Emotive polar bear image by amateur UK photographer wins top picture prize

Entertainment

An amateur photographer from the UK has won a prestigious Wildlife Photographer Of The Year award with this emotive shot of a polar bear sleeping in a makeshift bed carved into a small iceberg.

Nima Sarikhani captured the image off Norway‘s Svalbard archipelago after spending three days “desperately searching” for the animals through thick fog.

After his expedition vessel changed course, he eventually encountered two polar bears – and witnessed the smaller male bear making his bed before falling asleep.

The picture, titled Ice Bed, has been crowned the winner of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer Of The Year people’s choice award, after being whittled down to a shortlist of 25 from almost 50,000 entries from around the world.

More than 75,000 people cast their votes – a record number – to name Nima this year’s winner.

Organisers praised the “breathtaking and poignant” image, saying it “allows us to see the beauty and fragility of our planet” and acts as “a stark reminder of the integral bond between an animal and its habitat… a visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss.”

Nima said he was “honoured” to win the award.

“This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it,” he said. “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.”

Four photographs were highly commended and will be displayed alongside Ice Bed online and in the accompanying exhibition at the Natural History Museum in west London until the end of June.

The runners-up

The Happy Turtle. Pic: Tzahi Finkelstein

The Happy Turtle by Tzahi Finkelstein, from Israel

This image of a Balkan pond turtle sharing a moment with a northern banded groundling dragonfly was taken from a hide in Israel’s Jezreel Valley. Tzahi was photographing shore birds when he spotted the turtle, but only turned his full attention to the reptile when he saw the dragonfly heading its way across the murky waters. When the insect landed, rather than snapping it up for dinner, the turtle appeared playful – leading to the perfect shot.

Shared Parenting. Pic: Mark Boyd/ Wildlife Photographer Of The Year

Shared Parenting by Mark Boyd, from Kenya

A pair of lionesses devotedly groom one of their pride’s five cubs in this early morning image taken in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Photographer Mark Boyd said he had witnessed them the evening before, leaving the cubs hidden overnight in dense bushes while they went out to hunt. Returning from their mission, they called the cubs out on to the open grassland for a bit of sprucing up. “Here the youngster was clearly enjoying the moment of affection and attention,” Mark’s entry said.

Starling Murmuration. Pic: Daniel Dencescu/ Wildlife Photographer Of The Year

Starling Murmuration by Daniel Dencescu, from Germany/Romania

A murmuration of starlings is always mesmerising, but when the huge, swooping mass forms itself into one giant bird you make sure to reach for your camera. Having seen the birds gathering in Rome after returning from foraging each day, Daniel Dencescu caught this image after spending hours following them around the city and its suburbs. “Finally, on this cloudless winter’s day, the flock didn’t disappoint,” he said.

Aurora Jellies. Pic: Audun Rikardsen/ Wildlife Photographer Of The Year

Aurora Jellies – Audun Rikardsen, from Norway

Illuminated by the aurora borealis, moon jellyfish swarm in the cool autumnal waters of a fjord outside Tromsø in northern Norway in Audun Rikardsen’s image. Sheltering his equipment in a self-made waterproof housing, he used a single exposure as well as his own system for adjusting the focus and aperture to capture the reflection of the sky’s colours on the surface of the water – and at the same time, light up the jellyfish with flashes.

The people’s choice award follows the winner of the overall Wildlife Photographer Of Year prize, which is decided by judges and was awarded to underwater photographer and marine biologist Laurent Ballesta in October.

The last UK winner for the people’s choice award was Sam Rowley, whose image of two fighting mice was voted the favourite in 2020.

A UK photographer last won the main competition in 2007, when wildlife and landscape photographer Ben Osborne picked up the prize for a picture of a large bull elephant kicking and spraying mud in Botswana.

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