“World of the Snow Leopard” by Sascha Fonseca (Germany) / Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Winner, People's Choice. “Against a backdrop of the spectacular mountains of Ladakh in northern India, a snow leopard has been caught in a perfect pose by Sascha’s carefully positioned camera trap. Thick snow blankets the ground, but the big cat’s dense coat and furry footpads keep it warm. Sascha captured this image during a three-year bait-free camera-trap project high up in the Indian Himalayas. He has always been fascinated by snow leopards, not only because of their incredible stealth but also because of their remote environment, making them one of the most difficult large cats to photograph in the wild.”
A rare image of a snow leopard taking in its territory has claimed the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award. German photographer Sascha Fonseca won the prize after a record number of votes, beating out 24 other shortlisted images. Nearly 60,500 votes went to Fonseca for his photograph taken with a camera trap in the remote Ladakh mountains of India.
Fonseca shared the reason behind his use of camera traps when speaking with My Modern Met in March 2022. “Camera traps allow me to capture close-up images of secretive wildlife which I would otherwise not be able to get. You could spend months or even years staked out and not capture a single image. Camera traps can.”
He was also quick to shoot down the notion that using a camera trap is easy. Noting that, “this is more than strapping a trail camera to a tree. It’s basically like setting up a studio in nature.”
Fonseca has used his camera traps to successfully capture images of rare animals like the Siberian tiger and snow leopards in the remote mountains of India. His winning image is part of a three-year project that required careful research and planning to photograph these elusive animals. All of that work pays off with shots that shed light on these animals and motivate people to get involved with conservation projects.
“I’m incredibly proud to be the winner of this year’s People’s Choice Award, and I thank all the supporters around the world for making this happen,” Fonseca shared. “Photography can connect people to wildlife and encourage them to appreciate the beauty of the unseen natural world. I believe that a greater understanding of wildlife leads to deeper caring, which hopefully results in active support and greater public interest for conservation.”
In addition to Fonseca's winning image, the contest also revealed four other High Commended photographs. These include Martin Gregus' playful look at a polar bear cub in a field of flowers and a powerful portrait of a lion in Kenya by Marina Cano.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest revealed the winner of the People's Choice Award, as well as four Highly Commended images.
“Among the flowers” by Martin Gregus (Canada) / Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Highly Commended, People's Choice. “Martin watched this polar bear cub playing in a mass of fireweed on the coast of Hudson Bay, Canada. Every so often the cub would take a break from its fun, stand on its hind legs and poke its head up above the high flowers to look for its mother. Wanting to capture the world from the cub’s angle, Martin placed his camera – in an underwater housing, for protection against investigating bears – at ground level among the fireweed. He then waited patiently a safe distance away with a remote trigger. Not being able to see exactly what was happening, Martin had to judge just the right moment when the bear would pop up in the camera frame.”
Portrait of Olobor by Marina Cano (Spain) / Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Highly Commended, People's Choice. “It was late afternoon when Marina found Olobor resting. He is one of the famous five-strong coalition of males in the Black Rock pride in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve. All around the lion, the ground was black, having been burnt by local Maasai herdsmen to stimulate a new flush of grass. Marina wanted to capture his majestic and defiant look against the dark background and lowered her camera out of her vehicle to get an eye-level portrait.”
Holding on by Igor Altuna (Spain) / Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Highly Commended, People's Choice. “This leopardess had killed a monkey in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. The monkey’s baby was still alive and clinging to its mother. Igor watched as the predator walked calmly back to her own baby. Her cub played with the baby monkey for more than an hour before killing it, almost as if it had been given live prey as a hunting lesson.”
Fox affection by Brittany Crossman (Canada) / Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Highly Commended, People's Choice. “On a chilly day in North Shore on Prince Edward Island, Canada, a pair of red foxes, greet one another with an intimate nuzzle. The red fox’s mating season is in the winter, and it is not uncommon to see them together prior to denning. This special moment is one of Brittany’s favorite images and one of the tenderest moments she has witnessed between adult foxes.”