A love tiger hugging a tree and other images from this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest

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No humans were present when the winning image for Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 was taken.Titled The embrace, the photograph shows an endangered Amur tigress with its huge front legs wrapped around a Manchurian fir tree, as it rubs its cheek against the bark to leave its scent behind as a message to the other tigers.

Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov had left a motion-triggered hidden camera there in the woods nearly a year earlier. It was the first in a series of trees that he had carefully chosen, believing they were places where tigers could leave messages to other tigers in the form of hair, urine, stripes or odorous marks.

The jury chose the photo from 49,000 entries from around the world for the 56th annual competition organized by the Natural History Museum in London.

“The remarkable sight of the tigress immersed in its natural environment gives us hope,” said Tim Littlewood, executive science director of the museum on Tuesday morning.

Littlewood said the numbers of Amur (or Siberian) tigers are increasing thanks to dedicated conservation efforts. In the 1930s, there were fewer than 30 animals left in the world, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. By 2005, the population had grown to 360. Recent unpublished data suggests there could be as many as 600, according to the competition.

The fox that got the goose, by Liina Heikkinen from Finland, won the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award for 2020 (© Liina Heikkinen)

The winner of the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition was Liina Heikkinen from Finland, with The fox that had the goose. The photo of a young fox covered in feathers after refusing to share his kill with his five siblings was “a great moment of perfectly captured natural history,” wildlife filmmaker and juror Shekar Dattatri said in a statement .

Canadian content

The competition also recognized Canadian photographers, including Garth Lenz and Andrew Wright in the wildlife photojournalism category, who study the relationship between humans and the natural world. Their images do not show wildlife, but vivid images of the impact of the oil and gas industry.

World of Tar, by Garth Lenz, was among the popular Canadian photographs in the competition. This is an aerial photo of the Mildred Lake mine in the Alberta tar sands. (© Garth Lenz)

Lenz, based in Victoria, British Columbia, shot dead Tar world at the Mildred Lake tar sands mine in Alta years ago, while working with a crew to shoot the documentary The Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands. The film starred Hollywood director James Cameron and premiered The nature of things in 2011.

At the time, Lenz was on the ground when Cameron and a few others took off in the team’s helicopter. As it took off, he saw a beautiful light develop. With the helicopter gone, Lenz quickly went to where he could charter a plane and capture the mine in that light.

He said showing the scale in such a setting is difficult, but that the house-sized trucks that appear tiny in the foreground, and the light cues from other trucks in the background, give “an idea of ​​the immensity of these mines” in this photo.

“I think the tar sands are one of the most visually compelling examples of the extreme steps we are prepared to take to meet our energy needs and those needs from fossil fuels,” he said.

The Price of Oil is an image of pumpjacks in the San Joaquin Valley of California captured by Andrew S. Wright of Vancouver, BC It was named as a highly praised image in the competition. (© Andrew S. Wright)

Wright’s image of a field of oil jacks in the San Joaquin Valley in California, The price of oil, captures a similar idea. But he notes that even so, it accounts for only a tiny fraction of global investment in oil and gas infrastructure over a century.

“The scale of the situation speaks to the scale of the task ahead and the work we need to do and continue to convert to renewable energy,” said Wright, Founder and Executive Director of the Willow Grove Foundation, which supports conservation and social projects; and adjunct professor in the Faculty of Environment at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Wright volunteers photography for conservation groups. He had always wanted to photograph the place with the highest density of pump jacks, and saw an opportunity during a project for a California-based group called Island Conservation. He spent an hour and took 400 shots trying to capture a picture of a public park several miles away in 40 ° C heat that melted the rubber grips of his lens.

He hopes the picture is food for thought.

“What I really want people to think about moving forward is how can we move forward in a paid way, taking care of everyone in the oil and gas industry so that they have a way economic forward? ” he said.

Recognized young photographers

More edifying, perhaps, are the photos taken by two young Canadians, Matthew Henry and Hannah Vijayan, who were recognized for the wildlife portraits of a moose cow and a grizzly bear, respectively, in the category of 15 to 17 years old.

The Snow Moose, by Matthew Henry of Treherne, Man., Was a popular photo in the 15-17 age group. (© Matthew Henry)

Now 18, Henry took the photo of the cow moose over Thanksgiving weekend two years ago. Henry, who is from Treherne, Manitoba, had vacationed with his family at their cabin in Riding Mountain National Park. They decided to go for a drive and Henry, who had been an avid wildlife photographer since he was 12, spotted the moose.

His parents stopped the car. At first, the moose was far away, says Henry. But as he started to walk towards them, a heavy snowfall started. Eventually, the animal stopped at a nearby puddle, and Henry realized he could get a close-up of his face behind the snow, with his body in the background. After several tries, Henry captured the perfect image by looking up after drinking.

“As soon as he saw it, I knew it was something special,” he told CBC News.

The Perfect Catch, by Canadian Hannah Vijayan, also received praise from the jury in the 15-17 age group. (Hannah Vijayan)

As of Wednesday afternoon, CBC News had yet to reach Vijayan for an interview.

Where to see the pictures

Canadians will be able to view all the images at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto from November 21 to May 2, 2021, or online now at the Natural History Museum website.

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