Emperor penguins rocket toward an exit hole in the ice in the winning picture of the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, announced last Wednesday.
To get the shot—taken in Antarctica’s Ross Sea for a new National Geographic article—photographer Paul Nicklen used polar survival skills he’d learned as a child among the Inuit on Canada’s Baffin Island. Nicklen began by lowering himself through a hole in the ice and breathed through a snorkel while waiting for the penguins to return from foraging.
“They soared underwater like fighter jets in a dogfight,” Nicklen told National Geographic’s Luna Shyr. “Then they’d fly out, land, push down with their bill, and stand up, going back to that slow, waddling bird. It was a privilege to see.” (Get more behind-the-scenes details.)
In a statement, competition judge David Doubilet said “Bubble-Jetting Penguins”—which also took top honors in the Underwater Worlds category—”draws us in for a glimpse of the emperor penguin’s private world at the end of the Earth. I love this image, because it shows perfectly organized, infinite chaos. My eyes linger over it trying to absorb everything that’s going on here.” (See more emperor penguin pictures by Paul Nicklen.)
Now in its 48th year, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is an “international showcase for the very best nature photography,” according to the website for the contest, run by London’s Natural History Museum and Wildlife magazine.
Each year an international jury of photographers judges tens of thousands of entries in 18 categories.
Eric Hosking Portfolio Award
Vladimir Medvedev was driving through Canada’s Jasper National Park when he spotted a red deer stag lying in the grass by the highway. The photographer pulled over and swiftly positioned his tripod and snapped this picture just as a truck thundered by.
After taking the picture, Medvedev left as quickly as possible to ensure the deer’s peace. “The stag may have been inconspicuous, but I wasn’t,” he said in a statement. “As long as I stayed there, he was no longer invisible. So I left straight away, so as not to betray his presence.”
The shot, titled “Life in the Border Zones,” won Medvedev the Eric Hosking Portfolio Award, intended for photographers aged 18 to 26 who submit portfolios of their best work.
Commended, World in Our Hands Award
“It was sobering to think how many sharks had been killed to produce this pile of fins for a soup that isn’t even healthy,” photographer Paul Hilton said in a statement about his picture, titled “The End of Sharks.” The image was a runner-up for the World in Our Hands Award, focused on the “relationship between people and the environment.”
An increasingly popular dish among the middle-class in China, shark-fin soup is responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of sharks annually, scientists say. Many sharks are taken solely for their fins and then thrown back in the ocean, where it takes several hours for the fish to die.