I always look forward to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and this year I was fortunate enough to be invited to an exclusive viewing, which I attended earlier this week.
In my opinion there are few photography exhibitions that generate quite as much public interest or impress on quite so many levels as this one.
It’s not just about the obvious quality of the photographs (especially those in the child categories) but the increasingly creative methods used by the photographers to capture these shots.
Needless to say the overall standard continues to be exceptionally high. There will always be critiques of the final choices but you do feel for the judges; picking a winner has to be a difficult task.
What stood out for me in particular this year is the varying interpretation of each category – there is a real sense of diversity. I am also pleased to see that the Natural History Museum continues to opt for its unique backlit displays and (very) dimly lit room. It is such an effective means of displaying wildlife photographs, perhaps because we are so used to seeing such imagery via documentaries on high-definition TVs.
While I’m usually drawn to mammals and sea-life when whittling down my favourite shots, I found myself repeatedly returning to two photographs of birds. Hermann Hirsch won the Black & White category with his shot of a sea eagle in mid-flight, capturing a beautiful range of tones and sense of motion with incredible skill.
However, my favourite shot this year is Juan Tapia’s exceptionally creative winner of the Impressions category. He hung a ripped oil painting across an open window in his farm and, with the benefit of remote sensors, was rewarded with a terrific photograph of a barn swallow effectively bursting through the painting. The vision required to conjure up this image before even picking up a camera is what makes this so impressive.
Much like the Landscape Photographer of the Year and the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is a regular feature on my list of must-see exhibitions in any given year. It never fails to disappoint and, if nothing else, will give you some great ideas for your next travel destination.
What it has in its favour, arguably more than any other, is the wow factor. This is a combined result of the quality of the photography, the manner in which they are displayed, and, ultimately, the immediate human connection we have with images of the natural world.
The exhibition runs until 2nd May 2016 and hopefully you don't need me to convince you to visit! Get yourself down to South Kensington and prepare to be impressed.