Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 award photos

Overall winner

José Luis Rodríguez (Spain) - The storybook wolf

When José Luis realized he had got the shot of his dreams he couldn't believe it. His fear had been that the wolves would be too wary. Iberian wolves have been persecuted by people who see them as a threat to game and livestock and because of ignorance about the supposed danger they pose. Even though they have always lived close to humans, there are no verified incidences of them attacking people. In Spain, the population of Iberian wolves - a subspecies of the grey wolf - is thought to number 1000-2000 in the north, with a few tiny, isolated populations in the south. José Luis risked a slow shutter-speed to reveal the moonlit sky and conjure up the atmosphere of the place. He switched from using his Nikon D2X to a Hasselblad so he could get the exact framing that he had in mind. What José Luis hopes is that his picture, 'showing the wolf's great agility and strength,' becomes an image that shows just how beautiful the Iberian wolf is and how the Spanish can be proud of this emblematic animal.

Hasselblad 503CW with a 6x6 Fujichrome backing + Planar 80mm lens; 1/30 sec at f11; ISO 50; purpose-made Ficap infrared camera trap.

Fergus Gill (United Kingdom) - Clash of the Yellowhammers

The planning for this picture started in the summer, when Fergus collected sheaves of oats from a local farmer specifically as winter food for the yellowhammers. One evening in February, hearing that snow was forecast for the next morning, Fergus set up his hide in the garden, hung out feeders and carefully positioned a sheaf of oats. ‘I woke early and got into the hide to wait. After a few hours, the garden was full of birds. At one point I counted 32 yellowhammers feeding on the ground.’ After another couple of hours, more snow fell and the yellowhammers began jumping up and feeding on the sheaf. ‘Every so often I would see a fight between two males over ownership of the oats,’ says Fergus, ‘but the spats were incredibly fast.’ This, however, was the event he decided to concentrate on. Two days later, Fergus got his shot, capturing both the clash and the composition he’d planned.

Nikon D300 + Nikon 200-400mm f4 lens at 220mm; 1/1000 sec at f5.6; ISO 500.

Danny Green - Starling Wave.

At first it looks like a pencil drawing. In fact, this impressive black cloud contains hundreds of thousands of starlings. They swerve and dive in panic as they avoid a marauding peregrine falcon.

Homegrown photographer Danny Green was thrilled to win the 'Nature Black and White' award for his photo entitled 'Starling Wave.'

Igor Shpilenok - Respect.

Ryska the cat fiercely guarded her property from the fox. One of the most extraordinary pictures at the exhibition is a picture showing a cat squaring up to a fox three times its size. It belongs to Russian photographer Igor Shpilenok who took her with him on a four-month trip deep into an icy nature reserve.

Urmas Tartes - Springtail on a snowflake.

Snowflakes make difficult terrain for tiny springtails. Urmas Tartes won the Animals in their Environment category for this image of a springtail, otherwise known as a "snow flea" navigating its way through delicate snowflakes.

Tom Schandy - The look of the jaguar.

The male jaguar sat on the riverbank calmly staring at the photographer. Tom Schandy won the Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife for this image, which he took while working on a book project in Brazil.

Miles Kenzo Kooren (Netherlands) - Intimate death.

11-14 years old category - highly commended

Thud! Something fell out of a tree and landed on the sand near where Miles and his sister were cooling off in a lagoon in the Lambir Hills national park, Sarawak, Borneo. A small snake was wrapped tightly around a gecko. ‘Paradise tree snakes can kill small prey, but they’re not dangerous to humans,’ says Miles, who lay really close on the ground and photographed the whole meal. ‘It took so long for the snake to swallow its prey,’ says Miles, ‘that I was able to take lots of pictures’

Canon EOS-5D + 70-200mm lens; 1/500 sec at f6.3; ISO 250

Michel Loup (France) - Pike perfection

Animals in their environment category - highly commended

Photographs in this category must create a sense of place and convey a feeling of the relationship between an animal and where it lives, the judges say. A blue sky, sun filtering down, a pike hanging peacefully beneath water lilies, a glimpse of trees on the lakeshore in the Jura (France) – the perfect summer scene. Michel set out to create this composition, ‘avoiding the photographic cliché of a half-air, half-water shot’. But going from theory to reality was a huge learning curve. He had countless unsuccessful attempts before being able to master this low-angle image. ‘But thanks to digital technology,’ he says, ‘I developed the right reflexes and was prepared when everything came together’ – beautiful lighting, gin-clear water, a smooth surface, the perfect foreground and background and, of course, an obliging pike

Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009

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