PHOTOS: Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015

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The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, founded in 1964, is an annual international showcase of the very best in nature photography. The competition, co-owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide, opened for entries on January 5, and will stay open until February 26. This year, the contest includes 21 individual categories, ranging from birds and mammals to “In the Skies” and “TIMElapse Special Award.” The owners and sponsors have been kind enough to share the following 10 finalists from last year’s competition. Their website has images from all of last year’s winners and more information about the current competition.

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1. Pauraque Study: One of Jess’s hopes on his first trip to Estero Llano Grande State Park in southern Texas was to find a common pauraque. He had wanted to visit the region since he was a teenager, enticed by its reputation as a top birding destination, and he knew that the brushy woodland of the park was where this nightjar might be found roosting. Strictly nocturnal, it rests quietly by day among dense vegetation, blending perfectly with its surroundings, though at dusk and dawn, the whistling calls of males can help locate them. Having heard a male the evening before, Jess began exploring the woodland the next morning and was thrilled to find a common pauraque sleeping. Creeping to within a few meters, Jess set up his camera with a long lens and focused on the intricate markings of the bird’s plumage. “I liked the idea of making the viewer slowly discover the identity of the subject by looking first at the fine details,” he says—in this case, the beautiful patterns and tones of brown, black and gold that provide such perfect camouflage among the woodland leaf-litter. (PHOTO CREDIT: © Jess Findlay/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014)

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2. Transparent care: A beam of sunlight shines down through a leaf and through the translucent skin of a tiny male reticulated glass frog clinging to its underside. He is guarding a clutch of maturing eggs, stuck to each other and to the leaf with jelly, and he will guard them for two weeks, until the tadpoles hatch and drop into the stream below. Males will wrestle other males in defence of their patches and in their attempts to attract females to their spawning leaves. They will also fend off predatory wasps intent on taking the eggs. The behaviour of glass frogs and their transparency have always fascinated Ingo and inspired his trip to Costa Rica in search of them. Transparency is the perfect camouflage, but Ingo managed to find a number of brooding males clinging to leaves beside a small stream in the Piedras Blancas National Park, some guarding several clutches, and with the aid of a ladder, he got his shots. (PHOTO CREDIT: © Ingo Arndt/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014)

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3. Snow shroud: Walking along the Dublin coast in February, Gavin came across a dead fox. “It seemed to have died naturally,” he says, a rare sight in this built-up area, where it is more usual to see roadkill. “I took some shots and admired its beauty, before returning home.” Later that night, it snowed. Hoping for a different kind of image, Gavin retraced his steps the next day. “The fox was newly shaped with a shroud of snow,” he says. “I found it gorgeous—so peaceful—but also reflecting the coldness of death and the vulnerability of the wild.” Gavin framed his shot with a 50mm lens, beloved of portrait photographers and ideal for low-light, and converted the picture to black and white, to concentrate on the bare essentials and mood of the scene. (PHOTO CREDIT: © Gavin Leane/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014)

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4. Blown Away: Dana was intent on showing his clients the magnificent dunes of Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia—among the highest in the world. But on this day, it was so windy and the air in the dry riverbed so full of powdery sand that he nearly gave up. In this spot, though, there was relative calm, and the skeleton acacia tree, dwarfed by the massive dune, gave a sense of scale. What fascinated him most were the moving patterns of sand. “The shifting winds made the sand dance across the shaded side of the dune like the flames of a fire,” he recalls. (PHOTO CREDIT: © Dana Allen/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014)

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5. Snowbird: Cheese and sausage are what Siberian jays like—so Edwin discovered on a skiing holiday with his family in northern Sweden. Whenever they stopped for lunch, he would photograph the birds that gathered in hope of scraps. On this occasion, while his family ate their sandwiches, Edwin dug a pit in the snow deep enough to climb into. He scattered titbits of food around the edge and then waited. To his delight, the jays flew right over him, allowing him to photograph them from below and capture the full rusty colours of their undersides more clearly than he had dared hope. (PHOTO CREDIT: © Edwin Sahlin/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014)

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SOURCE: The Atlantic, Alan Taylor