Sergey Gorshkov has been named as this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year, winning the 56th annual competition with his magnificent image The Embrace, of an Amur tigress hugging an ancient Manchurian fir in the Russian Far East.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of the Museum, announced Sergey Gorshkov as the grand title winner during an online awards ceremony live-streamed from the Museum on 13 October.
Sergey's image was selected from over 49,000 entries from around the world, and also won the Animals in their Environment category.
Both shocking and stunning entries made the shortlist this year, including images of a Polar bear in an ice-rink show and a snow-capped peak against the sunset. Once again, the world's most prestigious and important wildlife photography competition presents us with beautiful images of the natural world, but also asks us to question our treatment and relationship to it.
The story behind the winning image
Sergey knew his chances were slim but was determined to take a picture of the totem animal of his Siberian homeland. Amur or Siberian tigers are only found in this region and it took more than 11 months for the Sergey to capture this moment with hidden cameras.
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 camera trap in January 2019, opposite this grand fir. It wasn't until November that he achieved the picture he had planned for, of a magnificent tigress in her Siberian forest environment.
With an expression of sheer ecstasy, the 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.
Nikon Z7 + 50mm f1.8 lens; 1/200 sec at f/6.3; ISO 250; Cognisys camera-trap system.
Young photographer of the year
Liina Heikkinen was awarded the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 for her dramatic image of a young fox, The fox that got the goose.
Liinais from Finland, and has spent much of her childhood immersed in the natural world. She is also the youngest of a family of wildlife photographers, and impressed judge Shekar Dattatri with the sense of furtive drama she managed to capture in the scene. ‘The sharp focus on the fox’s face leads us straight to where the action is. A great natural history moment captured perfectly,’ says Shekar, wildlife filmmaker and jury member.
Nikon D4 + 28–300mm f3.5–5.6 lens; 1/125 sec at f5.6 (-0.3 e/v); ISO 1600.
See the exhibition at Natural History Museum, London
The two Grand Title winners were selected from 100 shortlisted images spotlighting the world's richest habitats, fascinating animal behaviours and extraordinary species.
They'll be showcased on lightbox displays at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum between Friday 16 October 2020 and Sunday 6 June 2021, before touring across the UK and internationally to venues in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, and more.
This year especially – thanks to distancing guidelines – it's essential that you book ticket to see the exhibition in advance, as weekends will sell out quickly.
Limited visitor numbers and the Museum’s safety measures will ensure visitors enjoy a safe and welcoming experience, contemplating the images in a crowd-free gallery.
Enter next year: the 57th Wildlife POTY contest
The fifty-seventh Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition opens for entries on Monday 19 October 2020, closing for entries at 11.30am GMT on Thursday 10 December 2020.
Entrants to the adult competition can enter up to 25 images for a £30 fee, which increases to £35 in the final week of the entry period from 11.30am GMT 3 December to 11.30am GMT 10 December.
Photographer under 17 can enter up to 10 images for free.
Find out how to enter and more about the competition.
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