Now in its 46th year, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is an international showcase for the very best nature photography. The competition is owned by two UK institutions that pride themselves on revealing and championing the diversity of life on Earth - the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine.
Being accepted into this competition is something that wildlife photographers, worldwide, aspire to. Professionals win many of the prizes, but amateurs succeed, too.
Each year tens of thousands of entries are received and judged by a specially selected expert panel. The winners are announced at an awards ceremony that takes place each October at the Natural History Museum, London.
A marvel of ants
This is the photographer whose picture has been voted as being the most striking and memorable of all the competition’s entries. The award-winner receives a big cash prize and the coveted title Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
When Bence first tried to photograph leaf-cutter ants in action, he thought it was going to be easy. It wasn't, but relishing the challenge, he found out as much as he could about their complex society and spent hours watching and following them in the Costa Rican rainforest. 'They proved to be wonderful subjects,' says Bence, who discovered that they were most active at night. He would follow a column as it fanned out into the forest. Each line terminated at a tree, shrub or bush. 'The variation in the size of the pieces they cut was fascinating - sometimes small ants seemed to carry huge bits, bigger ones just small pieces.' Of his winning shot, he says, 'I love the contrast between the simplicity of the shot itself and the complexity of the behaviour.' Lying on the ground to take the shot, he also discovered the behaviour of chiggers (skin-digesting mite larvae), which covered him in bites.
Nikon D700 + 105mm f2.8 lens; 1/200 sec at f10; ISO 640; SB-800 flash
Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year -The frozen moment
This award is given to the photographer whose single image is judged to be the most striking and memorable of all the pictures entered by young photographers.
On Boxing Day 2009, it was so cold in Scotland (-17°C /1°F) that the birds were desperate for food. A rowan tree at the bottom of Fergus's garden in Perthshire became a magnet for thrushes - five of the six British species - song thrushes, mistle thrushes, blackbirds, redwings and a flock of about 15 fieldfares, all frantically picking the berries. Fergus wanted to capture the freezing feel of the day while showing the character of fieldfares in action, some of which were hovering to pluck berries. His biggest challenge (other than the cold itself) was to isolate a fieldfare against a clear background, and the only way to get the angle was to stand on his frozen pond. Risking a high ISO setting as well as the ice, he caught both the moment and the delicacy of colour he was after.
Nikon D300 + 500mm f4 lens; 1/500 sec at f4; ISO 800; Manfrotto 680B monopod + 293 tripod head
To view the NHM's gallery of winning images - http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/wpy/onlineGallery.do