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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 October 2007, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Elephant stomps to photo victory
Elephant creation

A picture of a large bull elephant kicking and spraying mud in a Botswana water-hole has won the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.

Ben Osborne's image was captured during a three-week stake-out on location in the Chobe National Park.

Speaking about his winning snap, Mr Osborne said: "I love the energy in this image. It has more to do with physics than biology."

The competition has become one of the most prestigious in world photography.

It is organised by BBC Wildlife Magazine and London's Natural History Museum, and sponsored by the oil giant Shell.

Judges spent three months sifting through more than 32,000 entries from 78 countries.

Commenting on the record number of entries in the event's 46-year history, competition manager Debbie Sage applauded the quality of the winning images.

"This year's winners have gone to great lengths to capture such rare moments in nature," she said.

"These images are the best in the world and give us all an insight into the beauty, drama and variety of the environment around us."


Mr Osborne, a freelance photographer based in the UK, has worked on all seven continents during his 25-year career.

He specialises in wildlife, landscape and environmental photography. His work has featured in major TV series, including the BBC's Planet Earth.

Apart from anything else, it looks like pretty good fun too
Ben Osborne

During his three-week stake-out of the waterhole, Mr Osborne used his vehicle as a hide.

When the winning moment of an large bull elephant arriving at the location, he used a slow shutter speed to capture the low morning light and the texture of the mud.

Describing why he thought his image was a physics pin-up, Mr Osborne said:

"The mix of light, texture, mass, stress, force, velocity and acceleration are all captured in a visually dramatic moment in time.

"And apart from anything else, it looks like pretty good fun too."

Elephants have become an iconic species for conservationists. In the 1980s, the numbers were halved as a result of the ivory trade. Since a global ban was introduced in 1989, their numbers have increased in southern Africa.

The success of conservationists' efforts has led to difficult questions being asked about how to balance the growing population, which is expanding its range and coming into conflict with local farmers and communities.


Monkey moment

This year's prize for Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year has been won by 11-year-old Patrick Corning, also from the UK.

Taken during a family holiday to Costa Rica, it shows three squirrel monkeys who were regular visitors to a tree above Patrick's balcony.

"I think it is cute how one of the monkey's is pulling another one's ear," he says.

"I remember thinking to the monkeys, 'don't move!'," he said, recalling the moment he took the photo

The chairman of the judging panel, Mark Carwardine, said the image raised a smile every time he looked at it.

"Everything comes together in this perfect wildlife moment. It is transformed into something original and eye-catching by that simple gesture."


Canadian Paul Nicklen's aerial photograph of a group of narwhals feeding won the Animals in Their Environment category.

Breath taking

He spotted them while he was flying 30 miles off the Admiralty Inlet ice edge of Northern Baffin Island.

Explaining his winning image, Mr Nicklen said: "As with most of my photography the environment is often as important as the subject.

"I am constantly trying to get viewers to care as much about the sea ice as the main subject in the photograph." One of the judges, Sophie Stafford, said the photo offered an unusual bird's eye view of the rare marine mammals.

"An ice-hole makes a pleasing frame for the narwhals, whose bodies are neatly aligned as they surface to breathe, their extraordinary tusks and camouflaged markings visible.

"This image transports the viewer to the frozen kingdom of the 'moon whale'."


Battling blackcocks

The artistic composition of this photo by David Tipling of two black grouse was specially commended by the judging panel.

Mr Tipling spent six days lying in a hide in a frozen bog in Finland to capture this striking shot of blackcocks displaying.

He said his goal was to capture an image that portrayed the character of the bird in a new way.

"I got countless images of them displaying and fighting," he explained, "but this composition was my ultimate goal."

Usually secretive birds, male black grouse become highly visible in spring. At dawn they form a lek - where up to 30 males meet and display to impress the watching females.


Winning the Animal Portraits category by getting up close and personal with a brown bear was a shock for Sergey Gorshkov in more ways than one.

Bear glare

The Russian was so absorbed in trying to photograph spawning salmon in the Ozernaya River, East Russia, that he did not spot the bear until he was fixed in its stare.

"It was a terrible shock to see this massive face glowering at me from just a metre away," Mr Gorshkov recalled.

Chairman of the judging panel Mark Carwardine said the resulting image captured the moment perfectly.

"The water and sky... give the bear a wonderful sense of place," he said.

"But it's that immediate question on everyone's lips that gives it the edge: how did the photographer do it?"

An exhibition of the best images from this year's competition opens to visitors of the Natural History Museum on Friday, 26 October 2007

Beast in sediment is photo winner
19 Oct 06 |  Science/Nature
Peregrine swoops to photo prize
19 Oct 05 |  Science/Nature


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