"Careful observation is what makes an engaging portrait. There has to be intimacy. Here the photographer has studied the subject, framed the image, set the exposure and then waited for the right moment."
Skye Meaker, South Africa
Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018
Skye grew up in South Africa, and became interested in wildlife and conservation through safaris with his family. He learned to appreciate the bush and was introduced to nature photography by his father. Taking his first shots at seven, he is now 15 and already a prize-winner. Wildlife photography has become his passion, and he's determined to make it his vocation.
Notoriously shy, the resident leopards of the Mashatu Game Reserve are hard to spot. But Skye was in luck. After tracking them for a few hours, he found Mathoja – a well-known female. The morning light was poor, and leaves kept blowing across her face. But when the overhead branches moved, a shaft of light gave a glint to her eyes, helping Skye to create his tranquil portrait, just as Mathoja was falling asleep.
Despite being a highly adaptable animal, the leopard is now classed as vulnerable. As human populations expand, leopard habitats are reduced and fragmented, bringing our two species into increasing conflict. An illegal trade in its body parts persists, with hunters targeting the leopard for its highly desirable skin.
Location: Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana
Technical details: Canon EOS-1D X + 500mm f4 lens; 1/80 sec at f4; ISO 1250
"Quite simply, this is beautiful. It’s hard to believe the subjects are wild, so perfect are the poses and so superbly are they lit. You wonder what is the relationship between the two primates, and what are they watching so intently? It’s a picture you linger over."
The Golden Couple
Marsel van Oosten, The Netherlands
Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018
Marsel trained in art and design, knowledge that led to a successful career as an art director in advertising. But his love of wildlife and passion for photography saw him swap life in the office for the challenges of being a nature photographer. He has since exhibited and published worldwide, and has already won many awards while also running his own nature photography tours.
As the group of Qinling golden snub-nosed monkeys jumped from tree to tree, Marsel struggled to keep up, slipping and stumbling over logs. Gradually he learned to predict their behaviour, capturing a male resting briefly on a stone seat, revealing its cloak of long hair. One of the females in the small group sat alongside. Both watched intently as an altercation took place down the valley between the lead males of two other groups in the 50-strong troop. With the Sun filtering through the canopy, the warm gold coats of this pair shone out against the fresh greens of the forest.
Found only in the forests of China’s Qinling Mountains, this sub-species of golden snub-nosed monkey is now endangered – their numbers have halved over the past 40 years. They are highly selective feeders, but the trees on which they rely for bark, lichen and buds are being overharvested, or cut down to make way for roads for tourism. There are now fewer than 4,000 individuals left in these mountains.
Location: Qinling Mountains, Shaanxi Province, China
Technical details: Nikon D810 + Tamron 24–70mm f2.8 lens at 24mm; 1/320 sec at f8; ISO 1600; SB-910 flash
Georgina Steytler, Australia
Behaviours - Invertebrates Winner 2018
Georgina was at the waterhole early to photograph birds, but her attention was diverted to these industrious wasps. They were busy at the water’s edge, rolling the soft mud into balls and carrying them to their nearby nests. For a good angle, she lay in the mud, then pre-focused on a likely flight path and began shooting continuously.
The female mud-dauber wasps use the mud balls to build their nests. Collecting them into clusters, they then carve chambers inside the balls into which the females lay their eggs. Before closing each one up, the wasps insert the paralysed bodies of orb-weaving spiders as food for their larvae when they hatch.
Location: Walyormouring Nature Reserve, Western Australia, Australia
Technical details: Canon EOS-1D X + 600mm f4 lens + 1.4x extender; 1/4000 sec at f8; ISO 1000
Home Of The Quoll
David Gallan, Australia
Animals in Their Environment - Highly Commended 2018
It took David three years to locate this quoll – and another six months to take this photograph. He set up a camera trap where a fallen log bridged a stream, foregoing flash to minimise disturbance, then placed a scent bait to pause any passing quolls. His perseverance paid off when this hunting female scampered into view.
These shy creatures are ferocious predators. Almost a metre long from nose to tail, quolls can slice meat off the reptiles, birds and mammals they hunt with their strong teeth and muscles. Like all quoll species, the spotted-tailed quoll is threatened by habitat loss due to industrial logging and competition with introduced species.
Location: Monga National Park, New South Wales, Australia
Technical details: Nikon D7000; Nikon 10–24mm f3.5–4.5 lens at 15mm; 1/100 sec at f4.5 (-0.67 e/v); ISO 3200; Sabre trigger; Home-made housing; Manfrotto tripod
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.