25 Incredible Photos in the Running for Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award

Polar bear sleeping on an iceberg in Norway

“Ice Bed” by Nima Sarikhani, UK. Location: Off Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, Norway.
“A polar bear carves out a bed from a small iceberg before drifting off to sleep in the far north, off Norway’s Svalbard archipelago.
Having spent three days desperately searching for polar bears through thick fog in the far north off Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, the expedition vessel Nima was on decided to change course. It turned and headed to the southeast, where there was still some sea ice.
Here, they encountered a younger and an older male and watched the pair over the following eight hours. Just before midnight, the young male clambered onto a small iceberg and, using his strong paws, clawed away at it to carve out a bed for himself before drifting off to sleep.”

The Natural History Museum, London has selected 25 images from the 2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest to compete for the People's Choice Award. From a polar bear napping on an iceberg to a young London fox making the most of a full bin, the unforgettable images explore the beauty of the natural world and the impact of our actions.

The international judging panel singled out these photographs from the nearly 50,000 images submitted to this year's competition. This year’s selection includes the moment an Adélie penguin approached an emperor penguin and its chick by Stefan Christmann, and Britta Jaschinski’s striking image of fashion garments made from the skins of some of the most endangered big cats.

“‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s People’s Choice Award always offers an astounding selection of images, and this year is no different,” shares Natural History Museum director, Dr. Douglas Gurr. “We invite the public to join the jury and vote for their favorite; whether breathtaking beauty or a powerful story, it’s sure to be a difficult decision!”

You can vote online or in person at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in London until January 31, 2024. The winner, as well as the top four images, will be revealed in February 2024. And, if you are a wildlife photographer interested in competing in the next edition of the contest, the 60th competition is currently open for entries to photographers of all ages, nationalities, and experience levels until 11:30 a.m. GMT on Thursday, December 7, 2023.

To celebrate the momentous anniversary, Wildlife Photographer of the Year has announced an entry fee waiver for over 100 countries, changes to the competition’s rules, and a new special prize to encourage hopeful stories of the natural world.

Here are the 25 images in the running for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award.

Red Fox Cub standing on a rock and looking at a shrew

“Tough Negotiation” by Ayala Fishaimer, Israel. Location: Judean Foothills, Israel
“Standing on a rock in the Judean Foothills of Israel, a red fox cub locks eyes with the shrew it had thrown up in the air moments earlier.
After the first Covid-19 lockdown, Ayala was in need of nature, and so headed out early one spring morning to the Judean Foothills in Israel. After an hour of driving, she arrived at the red fox den and, parking a safe distance away, waited. It wasn’t long before four cubs appeared and started to play.
This cub lost interest in its siblings and started sniffing around. Moments later, it pulled a shrew out of the sand and started knocking it around like a ball. Then, standing on a rock, the cub threw the shrew in the air. As it landed, Ayala caught the moment the hapless shrew and the fox locked eyes.”

Lion cub walking toward a photographer's camera at South Africa's Greater Kruger National Park

“Curiosity” by Gerald Hinde, South Africa. Location: Greater National Park, South Africa
“Under the watchful eye of its mother in South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park, a curious lion cub walks towards the photographer, who was watching from a vehicle.
Lion cubs are vulnerable to other predators, such as leopards and hyenas, but often, the main threat is from invading male lions. For the first six weeks, they’re kept hidden away; after this, they’re introduced to the pride and protection provided by all the members.
Gerald had parked his vehicle in the riverbed in South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park. This was the first cub to come and investigate his arrival. Holding his camera out of the vehicle, close to the ground, he managed to get a low photographic angle of the cub’s activities.”

Snowshoe hare sitting in the snow

“Snowshoes” by Deena Sveinsson, USA. Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, USA.
“A snowshoe hare pulls its feet to its head to make the next big hop across the soft, deep snow in the forests of the Rocky Mountain National Park, USA.
It was a late spring morning, and Deena was snowshoeing deep in the forests of the Rocky Mountain National Park, USA when she noticed this snowshoe hare sleeping on a small snow mound. Trying to be as quiet as possible, she positioned herself in front of it.
Hours later, the hare woke and hopped off the snow mound in Deena’s direction. Using a high frame rate, she captured the exact moment in its hop where the hare pulled its large back feet up next to its head. Its large feet prevent the hare from sinking into the deep, soft snow, acting like snowshoes, hence its name the snowshoe hare.”

Grizzly bear rising up on its hind legs and glancing towards the photographer

“Looking At Me, Looking At You” by John E. Marriott, Canada. Location: Chilko River, British Columbia, Canada
“A grizzly bear rises up on its hind legs and glances towards the photographer before returning to fish for salmon in the Chilko River in British Columbia, Canada.
John was leading a grizzly bear photography tour on the Chilko River when the group came across this bear salmon fishing. Allowing the current to take their small boat slowly past the bear, they watched it rise up on its hind legs as if to get a better perspective on the salmon in the shallow water.
As the bear was standing there, it momentarily glanced in the boat’s direction with a quizzical expression before returning to its salmon-fishing endeavors.”

A humpback whale calf misses some of its mother’s milk

“Missed Sip of Milk” by Karim Iliya, USA/Lebanon. Location: Off the coast of Rurutu, French Polynesia
“A humpback whale calf misses some of its mother’s milk, which drifts and swirls in the currents off the coast of Rurutu, French Polynesia.
In the seven years and hundreds of hours Karim’s been documenting humpback whales, he’s only seen whale milk floating in the water twice. Both times were on a diving trip off the coast of Rurutu, French Polynesia, with the same whale and her calf.
Humpback whales don’t have lips, so the calves can be clumsy and, on very rare occasions, miss some of the milk. Just as Karim was preparing to go back up to the surface, he saw the calf rising in the background and captured these strands of milk drifting and swirling in the current.”

A gelada suckles its baby alongside a companion at the edge of a plateau in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia.

“The Grassland Geladas” by Marco Gaiotti, Italy. Location: The Simien Mountains of Ethiopia, Ethiopia.
“A gelada suckles its baby alongside a companion at the edge of a plateau in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia.
Taken during the August rainy season, with looming clouds threatening a downpour, a gelada mother suckles her baby alongside a female companion. The gelada family unit, known as a harem, usually consists of one male and a small number of related females and their young.
Gelada monkeys live only in the high mountain meadows of Ethiopia, where they spend most of their time on the ground grazing. However, with the number of domestic livestock increasing, their grazing grasslands are now diminishing, pushing them into restricted areas. A gelada suckles its baby alongside a companion at the edge of a plateau in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia.”

A pair of lionesses devotedly groom one of the pride’s five cubs in Kenya’s Maasai Mara.

“Shared Parenting” by Mark Boyd, Kenya. Location: Maasai Mara, Kenya
“A pair of lionesses devotedly groom one of the pride’s five cubs in Kenya’s Maasai Mara.
Early in the morning, Mark watched as these lionesses groomed one of their five cubs in their territory in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. The evening before, they’d set off to hunt, leaving the cubs hidden overnight in dense bushes. Returning from their unsuccessful mission, they’d called the cubs out onto the open grassland.
Females raise each other’s cubs as their own, sharing parenting duties. Here the youngster was clearly enjoying the moment of affection and attention.”

Young red fox climbing into a trash bin

“Opportunity Fox” by Matt Maran, UK. Location: London, UK
“A young red fox takes advantage of a bin stacked high with rubbish before collection day on a street in London, UK.
Over a two-month period, Matt watched a young male red fox learn the best time to climb into this street bin in London. It figured out it was Monday evenings, shortly before the weekly collection, when the rubbish was piled high, and any discarded food that rested on top was easy to get at.
Contrary to what most people think, an urban fox’s diet is made up of more than 50% natural food, such as earthworms, wild birds, seeds, and fruits. As a result, these animals play an important role in the urban ecosystem.”

Mudskipper defending its territory from a crab

“Neighborhood Dispute” by Ofer Levy, Australia. Location: Roebuck Bay, Australia.
“A mudskipper fiercely defends its territory from a trespassing crab in Roebuck Bay, Australia.
Mudskippers can live both in and out of the water as long as they remain wet. They thrive along the intertidal mudflats and mangroves of Western Australia. These amphibious fish are fiercely territorial, often building mud walls around their territories where they feed and breed.
This crab is evidently trespassing, and by opening its mouth and raising its dorsal fin, the mudskipper is challenging the intruder, attempting to scare it off with a threatening display. Ofer watched the two continually confront each other out on the mud flat—the mudskipper always initiating the clash.”

A rescued chimpanzee looks on from its enclosure at the Chimpanzee Conservation Center in the Republic of Guinea

“Hope” by Roberto García-Roa, Spain. Location: Chimpanzee Conservation Center in the Republic of Guinea
“A rescued chimpanzee looks on from its enclosure at the Chimpanzee Conservation Center in the Republic of Guinea.
While photographing rescued chimpanzees at the Chimpanzee Conservation Center in the Republic of Guinea, Roberto captured this pensive portrait. Located in the National Park of Upper Niger, the center houses orphaned chimpanzees that have been rescued from being sold as pets after their mothers were killed for bushmeat.
Once abundant in Guinea, the western chimpanzee population is declining, and the species is now classified as Critically Endangered. The center rehabilitates the chimpanzees with the aim of releasing them back into the national park. It also works with local communities to show them why it’s important to protect the rainforest and its inhabitants.”

Vote online for your favorite until January 31, 2024.

Adélie penguin approaches an emperor penguin and its chick during feeding time in Antarctica’s Atka Bay

“Troublemaker” by Stefan Christmann, Germany. Location: Atka Bay, Antarctica
“An Adélie penguin approaches an emperor penguin and its chick during feeding time in Antarctica’s Atka Bay.
Stefan watched intently to see how the interactions between these three penguins would play out. Adélie penguins only appear in Antarctica’s Atka Bay for a short period during the southern hemisphere summer.
They’re opportunists and can be a nuisance for emperor penguins and their chicks. If the chance arises, Adélie penguins will try to cause the adult or the chick to drop its food while the chick is being fed, snatching any that falls to the ground.”

Pond turtle in the water with a dragonfly on its nose

“The Happy Turtle” by Tzahi Finkelstein, Israel. Location: Jezreel Valley, Israel
“A Balkan pond turtle shares a moment of peaceful coexistence with a northern banded groundling dragonfly in Israel’s Jezreel Valley.
Tzahi was positioned in his hide in Israel’s Jezreel Valley, photographing shore birds, when he spotted a Balkan pond turtle walking in the shallow water. At first, he wasn’t interested in it and carried on watching the birds. It wasn’t until a northern banded groundling dragonfly flew past his lens in the direction of the turtle that his focus changed.
The dragonfly unexpectedly landed on the turtle’s nose, but instead of snapping up the insect, the turtle appeared to be experiencing pleasure from the interaction as they shared a moment of peaceful coexistence in the midst of the swamp’s murky waters.”

Two mountain hares rubbing noses in the snowy mountains of Scotland

“Tender Touch” by Andy Parkinson, UK. Location: The Monadhliath Mountains, Scotland, UK.
“Two courting mountain hares come together to touch noses in the Monadhliath Mountains in Scotland, UK.
For 15 years, Andy’s been photographing the hares of Scotland’s Monadhliath Mountains, but in all that time, he’s never witnessed a moment like this. He was expecting the female to repel the male’s advances with the usual explosive boxing behavior, so included lots of space around them.
Unexpectedly, the two courting hares came together and touched noses. Acting quickly, Andy caught their special moment on camera. For him, this was yet more evidence of the highly complex social relationships that animals have with one another.”

Starling murmuration

“Starling Murmuration” by Daniel Dencescu, Germany/Romania. Location: Rome, Italy
“A mesmerizing mass of starlings swirl into the shape of a giant bird on their way to communal roosts above the city of Rome, Italy.
Daniel was mesmerized by the movements of the starlings as they formed colossal organic shapes in the sky. Each day, as they returned from foraging, they would gather in large numbers and perform spellbinding aerial shows, known as murmurations, on their flight home to their communal roosts.
In a bid to locate the best roosting sites at which to capture the spectacle, Daniel spent hours following the starlings around the city and suburbs of Rome. Finally, on this cloudless winter’s day, the flock didn’t disappoint, swirling into the shape of a giant bird.”

Cuckoo wasp is captured mid-air trying to enter a mason bee’s clay burrow

“Incoming Cuckoo Wasp” by Frank Deschandol, France. Location: Near Montpellier, France
“Near Montpellier, France, a cuckoo wasp is captured mid-air trying to enter a mason bee’s clay burrow as a smaller cuckoo wasp cleans its wings below.
Frank set up near the mason bee’s clay burrow, but it wasn’t this species he wanted to capture. Instead, he was hoping to photograph the rare cuckoo wasp that parasitizes these bees. He was in luck when not one but two cuckoo wasps appeared. The larger one tried to get into the sealed burrow containing the bee’s eggs, while the smaller one cleaned its wings below.
While Frank was taking some shots, the larger cuckoo wasp flew off, returning seconds later with a drop of water at its mouth. The wasp uses water and saliva to soften the clay so it can dig into the bee’s sealed-up burrow. Once inside it lays its own egg, then closes the burrow up again. When the cuckoo wasp’s egg hatches, it feeds on mason bee larvae inside the burrow.”

Pygmy round-eared bat returns to its termite-nest home

“Homecoming” by Dvir Barkay, USA/Israel. Location: The lowland forests of Costa Rica
“A pygmy round-eared bat returns to its termite-nest home as two well-camouflaged family members look out from the entrance in the lowland forests of Costa Rica.
Dvir spent more than two months attempting to get images of the rarely photographed pygmy round-eared bat in the lowland rainforests of Costa Rica. The bats exhibit a unique roosting behavior, resting in hollows that they carve out with their teeth inside the nests of termite colonies.
Using a nearby branch to support his camera, Dvir set up an infrared trigger near the entrance of the roost, together with three diffused flashes. This image shows one of the bats returning home as two well-camouflaged family members peer out from the entrance.”

A Celebes crested macaque investigates the contents of a plastic bottle

“Rubbish Drinks” by Claire Waring, UK. Location: Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve, Indonesia
“A Celebes crested macaque investigates the contents of a plastic bottle from a pile ready for recycling on a beach at the edge of Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve, Indonesia.
On a beach at the edge of the Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, rangers had collected piles of plastic bottles for recycling. Most of them had washed up from the sea, and despite the sizeable pile, more would soon be added.
The Celebes crested macaques have learned that these bottles contain liquid and are often seen chewing off the caps to reach the contents. They’ve also worked out that the colored bottles are more likely to contain sweet liquid and so pick these. Some even carried bottles away into the forest, frustrating the rangers’ efforts.”

Rack of fur coats made from endangered big cats

“Fashion Victims by Britta Jaschinski, Germany/UK. Location: Hamburg’s Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change, Germany
“These coats, made from the skins of some of the most endangered big cats, were confiscated by European customs officers and held for forensic tests before being used for educational events.
A rack of coats made from the skins of some of the most endangered big cats on Earth, including snow leopard, jaguar and ocelot, is displayed. Confiscated by customs officers across Europe, the coats were held in Hamburg’s Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change for forensic tests before being used at educational events to ensure they never return to the black market.
During the photoshoot, Britta learned that, on average, the fur industry uses 12 animals to make one coat. Together with a biologist, she tried to identify how many cats were killed to produce the fashion items in this image, but they stopped counting, as it was just too shocking.”

Moon jellyfish in Tromso, Norway under the Northern Lights

“Aurora Jellies” by Audun Rikardsen, Norway. Location: Tromsø, Northern Norway
“Moon jellyfish swarm in the cool autumnal waters of a fjord outside Tromsø in northern Norway illuminated by the aurora borealis.
It’s common for this species to gather in their hundreds under the aurora borealis. Sheltering his equipment in a self-made waterproof housing, Audun used a single exposure as well as his own system for adjusting the focus and aperture during the exposure. This enabled him to capture the reflection of the sky’s colors on the surface of the water and, at the same time, light up the jellyfish with flashes.
Moon jellyfish are common in all oceans and are easily recognized by their four rings, which are, in fact their genitals.”

Ethiopian wolf lying on the ground

“A Rare Sight” by Axel Gomille, Germany. Location: The Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia.
“The rarest species of wild dog in the world, the Ethiopian wolf, takes a rest among the highland vegetation of Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains National Park.
The summer greens and blues provide the perfect backdrop for the chestnut tones of the Ethiopian wolf’s coat in this serene image. The rarest species of wild dog in the world, there are only a few hundred left, surviving in the low-growing, Afro-alpine shrubland of the highlands of Ethiopia.
The Bale Mountains National Park, where this image was taken, supports the largest population of Ethiopian wolves. They’re threatened by habitat loss and diseases, such as rabies and canine distemper, which they catch from domestic dogs.”

Bull elephant scavenging at a dump in Sri Lanka

“Bull In A Garbage Dump” by Brent Stirton, South Africa. Location: Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka
“A bull elephant kicks over garbage as it scavenges for rotten vegetables and fruit at a dump in Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka.
A number of male elephants are attracted to this location not only by the rubbish but also by nearby crops. The scar from a gunshot wound on the upper part of this elephant’s left front leg and another wound high on its back indicate he’s an insistent crop raider.
Human-elephant conflict often escalates from shouting and fireworks to frighten the elephants away from crops and people to shooting. The shots are seldom fatal and deter the elephants for a couple of months.”

Colorful leaves in the forest in Spain

“Autumn Glow” by Uge Fuertes Sanz, Spain. Location: The Cabriel River in the Sierra de Albarracín Mountains, Spain
“A painting-like composition of bulrushes and quaking aspens is framed in a small corner of the Cabriel River in the Sierra de Albarracín Mountains, Spain.
To Uge, this small corner of the river, among the bulrushes and quaking aspens, seemed as if it had been painted. The light and the composition of the plants between the trunks, together with the shapes and colors of the autumn leaves, created texture and balance.
He took more than a hundred images while on the banks of the River Cabriel in the Sierra de Albarracin Mountains, Spain, waiting patiently for a cloud to pass overhead so a soft light would wash over everything.”

A wood duck and its brood are caught in a late spring snowstorm in Smiggin Holes, New South Wales, Australia.

“Duckling Huddle” by Charles Davis, Australia. Location: Smiggin Holes, New South Wales, Australia
“A wood duck and its brood are caught in a late spring snowstorm in Smiggin Holes, New South Wales, Australia.
It would normally be warm and sunny when these ducklings hatch from their nest high up in a tree hollow, but thanks to the La Niña effect things were a bit different this year. Warmer waters in the western Pacific meant more precipitation, resulting in more rain than normal in eastern Australia and cooler and wetter springs and summers.
Despite the conditions, the ducklings chose to exit their nest, dropping down into a frozen world. Upon landing, they quickly became lost in a snowstorm as their mother frantically tried to lead them to open water.”

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 Staff Editor 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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