The winners of the 2019 Wildlife Photographer of the Year
From unique animal behaviour to rarely seen underwater worlds, the winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year for 2019 have been revealed.
The moment by Yongqing Bao, China Joint Winner 2019, Behaviour: Mammals.
Hailing from the Chinese province of Qinghai, Yongqing Bao has won the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019 title for his extraordinary image,
The Moment, which frames the standoff between a Tibetan fox and a marmot, seemingly frozen in life-or-death deliberations. A powerful frame of both humour and horror, it captures the drama and intensity of nature.
Chair of the judging panel, Roz Kidman Cox, says, ‘Photographically, it is quite simply the perfect moment. The expressive intensity of the postures holds you transfixed, and the thread of energy between the raised paws seems to hold the protagonists in perfect balance.
Images from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are rare enough, but to have captured such a powerful interaction between a Tibetan fox and a marmot – two species key to the ecology of this high-grassland region – is extraordinary.’
Night glow by Cruz Erdmann, New Zealand Winner 2019, 11-14 years old. Cruz was on an organized night dive in the Lembeh Strait off North Sulawesi, Indonesia and, as an eager photographer and speedy swimmer, had been asked to hold back from the main group to allow slower swimmers a chance of photography. This was how he found himself over an unpromising sand flat, in just 3 metres (10 feet) of water. It was here that he encountered the pair of bigfin reef squid. They were engaged in courtship, involving a glowing, fast‑changing communication of lines, spots and stripes of varying shades and colours. One immediately jetted away, but the other – probably the male – hovered just long enough for Cruz to capture one instant of its glowing underwater show. Canon EOS 5D Mark III + 100mm f2.8 lens; 1/125 sec at f29; ISO 200; Ikelite DS161 strobe. Nikon COOLPIX P900; 1/30 sec at f2.8; ISO 400; built in flash; Manfrotto tripod.
Fourteen-year-old Cruz Erdmann took the award for Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019 with his serene portrait of an iridescent big fin reef squid captured on a night dive in the Lembeh Strait off North Sulawesi, Indonesia. From an early age Cruz has been in love with the ocean and gained his diving certification at the age of just ten years old.
After inheriting his father’s old underwater camera, Cruz found the perfect medium to express his passion for all things aquatic.
The two images were selected from 19 category winners, beating over 48,000 entries from 100 countries.
Images from professional and amateur photographers are selected by a panel of industry-recognised professionals for their originality, creativity and technical excellence. Cruz and Yongqing’s images will be on show at the Natural History Museum, London, before touring across the UK and internationally to locations such as Canada, Spain, the USA, Australia and Germany.
Below you can see all the finalist images in the competition. Open to photographers of all ages and abilities, the next Wildlife Photographer of the Year opens for entries on 21 October 2019. Find out more at
Another barred migrant by Alejandro Prieto, Mexico. Winner 2019, Wildlife Photojournalism: Single Image. Under a luminous star-studded Arizona sky, an enormous image of a male jaguar is projected onto a section of the US-Mexico border fence – symbolic, says Alejandro, of ‘the jaguars’ past and future existence in the United States’. Today, the jaguar’s stronghold is in the Amazon, but historically, the range of this large, powerful cat included the southwestern US. Over the past century, human impact – from hunting, which was banned in 1997 when jaguars became a protected species, and habitat destruction – has resulted in the species becoming virtually extinct in the US.
Land of the eagle by Audun Rikardsen, Norway Winner 2019, Behaviour: Birds High on a ledge, on the coast near his home in northern Norway, Audun carefully positioned an old tree branch that he hoped would make a perfect golden eagle lookout. To this he bolted a tripod head with a camera, flashes and motion sensor attached, and built himself a hide a short distance away. From time to time, he left road kill carrion nearby. Very gradually – over the next three years – a golden eagle got used to the camera and started to use the branch regularly to survey the coast below. Golden eagles need large territories, which most often are in open, mountainous areas inland. But in northern Norway, they can be found by the coast, even in the same area as sea eagles. They hunt and scavenge a variety of prey – from fish, amphibians and insects to birds and small and medium-sized mammals such as foxes and fawns.
The architectural army by Daniel Kronauer, USA. Winner 2019, Behaviour: Invertebrates. At dusk, Daniel tracked the colony of nomadic army ants as it moved, travelling up to 400 metres (a quarter of a mile) through the rainforest near La Selva Biological Station, northeastern Costa Rica. While it was still dark, the ants would use their bodies to build a new daytime nest (bivouac) to house the queen and larvae. They would form a scaffold of vertical chains (see top right) by interlocking claws on their feet and then create a network of chambers and tunnels into which the larvae and queen would be moved from the last bivouac. At dawn, the colony would send out raiding parties to gather food, mostly other ant species.
The equal match by Ingo Arndt, Germany Joint Winner 2019, Behaviour: Mammals Fur flies as the puma launches her attack on the guanaco. For Ingo, the picture marked the culmination of seven months tracking wild pumas on foot, enduring extreme cold and biting winds in the Torres del Paine region of Patagonia, Chile. The female was Ingo’s main subject and was used to his presence. But to record an attack, he had to be facing both prey and puma. This required spotting a potential target – here a big male guanaco grazing apart from his herd on a small hill – and then positioning himself downwind, facing the likely direction the puma would come from.
Show time by Jasper Doest, Netherlands. Winner 2019, Wildlife Photojournalist Story Award. For the past 17 years Riku, a Japanese macaque legally captured from the wild, has performed comedy skits three times a day in front of large audiences at the Nikkō Saru Gundan theatre north of Tokyo. These highly popular shows, which attract both locals and tourists, derive from Sarumawashi (translated as ‘monkey dancing’) – a traditional Japanese performance art that has been around for more than 1,000 years.
Frozen moment by Jérémie Villet, France. Winner 2019, Rising Star Portfolio Award. Pushing against each other, two male Dall’s sheep in full winter-white coats stand immobile at the end of a fierce clash on a windswept snowy slope. For years, Jérémie had dreamed of photographing the pure-white North American mountain sheep against snow. Travelling to the Yukon, he rented a van and spent a month following Dall’s sheep during the rutting season, when mature males compete for mating rights. On a steep ridge, these two rams attempted to duel, but strong winds, a heavy blizzard and extreme cold (-40°) forced them into a truce.
Creation by Luis Vilariño Lopez, Spain. Winner 2019, Earth’s Environments. Red-hot lava tongues flow into the Pacific Ocean, producing huge plumes of noxious laze – a mix of acid steam and fine glass particles – as they meet the crashing waves. This was the front line of the biggest eruption for 200 years of one of the world’s most active volcanos – Kîlauea, on Hawaii’s Big Island.[Field][Field][Field]Kîlauea started spewing out lava through 24 fissures on its lower East Rift at the start of May 2018. In a matter of days, travelling at speed, the lava had reached the Pacific on the island’s southeast coast and begun the creation of a huge delta of new land.
Pondworld by Manuel Plaickner, Italy. Winner 2019 by. Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles. Every spring, for more than a decade, Manuel had followed the mass migration of common frogs in South Tyrol, Italy. Rising spring temperatures stir the frogs to emerge from the sheltered spots where they spent the winter (often under rocks or wood or even buried at the bottom of ponds). They need to breed and head straight for water, usually to where they themselves were spawned. Mating involves a male grasping his partner, piggyback, until she lays eggs – up to 2,000, each in a clear jelly capsule – which he then fertilizes. Manuel needed to find the perfect pond in the right light at just the right time.
Face of deception by Ripan Biswas, India. Winner 2019, Animal Portraits. It may look like an ant, but then count its legs – and note those palps either side of the folded fangs. Ripan was photographing a red weaver ant colony in the subtropical forest of India’s Buxa Tiger Reserve, in West Bengal, when he spotted the odd looking ant. On a close look, he realized it was a tiny ant mimicking crab spider, just 5 millimetres (1/5 inch) long. Many spider species imitate ants in appearance and behaviour – even smell. Infiltrating an ant colony can help a spider wanting to eat ants or to avoid being eaten by them or by predators that dislike ants. This particular spider seemed to be hunting. By reverse mounting his lens, Ripan converted it to a macro, capable of taking extreme close ups. But with the electrical connection lost between the lens and camera, settings had to be adjusted manually, and focusing was tricky, as the viewfinder became dark while he narrowed the aperture.
Snow exposure by Max Waugh, USA. Winner 2019, Black and White. In a winter whiteout in Yellowstone National Park, a lone American bison stands weathering the silent snow storm. Shooting from his vehicle, Max could only just make out its figure on the hillside. Bison survive in Yellowstone’s harsh winter months by feeding on grasses and sedges beneath the snow.
The rat pack by Charlie Hamilton James, UK. Winne 2019, Urban Wildlife. On Pearl Street, in New York’s Lower Manhattan, brown rats scamper between their home under a tree grille and a pile of garbage bags full of food waste. Their ancestors hailed from the Asian steppes, travelling with traders to Europe and later crossing the Atlantic. Today, urban rat populations are rising fast. The rodents are well suited for city living – powerful swimmers, burrowers and jumpers, with great balance, aided by their maligned long tails.
The garden of eels by David Doubilet, USA. Winner 2019, Under Water. The colony of garden eels was one of the largest David had ever seen, at least two thirds the size of a football field, stretching down a steep sandy slope off Dauin, in the Philippines – a cornerstone of the famous Coral Triangle. He rolled off the boat in the shallows and descended along the colony edge, deciding where to set up his kit. He had long awaited this chance, sketching out an ideal portrait of the colony back in his studio and designing an underwater remote system to realize his ambition. It was also a return to a much-loved subject – his first story of very many stories in National Geographic was also on garden eels.
Humming surprise by Thomas Easterbrook, UK. Winner 2019, 10 years and under. On holiday with his family in France, Thomas was eating supper in the garden on a warm summer’s evening when he heard the humming. The sound was coming from the fast-beating wings of a hummingbird hawkmoth, hovering in front of an autumn sage, siphoning up nectar with its long proboscis. Its wings are reputed to beat faster than the hummingbirds that pollinate the plant in its native home of Mexico and Texas. With the moth moving quickly from flower to flower it was a challenge to frame a picture. But Thomas managed it, while capturing the stillness of the moth’s head against the blur of its wings. Sony DSC-HX400V + 24–210mm f2.8–6.3 lens at 51mm; 1/320 sec at f5; ISO 80.
Snow-plateau nomads by Shangzhen Fan, China Winner 2019, Animals in Their Environment. A small herd of male chiru leaves a trail of footprints on a snow-veiled slope in the Kumukuli Desert of China’s Altun Shan National Nature Reserve. These nimble antelopes – the males with long, slender, black horns – are high-altitude specialists, found only on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. To survive at elevations of up to 5,500 metres (18,000 feet), where temperatures fall to -40˚C (-40˚F), they have unique underfur – shahtoosh (Persian for ‘king of wools’) – very light, very warm and the main reason for the species’ drastic decline. A million chiru once ranged across this vast plateau, but commercial hunting in the 1980s and 1990s left only about 70,000 individuals. Rigorous protection has seen a small increase, but demand – mainly from the West – for shahtoosh shawls still exists.
The huddle by Stefan Christmann, Germany Winner 2019, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio Award. More than 5,000 male emperor penguins huddle against the wind and late winter cold on the sea ice of Antarctica’s Atka Bay, in front of the Ekström Ice Shelf. It was a calm day, but when Stefan took off his glove to delicately focus the tilt-shift lens, the cold ‘felt like needles in my fingertips’. Each paired male bears a precious cargo on his feet – a single egg – tucked under a fold of skin (the brood pouch) as he faces the harshest winter on Earth, with temperatures that fall below -40˚C (-40˚F), severe wind chill and intense blizzards.
Tapestry of life by Zorica Kovacevic, Serbia/USA. Winner 2019, Plants and Fungi. Festooned with bulging orange velvet, trimmed with grey lace, the arms of a Monterey cypress tree weave an otherworldly canopy over Pinnacle Point, in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, California, USA. This tiny, protected coastal zone is the only place in the world where natural conditions combine to conjure this magical scene. Though the Monterey cypress is widely planted (valued for its resistance to wind, salt, drought and pests), it is native only on the Californian coast in just two groves.
Early riser by Riccardo Marchgiani, Italy. Winner 2019, 15-17 years old. Riccardo could not believe his luck when, at first light, this female gelada, with a week-old infant clinging to her belly, climbed over the cliff edge close to where he was perched. He was with his father and a friend on the high plateau in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park, there to watch geladas – a grass eating primate found only on the Ethiopian Plateau. At night, the geladas would take refuge on the steep cliff faces, huddling together on sleeping ledges, emerging at dawn to graze on the alpine grassland. On this day, a couple of hours before sunrise, Riccardo’s guide again led them to a cliff edge where the geladas were likely to emerge, giving him time to get into position before the geladas woke up. He was in luck. After an hour’s wait, just before dawn, a group started to emerge not too far along the cliff.