variety of life but faces immense threats: "This unique savanna biome is rapidly being cleared for agriculture, pushing countless species towards extinction. My goal is to highlight the urgency of protecting these vulnerable habitats." 

The Beauty – and Fragility – of Life Close to Home 

While the British Wildlife Photography Awards celebrate the drama and diversity of the natural world, some of the most heartwarming entries document the often overlooked wonders found much closer to home. Ellie Rothnie secured first place in the 15-17 years age category with her image "Toad in the Hole." 

"Finding a toad taking up residence in an old pipe in my garden was an unexpected and delightful surprise," Rothnie shares. "I love the way the photograph focuses on their eye; it reminds me that even small, common creatures are full of intricate detail and beauty." 

The British Wildlife Photography Awards consistently demonstrate that extraordinary natural encounters can happen anywhere. The Coast and Marine category showcases the diversity of life found along Britain's shores and within its waters. Piera Vitali won this category with a captivating macro image titled "A Nursery Web." 

"At first glance, this just seems like a cluster of seashells," says Vitali. "But if you look closely, you can discover hundreds of tiny sea snail eggs within the shells. Our beaches and rock pools are full of these hidden nurseries; observing them reminds us of the delicate cycle of life that surrounds us." 

Wildlife Photography

Finding Wonder and Responsibility 

The British Wildlife Photography Awards consistently achieve a balance between the inspiring and the sobering. Many images evoke a sense of awe and a renewed appreciation for the beauty and resilience found in Britain's diverse habitats. Simultaneously, photographers often use their work to highlight the fragility of ecosystems, reminding us that conservation is an ongoing effort. 

Mike Lane's image, "Gannets Galore!", took top honors in the Coast and Marine Category. "Gannets are incredible birds, capable of plunging into the sea at high speed to catch fish," observes Lane. "At certain times of year, they gather in massive nesting colonies – a truly breathtaking sight. However, this species faces threats from pollution, overfishing, and entanglement in discarded gear." 

The British Wildlife Photography Awards make it clear that our relationship with the natural world is complex and often fraught with challenges. The competition recognizes those who use photography to explore this dynamic, sometimes prompting uncomfortable truths but also showcasing the immense power of nature to regenerate and inspire. 

A Legacy of Inspiration 

The winners and finalists of the British Wildlife Photography Awards will have their work showcased in a touring exhibition throughout the UK, inspiring the public and hopefully sparking conversation about the importance of preserving British wildlife and habitats. The images will also be featured in a commemorative book, ensuring the competition's impact extends far beyond a single award ceremony. 

Dr. Roger Key, one of the competition judges, reflects on the enduring power of wildlife photography: "Exceptional images like those celebrated in this competition connect us emotionally to the natural world. They remind us of our place within a delicate yet resilient system, motivating each of us to do our part to protect the precious biodiversity of the British Isles." 

Celebrating the Talent – and the Dedication – Behind the Lens 

The stunning images submitted to the British Wildlife Photography Awards represent countless hours of dedication, patience, and a healthy dose of luck. The competition rewards not just those fortunate enough to capture a spectacular moment, but those with the passion to seek out these wonders and translate them into impactful photographs. 

Will Nicholls, Director of the British Wildlife Photography Awards, summarizes the event's spirit: "The exceptional work on display celebrates the beauty found throughout the British Isles, showcasing the talents of committed photographers of all ages. We hope this exhibition will kindle a love for wild spaces in all who experience it and ultimately inspire efforts to ensure our nature thrives for generations to come." 

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