“It Came From The Deep”, by Fabien Michenet (Finalist: Underwater), depicts a juvenile octopus just 2 centimeters (under an inch) across. Michenet often takes his camera with him when he dives off the coast of Tahiti, seeking out the tiny zooplankton that migrate out of the Pacific Ocean depths once darkness falls. On one of these night dives, Michenet was about 20 meters (66 feet) below the surface when several tiny octopi floated into view. “One of them stopped in front me,” relates Michenet, “waving its tentacles gracefully, perhaps taking advantage of my lights to hunt the little crustaceans that were swimming around.”
“Komodo Judo”, by Andrey Gudkov (Finalist: Amphibians & Reptiles), features one of the unlikeliest scenes you’ll ever see as a pair of venomous Komodo Dragons go one-on-one in a short but spectacular test of territorial dominance. Using their powerful tails to support themselves, these reptilian wrestling matches last just a few seconds, ending abruptly when one of the lizards tips over and answer’s gravity’s call. Photographer Andrey Gudkov fortuitously came across the grappling godzilla’s while roaming Indonesia’s Komodo National Park.
“Great Egret Awakening”, by Zsolt Kudich (Finalist: Birds), is a case of many egrets and no regrets… sorry, couldn’t resist. By 1921, hunting (for feathers used as plumes in women’s hats) had reduced these magnificent birds to a mere 31 pairs. Since such hats went out of fashion, egrets have recovered substantially though habitat loss has become a major threat. Photographer Zsolt Kudich captured this jaw-dropping expanse of egrets in a sheltered spot where the Danube River flows into Hungary’s Gemenc Forest.
“Snow Hare”, by Rosamund Macfarlane (Finalist: Mammals), is set in the Cairngorms, the UK’s highest, coldest and snowiest plateau where five of the six highest mountains in Scotland can be found. Guided by a local expert “at times through knee-deep snow”, the photographer chanced upon a couple of hares too intent on scrabbling for sustenance to hightail it. Once within photographic range, Macfarlane positioned herself at the base of a gentle incline – in an Easter-ly direction, perhaps – and focused her camera on one of the hares.
“To Drink Or Not”, by Carlos Perez Naval (Finalist: 10 Years and Under), depicts a dramatic interaction between two disparate species captured in timely fashion by a 9-year-old Spanish photographer who’s already making a name for himself. Young Carlos was visiting the beach at Morro Bay, California, while vacationing with his family when a California ground squirrel attempted to sip some fresh water from a dish left by local beach-goers. The water was jealously guarded by a flock of Western Gulls, however, with squirrels darting in to snatch a sip before a gull guardian could notice. Carlos snapped the shot above when one squirrel was caught in the act by an alert gull. Just after Carlos squeezed the shutter, the gull lunged forward and the squirrel made tracks in the opposite direction.
The 2015 Wildlife Photographer Of The Year exhibition opens on 16 October at the Natural History Museum in London.