Voyager 2021 media awards
WEBSITE OF THE YEAR
APP OF THE YEAR
Travel

'Crying with laughter': Two very different wildlife photo awards go head to head

NZ Herald

We're probably not getting out in nature quite as much as we'd like to at the moment. A safari in the Serengeti, or even a trip west to look for Maui Dolphins seem like very distant prospects.

Fortunately, this week - not one but - two international wildlife photography competitions have relased choice images to inject a bit of wildlife into our lives.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, they couldn't be more different.

The London Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year has announced their 2021 finalists. In its 57th year, this prestigious photography award asked for images showing the "importance of the variety and variability of life on Earth".

The resulting exhibition will tour the world, eventually ending up in Auckland for the beginning of next year.

Monstrous rains in Masai Mara Kenya during January of 2020. Photo / Buddhilini de Soyza, Sri Lanka, WPY57
Monstrous rains in Masai Mara Kenya during January of 2020. Photo / Buddhilini de Soyza, Sri Lanka, WPY57

Then, at the far end of the food chain, we have the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. A long-list of 42 funny finalists were released by the competition this week.

A relative newbie to the nature photography calendar - in its seventh year - the awards were started as an antidote to the "heartbreaking" imagery and stories told elsewhere.

"With this competition, we wanted to capture people's attention and energy by giving them a giggle," says Paul Joynson Hicks, awards co-founder. "In order to protect animals, we need people to fall in love with them."

For every harrowing image of cheetahs caught in floods there is a photo of otters pulling faces. For every majestic lion, a pidgeon being hit in the face by leaves. The two awards have a natural harmony.

In the year of COP 15 conference on biodiversity, both competitions are seeking to show the value of nature, as the threats to the natural world are in the headlines.

"I was taking pics of pigeons in flight when this leaf landed on birds face". Photo / John Speirs, Comedy wildlife photo
"I was taking pics of pigeons in flight when this leaf landed on birds face". Photo / John Speirs, Comedy wildlife photo

With over 50,000 images submitted from 95 countries, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year has been whittled down to a final 100.

Judge and Director of the Natural History Museum, Dr Doug Gurr says that, even though travel was curtailed, the images were no less impressive and the stories they told no less urgent:

"Telling the story of a planet under pressure, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition illuminates the urgent challenges we face and the collective action we need to take."

Lynx on the threshold by Sergio Marijuán, Spain. Photo / Sergio Marijuán, WPY57
Lynx on the threshold by Sergio Marijuán, Spain. Photo / Sergio Marijuán, WPY57

The prestigious overall Wildlife Photographer of the Year winner will be announced on 12 October, at an award ceremony in the Kensington museum. Last year's winner Sergey Gorshkov was presented his award by wildlife patron the Duchess of Cambridge, for a rare glimpse of a Siberian Tiger.

Meanwhile, winners of the Comedy Wildlife Photography awards will be announced on October 22. The best images going into a photo album with proceeds going to chosen charity Save Wild Orangutans.

"A smooth-coated otter "bit" its baby otter to bring it back to and fro for swimming lesson". Photo / Chee Kee Teo, Comedy wildlife photo
"A smooth-coated otter "bit" its baby otter to bring it back to and fro for swimming lesson". Photo / Chee Kee Teo, Comedy wildlife photo

Whittling down 7000 images to 45 finalists, Joynson Hicks said the turnout was amazing given the effects of the pandemic.

"The huge number of images we receive every year illustrates the appetite there is to engage with conservation and reminds us that wildlife truly is incredible and hilarious and we must do all we can to protect it," Paul said.

See Who Jumps High. Photo / Chu han lin, Comedy wildlife photo
See Who Jumps High. Photo / Chu han lin, Comedy wildlife photo

While this is a process that goes before a judging panel, the stand out images of the Comedy awards are chosen by the internet. Each year there may be only one winner, but also several hilarious and sometimes unexpected memes.

Last year a turtle making a rude gesture to Queensland photographer Mark Fitz found viral fame spreading the effect of the awards. Fitz said the image resulted in " thousands of shares, millions of likes and even a few news stories." A couple of people have even said they're "going to get tattoos of him."

Terry the Turtle. Photo / Mark Fitz, Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2020
Terry the Turtle. Photo / Mark Fitz, Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2020

The two annual awards have struck up a symbiotic relationship, showing the broad spectrum of wildlife, in all its untamed glory.

Storm fox by Jonny Armstrong, US. Photo / Jonny Armstrong, WPY57
Storm fox by Jonny Armstrong, US. Photo / Jonny Armstrong, WPY57
"An elephant expresses his joy in taking a mud bath on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe." Photo / Vicki Jauron, Comedy wildlife photo
"An elephant expresses his joy in taking a mud bath on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe." Photo / Vicki Jauron, Comedy wildlife photo
Pyrite tailings and cyanide from mining: Toxic design by Gheorghe Popa, Romania. Photo / WPY57
Pyrite tailings and cyanide from mining: Toxic design by Gheorghe Popa, Romania. Photo / WPY57
The Green Stylist. Photo / Gurumoorthy K, Comedy wildlife photo
The Green Stylist. Photo / Gurumoorthy K, Comedy wildlife photo
We're Too Sexy For This Beach. Photo / Joshua Galicki, Comedy wildlife photo
We're Too Sexy For This Beach. Photo / Joshua Galicki, Comedy wildlife photo
After a good feed, a rescued female Grey-headed Flying-fox pup is comforted. Photo / Douglas Gimesy, Australia, WPY57
After a good feed, a rescued female Grey-headed Flying-fox pup is comforted. Photo / Douglas Gimesy, Australia, WPY57
Ouch! A golden silk monkey in Yunnan China. Photo / Ken Jensen, Comedy wildlife photo
Ouch! A golden silk monkey in Yunnan China. Photo / Ken Jensen, Comedy wildlife photo
"This burrowing owl caught my eye because he looked like he a hangover." Photo / Anita Ross, Comedy wildlife photo
"This burrowing owl caught my eye because he looked like he a hangover." Photo / Anita Ross, Comedy wildlife photo