To photograph one of the rarest creatures on Earth, you have to be incredibly skilled and extremely lucky.
But Sergei Gorshkov is clearly both ̵
The image has just won him the Photographer of the Year title.
You can see the female tiger embracing a tree, rubbing into the bark to leave its scent and marking territory in Leopard National Park.
“The lighting, the colors, the texture – it’s like oil painting,” said WPY presiding judge Rose Kidman-Cox.
“It’s almost as if the tiger is part of the forest. Its tail merges with the roots of the tree. The two are one,” she told BBC News.
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Even more unusual is that this is a camera image. The equipment was set in the woods and left for months, waiting to be activated automatically when a tiger came.
Of course, Sergei had to know where he was most likely to frame the animal – and here comes the skill of an experienced wildlife photographer.
Tigers in eastern Russia have been hunted to extinction and probably now number only a few hundred individuals. And as their prey – mostly deer and wild boar – is also declining, this means that grass carp have to travel great distances to find food.
All of this makes it difficult to provide any picture, no matter how impressive it may seem. But think about it: the camera trap that took the winning photo was left in the field for 10 months before the memory card with its precious image file was restored.
Sergei’s Grand Prize was announced by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge and TV presenters Chris Packham and Megan McCubby during an online event hosted by the Natural History Museum in London.
The NHM is running the WPY competition, which is now 56 years old.
The fox that took the goose from Liina Heikkinen, Finland
This image of a young fox consuming a goose brought Finnish teenager Lina not only a victory in the category for 15-17 years, but also the overall grand prize for junior photographers. The fox had forced herself into a crevice to try to stop her brothers and sisters from eating.
“The judges especially liked it because only a really passionate young naturalist could get such a picture,” explained Rose Kidmand-Cox. “The composition is beautiful. Leah must have been lying on the ground because she is in sight with this young fox.”
The pose of Mogens Troll, Denmark
Young male proboscis monkey in profile. This year he is the winner of the WPY Animal Portraits. The photo was taken at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary in Sabah, Borneo. This beautiful nose will become even bigger as the young primate matures. This will give his calls more volume and will probably come to signal his condition in the group.
The fiery river of Mount Etna by Luciano Gaudenzio, Italy
WPY is not just for animals. This image, taken in the northern part of the most active volcano in Europe, won the category “Environment of the Earth”. Luciano Gaudenzio had to fight the heat and the stinking steam to get closer to his object. He described the scene as hypnotic, the vent resembling “an open wound on the rough and wrinkled skin of a huge dinosaur.”
Life on the hair from Jaime Culebras, Spain
This glass spider frog breakfast is the winner in the WPY category for behavior: amphibians and reptiles. Jaime took this photo in the Manduriaku Reserve in Ecuador – during a torrential downpour. He had to hold an umbrella and a flash in one hand while working with the camera in the other.
A tale about two axes by Frank Deschandol, France
The frame and freezing of these two axes in Normandy, northern France, required a specially designed, super-fast prison system. The red-striped sand wasp (left) and the cuckoo wasp are about to enter neighboring nests. Frank Deschandol won the category “Behavior: Invertebrates”.
The golden moment from Songda Cai, China
The winner in the Under Water category for 2020. This is a small squid with a diamond. It’s a parallarva – which means it’s out of the hatch, but it’s not quite grown up. Songda did this on a night dive off the coast of Anilao, Philippines. The animal is about 6-7 cm long.
When a mother says she is ruled by Shanyuan Li, China
These are young Palace cats or manuli that are found in the remote steppes of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in northwestern China. Shanyuan sealed this image of playful kittens after six years of tracking and studying the animals. The painting won the category “Behavior: Mammals”.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards are usually presented during a gala dinner at the NHM in South Kensington. But as with so many events in the Covid era, the organizers had no choice but to be virtual this time. However, the extremely popular exhibition will continue normally. It opens on Friday, but it’s just a ticket. Reservation is essential.
Applications for next year’s prizes will be accepted on Monday.
Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter.