The best wildlife photography shows a fragile and beautiful world

Before the ever-widening gap between man and nature, painting photographs of wildlife was a matter of most important importance. Animals are among the oldest subjects to paint. In the essay Why We Look at Animals the famous and late writer John Berger argues that animals “first entered the imagination as messengers and promises.”

Wildlife photography is part of this long-standing tradition of representation that gives new life to animals as symbolism and storytellers of the natural world.

Nayan Khanolkar sat for four months waiting for this photograph of a leopard wandering through the suburban areas of Mumbai that won the Urban category. Supplied

This is nowhere more evident than in the annual contest that the Natural History Museum of London runs. It began modestly in 1965, with less than 400 participants; the competition has grown into one of the biggest and most prestigious photography competitions worldwide.

This year, the contest saw over 42,000 entries, spanning more than 100 nations. The international jury picked 100 photos from 18 categories for the traveling exhibition. It is currently hosted three times in Geelong’s magnificent National Wool Museum. It’s the only Victorian location that hosts the show under the guidance of Padraic Fisher and the senior curator Georgia Melville.

Willem Kruger snapped this dynamic action photo of a hornbill that has yellow bills hunting on termites within South Africa. Supplied

In Geelong, The images are complemented by the Dead Zoo, which is an interesting addition to the gallery of taxidermy exhibitions drawn by the Wool Museum’s collection. The soundscape is also ambient, created by Joel Carnegie, and the similar Geelong by Nature exhibition, an annual competition for local wildlife photographers.

Both contests highlight how challenging the pursuit of wildlife photography can be and how it require the most dedication to capture the perfect photo. Think of long hours in cold temperatures and an endless regimen of pushups to stay warm. This was the scenario experienced by Andrew Parkinson while photographing mountain hares in a Scottish Icefield!

Australian photographer Scott Portelli captured giant cuttlefish in his photo Collective Courtship. Supplied

This ferocious persistence is driven by the rise of equipment that is not specialized like smartphone cameras and GoPro camera, which is utilized by Tim Laman – the overall winner of Photographer of the Year in his six-photo collection Entwined Lives. In a panoramic view of the treetops from the Indonesian rainforest, The vertigo-inducing photo of an orangutan is breathtaking.

As with many of the photographs, this one is the culmination of artistic skill in its originality, creativity, and technical excellence. The stunning pictures are interspersed with captivating stories about the exotic locales, the utmost determination and perseverance that went into their creation, and a dose of luck and fate.

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