Polar bears pottering around a deserted house, magical morels on Mount Olympus and the final moments of a much-loved mountain gorilla are just some of the winning images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
But the honor of receiving the competition’s much coveted grand title award for 2022 goes to American Karine Aigner for her photo called “The big buzz.” The extraordinary scene depicts a ball of buzzing male cactus bees intent on mating with the sole female in the scrum, against a backdrop of scorching sands on a Texas ranch.
Roz Kidman Cox, chair of the judging panel, described the close-up as “rolling straight into the picture.”
“The sense of movement and intensity is shown at bee-level magnification and transforms what are little cactus bees into big competitors for a single female,” she said in a news release Tuesday.
Aigner’s “bee-level” close-up displays the desperation of a depreciating species threatened by climate change, pesticides and habitat loss, the press release adds.
She is the fifth woman to be awarded the grand title award in the competition’s 58-year history, organizers said.
Director of the Natural History Museum Doug Gurr commended the photographers for offering “unforgettable glimpses into the lives of wild species, sharing unseen details, fascinating behaviours and frontline reporting on the climate and biodiversity crises.”
Winners were selected in 19 different categories, including three Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards, the grand title of which went to 16-year-old Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn from Thailand for a surfacing Bryde’s whale portraying a contrast of dark skin, pink gum and bristly baleen on the upper jaw, called “The beauty of baleen.”
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum in London, where the images will be exhibited from Friday.