Wildlife becomes the focus of attention

Story by Jack Foley

ONE of the must-see exhibitions of any year for photography or wildlife enthusiasts is the BG Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition which is now on at The Natural History Museum in London.

Jointly organised by the museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, with the support and sponsorship of the BG Group, the competition is launched each year in the spring issues of the wildlife magazine and exists to encourage amateur and professional photographers around the world to document the diversity and wonder of nature, with the aim of emphasising the beauty and importance of the natural world.

The finale is the opening of the exhibition of winning and recommended photographs at The Natural History Museum, which opened on October 27th this year and runs until March 11, 2002, before four sets of the exhibition then tour the UK to be displayed at 32 different galleries, museums and nature centres.

This year, in excess of 19,000 entries were submitted for the judges' consideration and the best from each category are now on show at the exhibition.

The overall winner, Tobias Bernhard (of Germany) ©, photographed a grey reef shark on the Beveridge Reef in the South Pacific and told BBC Wildlife Magazine:

"We found grey reef sharks in this lagoon and used bait to habituate them to meeting us at a particular coral head. Over the next fortnight, they ventured closer each day, in groups of up to eight. Most were adult females, with a distinct 'pecking order'. Though these sharks can be dangerous, we never once felt threatened.

"This dominant female was the biggest (about two metres long), and sometimes, out of apparent curiosity, she would swim straight towards us, then, at the last moment, gybe sharply to change direction. Once I was familiar with this habit, I could preset focus, exposure and flash and concentrate on panning the shark as she cruised in. On this occasion, she was barely 30cm from me."

Other images include a striking photograph of an American bison de-frosting (by Mervin D Coleman, of the USA - winner in the Animal Portraits category) and a particularly spellbinding shot of starlings flying into roost (by Jose L Gomez de Francisco, of Spain - winner in the From Dusk to Dawn category), which are pictured left and below.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year each win a BG Award - a bronze statuette of the competition ibis - together with a prize of £2,000 and £500 respectively. In each category, the winners receive £500, and the runners-up £250. The 2002 competition will be launched in the January issue of BBC Wildlife, with the closing date in April.

For further information about the exhibition, why not click through to The Natural History Museum's website or call the number above to find out details of opening times.

For opening times, tickets and further information call: 020 7942 5000