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Crouching tiger, hidden camera: Wildlife Photo of the Year

NZ Herald

A chance photo of rare Siberian tiger has been selected from 49000 entries to as the winning picture of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
Revealed on Tuesday at an online ceremony held by the London Natural History Museum, awards were given for competitions in 'animal portraiture,' landscape and marine photography.

However it was Sergey Gorshok's photo of the female tiger rubbing against the bark of a Siberian tree that wowed the judges. There are few photos of these rare big cats. More novel still is how it was captured: this was the first grand prize to be captured remotely but a 'camera trap'.

The rich textures of the striped big cat in the dappled forest lighting were described by judging panel chair Roz Kidman Cox as "like an oil painting".

"It's a scene like no other. A unique glimpse of an intimate moment deep in a magical forest," Roz Kidman Cox judging pane chair.

Not bad for a photo captured by a camera left for 10 months in the Siberian woods.
Activated by motion, the photo was taken by one of a series of 'camera traps' while Sergey was many kilometres away. However there was no controversy.

Patience is rewarded above all other virtues in Wildlife photography.

Young Wildlife Photographer grand prize: The Fox that Got the Goose. Photo / Liina Heikkinen, WPY 2000
Young Wildlife Photographer grand prize: The Fox that Got the Goose. Photo / Liina Heikkinen, WPY 2000

However this image also captured a message of conservation, which judges felt should be rewarded. There are now thought to be only 550 of these Russian tigers left in the wild.

"It's also a story told in glorious colour and texture of the comeback of the Amur tiger, a symbol of the Russian wilderness," said Dr Tim Littlewood director of science for the museum and judge.

"Hunted to the verge of extinction in the past century, the Amur tiger population is still threatened by poaching and logging today."

The Sergey Gorshok's win was announced by HRH the Duchess of Cambridge: "Many congratulations to you Sergey and thank you to all of these who entered for sharing with us the magic of the natural world."

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#WPY56 Animal Portraits Taiga tiger in the night Sergey Gorshkov  RUSSIA When he first set out to photograph an Amur tiger, Sergey had never set eyes on one in the wild. Threatened by poaching for their body parts and also by poaching of their prey and by habitat loss, a population of only 580–600 tigers survives in the Russian Far East. These are known as Amur, or Siberian, tigers. But to be able to catch enough wild boar and deer in this harsh taiga (snow forest) wilderness, these tigers need to hold huge territories. The one region where Sergey thought he had a chance of making a picture was the Land of the Leopard National Park – a vast area of taiga linking a series of reserves, created primarily to protect the Amur leopard, a critically endangered subspecies of leopard. But it also protects a small number of tigers. In winter, to assist the survival of the Amur leopards – now numbering about 100 adults – park staff put out deer carcasses at several remote feeding stations. Sergey originally set out to photograph a leopard near one of them. But tracks revealed that, for the first time, a tiger had discovered the site (the park has about 30 adult tigers). The leopards usually came in daylight, but the tiger had come at night. Inspecting the paths it might have taken, Sergey discovered one route across boulders, streaked white by crows that had also discovered the leopard-feeding site. Strewn with a carpet of oak leaves, the rocks offered the ideal setting. All he needed was a tiger. Putting up a camera trap and lights at the spot . On 12 March 2019 he got his shot, his first ever picture of an Amur tiger – a young tigress, a year old, at most. With a piercing look back, she gave Sergey the portrait he had longed for, the rich colours of her uniquely patterned, thick winter coat in perfect harmony with her surroundings.  Nikon Z 7 + 24–70mm f4.5 lens at 33.5mm; 1/60 sec at f5.6; ISO 320; Cognisys camera-trap system + two Nikon SB-900 flashes.

A post shared by Sergey Gorshkov (@sergey_gorshkov_photographer) on

Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year was also awarded to Liina Heikkinen of Finland who caught a dramatic moment in her photo called "The fox that got the goose."

Shekar Dattatri commended the photo's "sense of furtive drama and frantic urgency."

In its 56th year, next year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition opens for entry from next week.


See more shortlisted photos at www.nhm.ac.uk/wpy