Every year, London’s Natural History Museum (NHM) ask the world to show off its wildlife photography skills, and the finalists for the competition showcase not just human creativity, but the remarkable, endless forms of life we’re surrounded by. This year featured nearly 50,000 entries from both professionals and amateurs across 95 countries, and only 100 made it through to the last round.
Here’s a selection of some of the most visually arresting imagery provided by a whole host of shutterbugs, but if you’d like to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition itself, pay a visit to the NHM on October 21 this year when it officially opens to the public.
If you can’t make it to London, then don’t fret – the images will travel to six continents, bringing the beauty of the natural world to somewhere nearby.
1 – Tentacle tornado
A maelstrom of Cape box jellyfish moves around in the waters. The thousands of swarming jellyfish here are likely involved in some sort of reproductive procedure. “Some box jellyfish were inside the bell of another, perhaps as part of a mating ritual. I sent this image to a researcher who said they had never seen a sight like this before,” Geo Cloete, the photographer, told IFLScience.
These jellyfish are notorious for their powerful, sometimes fatal venom, so to take a photograph like this entailed a considerable risk. “The one in the middle of the photograph was brushing the lens of my camera,” Cloete noted.
Credit: Geo Cloete, from South Africa/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
2 – Wild West stand-off
A grizzly bear charges at ravens trying to grab a piece of the bison road-kill feast. This breathtaking shot was taken in Grand Teton National Park, which is part of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem in the western United States.
Credit: Charlie Hamilton James, from the UK/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
3 – Battle of the big fish
These two male dusky groupers are engaged in a violent, full-on territorial battle in the Azores. Weighing up to 60 kilograms (132 pounds), they vie for their own space when mating season begins. Curiously, these fish all begin as females, but some turn into males around the age of 12.
Credit: Jordi Chias Pujol, from Spain/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
4 – Crabzilla
This dramatic shadow belongs to an impressively sizable coconut crab – one that’s about a meter (3.3 feet) across. These formidable crustaceans are perfectly at home in the Seychelles atoll of Aldabra.
Credit: Thomas P Peschak, from Germany & South Africa/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
5 – Nosy neighbor
An urban red fox pops its head up in a quiet, well-lit neighborhood in Bristol, UK. “I discovered a wall that he liked to sit on in the early evening,” the photographer, Sam Hobson, said in a statement. “He would poke his head over for a quick look before hopping up.”
Credit: Sam Hobson, from the UK/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
6 – The disappearing fish
The lookdown fish is a master of camouflage. Using special platelets in its skin cells, it can reflect polarized light to make itself almost invisible to predators – and potential prey. Some of these fish were caught in the middle of their disappearing act off the coast of Contoy Island, near Cancun, Mexico.
Credit: Iago Leonardo, from Spain/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
7 – Swarming under the stars
The chaotic swarming of mayflies captured against a starry night sky along Hungary’s River Rába using an in-camera double exposure technique. These little critters are all engaged in a race upstream to lay their eggs on the water’s surface.
Credit: Imre Potyó, from Hungary/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
8 – Termite tossing
This southern African hornbill juggles a termite using the tip of its massive beak in the semi-arid Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. This particular yellow-billed hornbill was so deeply absorbed in termite snacking that it slowly worked its way to within just a few meters of where the photographer sat.
Credit: Willem Kruger, from South Africa/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
9 – Playing pangolin
A lion in South Africa’s Tswalu Kalahari Private Game Reserve grabs a Temminck’s ground pangolin. This nocturnal, ant-eating mammal’s armor plating, made from fused-hair scales, has curled up into a nearly impregnable ball.
This lion, and others in the pride, left their zoological football alone after 14 hours of playing with it. Although unhurt, the pangolin did die, probably from the stress of being captured in the first place, along with being left in the heat all day.
Credit: Lance van de Vyver, from New Zealand & South Africa/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
10 – Blast furnace
Lava blasts out from Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island. Active since 1983, it is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and although there isn’t any wildlife in this photograph, it’s safe to say that this image – featuring effervescent material more than 1,000°C (1,832°F) – is still pretty damn wild.
Credit: Alexandre Hec, from France/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Note: Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. To buy tickets, click here.