Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018 @ M Shed

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By Abigail Alltimes, third year English

Abigail Alltimes pays a visit to the acclaimed exhibition from the Natural History Museum.

On entering the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at M Shed you are greeted by a quotation from the chair of the judging panel, Rosamud Cox:

"Each unforgettable image has a story to tell. Some of those stories will amaze you. Some may shock you. But all should make you think about the precious nature of our fast-disappearing natural world and the urgent need to reverse that loss."

Cox’s words set the tone for the photographs on display. The 100 photographs have been chosen from 45,000 entries from 95 countries. They document the stories of plants, animals and landscapes, and the diversity and beauty of our planet, from isolated caves and the depths of the ocean to thronging jungles and the sky-scraping mountain peaks. Together they tell a story of the remarkable connection between humans and nature.

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Wildlife Photographer of the Year opens at M Shed this Saturday so it’s about time we had a sneak peek at some of this year’s amazing images. This is ‘School Visit’ by Adrian Bliss. Adrian was exploring the derelict schoolroom when the red fox trotted in. It stopped briefly on the carpet of child-sized gas masks and then exited through a broken window. The school in Pripyat, Ukraine, was abandoned in 1986, as was the whole city, following the catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant nearly 2 miles away. It was the worst nuclear accident in history, spreading radioactive fallout across Europe. Pripyat’s buildings are now decaying and have been looted. The city lies within the exclusion zone which only accredited individuals can enter, and in the absence of humans, the forest is moving back in. Animals such as wild boar, deer, moose and lynx are making a comeback, and there are even sightings of brown bears and wolves. The long-term effect of radiation on the animals is far from clear but wildlife appears to be thriving. __ #wpybristol #wildlifephotography #redfox #ukraine #Chernobyl #mshed #bristol #BristolMuseums

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The information accompanying each photograph reveals how the shot was captured, the camera and lens used and the location shown on a world map. Mentions of helicopters, small planes, drones, camera boxes, waterproof equipment, and other expert technology speak to the persistence and creativity of the photographers; one photographer, Zorica Kovacevic, calls the encounters ‘treasure hunts’. The high concept and high resolution of each photo impresses their indelible colours, shapes and surprising movements in my mind.

The grand title winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Marsel van Oosten’s entry, ‘The Golden Couple’, is beautiful to behold. It features a couple of resting Quinling golden snub-nosed monkeys in the forests of the Quinling Mountains of China. Cox notes that the pair is ‘perfectly posed’ and ‘superbly lit’. Her description alongside the picture reminds me of renaissance paintings, a startling discovery in a photography exhibit. The golden colour of the monkeys’ fur creates an inner-glow in the image which speaks to the photographic skill of van Oosten.

Another photo that catches my attention is Sue Forbes’ commended ‘Flight’, which displays a flying fish and booby bird perfectly captured hovering above water. The image reminds me of a pair of skaters dancing on ice. From the almost glacial clarity of the water to the serendipitous synchronisation of the bird and fish, I can imagine a gripping tale of a deadly ice dance.

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The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is the most prestigious competition for wildlife photographers with 45,000 entrants this year. So, I’m really excited to be selected as one of the finalists with this image of a juvenile red-footed booby in hot pursuit of a flying fish near D’Arros Island, Seychelles. The image is in today’s Sunday Times magazine in the UK, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/magazine/the-sunday-times-magazine/photography-special-stunning-contenders-for-this-years-wildlife-photographer-of-the-year-awards-000l0l2gk The photo will be included in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London starting October 19th and then travel around the world to over 60 other destinations on 6 continents. I’ll also be going to the awards ceremony in London! #WPY54 #wpy #wildlifephotographeroftheyear #thesundaytimes #thesundaytimesmagazine #award #nature #exhibition #naturalhistorymuseum #london #wildlifephotography #wildlife #redfootedbooby #juvenile #flyingfish #Seychelles #d’arrosisland #bird #behaviour #nhm_wpy

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The most arresting image for me is ‘Witness’ by Emily Garthwaite, found in the Wildlife Photojournalism category. The picture is of a sun bear against the bars of its cage. The haunting eyes and a downturned mouth leave me feeling cold and sad, even more so when I read the information below. Sun bears are exploited; their gall bladders and bile are used for traditional medicines, and some even live with permanent catheters to extract the bile. The extent of human cruelty and wanton brutality is written in the face of the pictured bear.

The exhibition displays an impressive range of experiences, from the solemn and quiet moments to the elated and joyful celebrations of life across the globe. I would definitely recommend a visit, not only for the epic stories but also for a glimpse of the fragile beauty of our natural world. Set your imagination loose in the wildlife.

The exhibition is here until the 24th of February 2019. Entry is £5 with a student card, or free for students on Wednesdays.

Featured image: Diana Parkhouse


Been to the exhibition? Which photo caught your eye? Let us know in the comments below or on social media.

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