Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009

An Iberian wolf strides over a fence, its eyes intent on a tasty meal in the next field.

This stunning image won the Veolia Environement Wildlife Photographer of the Year, organised by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine.

This year was a bumper year with 43,135 entries from 94 countries – up 33 per cent on 2008. The best 100 images in the competition will go on show from October 23 at the Natural History Museum in London.

The competition manager, Gemma Webster, said: ‘While the UK and the US remain our major source of entrants, the greatest growth in entries is happening in China and Russia.’

Judge Mark Hardy, who stars in BBC’s Last Chance To See said: ‘These pictures are the best of the best. We’re finding digital cameras are increasing the quality of the shots as the photographers can change elements such as the exposure while they are still in the field.

wildlife photography 1 Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009(click on image for full size)

Winning photographer Jose Luis Rodriguez, from Spain, was amazed by his win.

Speaking through an interpreter he said: ‘I’m terribly happy – this picture defines my career. I had dreamt about taking a picture like this for years but I could only realise my vision now with the help of electronic and infrared technology.’

Homegrown photographer Danny Green was thrilled to win the Nature Black and White award for his photo entitled Starling Wave.

‘This image was the result of a long-term project over the winter,’ he told MailOnline.

‘I had been commissioned for a couple of days work by the RSPB but ended up spending months pursuing the perfect image. I had visited Somerset, the West Pier in Brighton and Norfolk, but in the end settled on this huge roost in Gretna Green. At its peak there were 1.5million birds in the sky.’

Mr Green, who has had a handful of category wins in previous years of the competition, said black and white photography was his favourite medium to work with. ‘I love the bleakness and the contrast in this shot,’ he said.

He used a slow-shutter speed to emphasise the swooping movement of the birds’ flight.

wildlife photography 2 Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009(click on image for full size)

The judges heaped praise on 16-year-old Fergus Gill from Scotland, who won the 15-17 years category at the awards. ‘This picture really leapt out at us,’ Judge Mark Hardy said.

‘You first see the yellowhammer on the left and then realise there is another bird on the right. It has perfect composition.’

Fergus Gill put some corn aside one summer with the idea of getting some gorgeous winter shots months ahead.’I looked at the weather forecast and realised it was going to snow so I put some of the corn out in my back garden,’ he said.

Because all the other plants were covered with snow there were dozens of birds fighting for this corn.

wildlife photography 3 Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009(click on image for full size)

One of the most extraordinary pictures at the exhibition is a picture showing a cat squaring up to a fox three times her size. It belongs to Russian photographer Igor Shpilenok who took her with him on a four-month trip deep into an icy nature reserve.

‘If you spend four months in a cabin you need some company so I took my cat Ryska with me to talk to,’ he told MailOnline.

‘It’s funny because she is so shy in the city, but when I was out there she would stand up to foxes, wolverines and even bears!

She was brave because she knew I was standing behind her. Once a bear tried to swipe at her and she rushed up to me and climbed onto my shoulder.

wildlife photography 4 Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009(click on image for full size)

wildlife photography 5 Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009(click on image for full size)

Amateur British photographer Andrew Forsyth snapped his own action-packed photo when on holiday in Jaipur, India. Here at Monkey Temple the locals and tourists have a good relationship with the macaque monkeys.

Mr Forsyth said: ‘The monkeys are often given food but have trouble finding clean water, especially in the dry season. So the locals set up a special water tap that drips once every few minutes.

‘I came across one monkey holding onto this pipe and waiting intently for the water to drop. Then another monkey came up and tried to pull him out of the way. In the end I think they both missed the drop.’

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 will run until 11 April 2010 at the Natural History Museum in London. For more information visit their website at www.nhm.ac.uk

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