Quiet Moment of Reflection Wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice

Icy Willow Trees Reflecting in a Lake

“Lake of ice” by Cristiano Vendramin (Italy). People's Choice Winner.
Santa Croce Lake is a natural lake located in the province of Belluno, Italy. In winter 2019 Cristiano noticed the water was unusually high and the willow plants were partially submerged, creating a play of light and reflections. Waiting for colder conditions he captured the scene in icy stillness. After taking the image, he was reminded of a dear friend, who had loved this place and is now no longer here, “I want to think he made me feel this feeling that I'll never forget. For this reason, this photograph is dedicated to him”.

Nearly 32,000 people submitted their votes and now the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award 2021 can be revealed. Cristiano Vendramin took home the top honor. The Italian photographer's image was selected from a list of 25 photographs culled from the 50,000 entries to the 2021 contest.

Vendramin's moving photo of nature holds special significance. His evocative image was taken in northern Italy at the Santa Croce Lake. On that particular day, he noticed that the high water level had partially submerged the willow trees. This created an interesting reflection, which was only enhanced by the icy weather. The photo is particularly meaningful for the photographer because the natural lake was the favorite place of a close friend who had passed away. In fact, at the moment he took the image, he was thinking of his dear friend.

“Cristiano’s poignant image symbolizes the positive impact nature can have on our wellbeing and lives,” said Dr. Douglas Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum. “It can provide solace and a space to reflect on the past and even spark hope for the future. These past two years have redefined what truly matters in life, the people and the environments that play a crucial role in our own personal ecosystems. I hope those who look at this landscape frozen in time, are reminded of the importance of connecting to the natural world and the steps we must all take to protect it.”

In addition to the winning image, four other photos were singled out as highly commended. All four photographers captured incredible images of wildlife interacting with the natural environment. From two male lions sharing a moment under the rain to a baby brown bear sleeping peacefully under the watchful eye of a bald eagle, they each tell a spectacular story.

All five of these images will be included in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest has announced the People's Choice winner and runners-up.

Two Male Lions Nuzzling Under the Rain

“Shelter from the Rain” by Ashleigh McCord (USA). People's Choice Highly Commended.
During a visit to the Maasai Mara, Kenya, Ashleigh captured this tender moment between a pair of male lions. At first, she had been taking pictures of only one of the lions, and the rain was just a light sprinkle, although the second had briefly approached and greeted his companion before choosing to walk away. But as the rain turned into a heavy downpour, the second male returned and sat, positioning his body as if to shelter the other. Shortly after they rubbed faces and continued to sit nuzzling for some time. Ashleigh stayed watching them until the rain was falling so hard that they were barely visible.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Her Joey

“Hope in a burned plantation” by Jo-Anne McArthur (Canada). People's Choice Highly Commended.
Jo-Anne flew to Australia in early 2020 to document the stories of animals affected by the devastating bushfires that were sweeping through the states of New South Wales and Victoria. Working exhaustively alongside Animals Australia (an animal protection organization) she was given access to burn sites, rescues, and veterinary missions. This eastern grey kangaroo and her joey pictured near Mallacoota, Victoria, were among the lucky ones. The kangaroo barely took her eyes off Jo-Anne as she walked calmly to the spot where she could get a great photo. She had just enough time to crouch down and press the shutter release before the kangaroo hopped away into the burned eucalyptus plantation.

Black Bear Cub and Eagle

“The eagle and the bear” by Jeroen Hoekendijk (The Netherlands). People's Choice Highly Commended.
Black bear cubs will often climb trees, where they wait safely for their mother to return with food. Here, in the depths of the temperate rainforest of Anan in Alaska, this little cub decided to take an afternoon nap on a moss-covered branch under the watchful eye of a juvenile bald eagle. The eagle had been sitting in this pine tree for hours and Jeroen found the situation extraordinary. He quickly set out to capture the scene from eye level and, with some difficulty and a lot of luck, was able to position himself a bit higher on the hill and take this image as the bear slept on, unaware.

Two Male Golden Pheasants Flying Around a Tree Trunk

“Dancing in the snow” by Qiang Guo (China). People's Choice Highly Commended.
In the Lishan Nature Reserve in Shanxi Province, China, Qiang watched as two male golden pheasants continuously swapped places on this trunk – their movements akin to a silent dance in the snow. The birds are native to China, where they inhabit dense forests in mountainous regions. Although brightly colored, they are shy and difficult to spot, spending most of their time foraging for food on the dark forest floor, only flying to evade predators or to roost in very high trees during the night.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by the Natural History Museum – Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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