Charming Photo of Polar Bear Napping on an Iceberg Wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award

Polar bear napping on a small iceberg

“Ice Bed” by Nima Sarikhani, UK. Winner, People's Choice Award. 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.”

A polar bear curled up on an iceberg for a nap has won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award. This image, taken by amateur photographer Nima Sarikhani, beat out 24 other images that were in the running. Over 75,000 votes were cast by wildlife photography fans—a record number.

It took three days of searching off Norway's Svalbard archipelago before Sarikhani happened upon polar bears. After the expedition vessel changed course, he happened upon two polar bears in the water. The male then climbed aboard the sea ice and, using his strong claws, created a bed for the evening.

“I am so honored to have won this year's People’s Choice award for WPY, the most prestigious wildlife photography competition,” he says. “This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it. Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope; there is still time to fix the mess we have caused.”

Director of the Natural History Museum, Dr. Douglas Gurr, couldn't agree more. “Nima’s breathtaking and poignant image allows us to see the beauty and fragility of our planet. His thought-provoking image is a stark reminder of the integral bond between an animal and its habitat and serves as a visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss.”

In addition to Sarikhani's winning image, four other photographs were revealed as top vote-getters with a highly commended status. This includes Tzahi Finkelstein‘s charming photo of a happy turtle balancing a dragonfly on its nose and Daniel Dencescu‘s image of a bird-shaped starling murmuration in Rome.

The five images will be displayed both online and in the accompanying exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London, until June 30, 2024.

See the top vote-getters of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award.

Turtle in the water balancing a dragonfly on its nose

“The Happy Turtle” by Tzahi Finkelstein, Israel. Highly Commended, People's Choice Award. 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.”

Pair of lionesses grooming a cub

“Shared Parenting” by Mark Boyd, Kenya. Highly Commended, People's Choice Award. 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.”

Moon jellyfish floating in the water under the Northern Lights

“Aurora Jellies” by Audun Rikardsen, Norway. Highly Commended, People's Choice Award. 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.”

Starling murmuration in the shape of a bird

“Starling Murmuration” by Daniel Dencescu, Germany/Romania. Highly Commended, People's Choice Award. 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.”

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.

Related Articles:

16 Highly Commended Photos From the 2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Contest

20 Incredible Winners From the 2023 European Wildlife Photographer of the Year Contest

Snow Leopard Surveying Its Territory Wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice

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

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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