A renowned photography exhibition from the Natural History Museum is back in Bristol this month with 100 new images that will make you wonder at the living world

Now in its 55th year, Wildlife Photographer of the Year is a showcase of some of the world’s best photography, revealing some of the most arresting and spectacular images of the natural world. This year’s competition attracted more than 48,000 entries from young, old, professional and amateur photographers from 100 countries, all helping to raise awareness of the beauty and fragility of the world around us.

The popular exhibition is coming back to Bristol this month, opening at M Shed on 23 November, to present 100 new photographs which have been selected for their creativity, originality and technical excellence.

Here we present a preview of just some of the photography on display at this year’s show, featuring everything from atmospheric work by a budding teenager, to haunting depictions of humanity’s interference with nature in Texas.

Peter Haygarth

Having been highly commended in the Behaviour: Mammals category, Peter Haygarth’s image captures an encounter between a lone cheetah and a pack of African wild dogs in the Zimanga Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
“I was in an open-topped safari vehicle following a pack of African wild dogs that had failed in a chase of a warthog, [which] then came across a lone male cheetah that appeared to feel threatened as the number of dogs increased, and started to hiss and lunge,” says retired police officer turned professional photographer Peter.“I had managed to capture such a look in the cheetah’s face that represented so many emotions. These are both endangered species [with fewer than 7,000 left of each, mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation], so the fact that they came together and fought was rare.”

Wildlife Photographer of the year
Canopy hangout by ©Carlos Pérez Naval

Carlos Pérez Naval

The grand title winner in the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 awards, and category winner in other competition years, teenager and budding talent Carlos Perez Naval has always taken a keen interest nature photography. This photograph, which was highly commended in the Young Wildlife Photographers: 11­ – 14 Years Old category, was taken during a family trip to Panama’s Soberanía National Park.
“I was staying in the terrace of the Canopy Tower. Early in the morning I saw there was a sloth feeding in a tree next to me. I first took some portraits with the 400 zoom, but it was foggy and there was a nice atmosphere, so I decided to take a picture with the landscape,” he says.

Wildlife Photographer of the year
The wall of shame by ©Jo-Anne McArthur

Jo-Anne McArthur

Nothing could prepare professional photographer Jo-Anne McArthur for what she would witness when she attended the annual Sweetwater rattlesnake round-up in Texas. Each year tens of thousands of rattlesnakes are caught, tossed into pits and then decapitated for entertainment. Remarking on her powerful photograph, Jo-Anne says, “At first glance, it’s like you’re witnessing a fun kids’ event. Red hand prints, signatures, drawn smiley faces. But what are those skins about? Some images are obvious. This one isn’t. It’s a solemn image, and my hope is that people will reflect on this very direct form of violence against others, and question whether these acts should be such a celebratory affair.
“The killing is on display, and there are events like the snake-eating contest and the Miss Rattlesnake beauty pageant,” she continues. “I found it so strange that people didn’t see the animals as I saw them – deserving of protection and respect.”

Wildlife Photographer of the year
Sleeping like a Weddell by ©Raplh Schnieder

Ralph Schneider

This image is a world away from what automotive industry project manager Ralf Schneider is used to seeing on a daily basis. The amateur photographer travelled to a branch of the Drygalski Fjord in the south of South Georgia to discover this snuggly Weddell seal. Shooting from an inflatable boat, Ralf had to be careful not to not wake the sleeping creature. “[The] conditions were perfect; only low swell and overcast skies for fantastic, soft portrait light,” he says. “The main challenge was to take the best part with the special posing of the seal with a long focal length of 600mm from the moving Zodiac. Despite the calm sea, I had to be very careful not to go overboard because of my enthusiasm.”

Wildlife Photographer of the year
Lucky break by ©Jason Bantle

Jason Bantle

It’s not every day that you see a racoon poking its head out of the windshield of a 1970s Ford Pinto. And this is definitely the case for professional nature photographer Jason Bantle who put in a huge amount of planning to capture this remarkable image on a deserted farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. “It was multiple years of being in a hide, waiting in the evenings for this mother raccoon to emerge from the interior of this old Pinto. [Throughout] the previous two years she did not [appear] during the time when she would be having and raising her young, inside of the car. It was evident the only way in and out was through the hole in the windshield. Finally, on year three, she emerged,” he says. “I think the image speaks of Mother Nature’s resilience to work around human impacts and encroachment. Raccoons are an incredibly adaptable species; not all species are.”

Wildlife Photographer of the year
Beach waste ©Matthew Ware

Matthew Ware

Postdoctoral researcher at the Florida State University Marine Turtle Research, Ecology, and Conservation Group, Matthew Ware took this haunting photo of an endangered turtle that had been strangled by debris attached to a washed-up beach chair in July 2018 on the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama, where his team were surveying the water’s edge.
“We knew immediately that this incident held an important conservation message, particularly since the nearby cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach had recently enacted Leave No Trace ordinances on their beaches requiring visitors to remove their items from the beach at night,” he says.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. The exhibition runs at M Shed from 23 November – 4 May.
• bristolmuseums.org.uk/m-shed

Main image: Big cat and dog spat by ©Peter Haygarth