This is the wildlife photo of the year, as chosen by the public

CNN  — 

An image of a frozen lake and the reflection of willow branches above the water’s icy surface has claimed the top prize in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award 2021.

The shot by Italian photographer Cristiano Vendramin, originally among a shortlist of 25 images, was voted for by more than 31,800 wildlife and nature enthusiasts, according to a press release Tuesday from organizers at London’s Natural History Museum.

His image and that of the top four “highly commended” finalists will be displayed in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition currently running in London at the Natural History Museum.

The images that made it to the final stages were varied in topic.

There was a photo of two lions taking shelter from the rain and another of an unusual encounter between an eagle and bear. A picture of a kangaroo and her joey that managed to survive the devastating bushfires in Australia was highly commended, as was an image of a dance between two male golden pheasants.

But the overall winner was Vendramin, who took his photo in 2019 when visiting the Santa Croce Lake in northern Italy. He noticed the unusually high level of the water and the fact that the willow plants were partially submerged, which created a play of light and reflections on the surface of the lake. According to the press release, Vendramin was reminded of a friend he had lost who had loved the lake.

“I hope that my photography will encourage people to understand that the beauty of nature can be found everywhere around us, and we can be pleasantly surprised by the many landscapes so close to home,” Vendramin said in the press release.

“I believe having a daily relationship with nature is increasingly more necessary to have a serene and healthy life. Nature photography is therefore important to remind us of this bond.”

Douglas Gurr, director of the museum, said Vendramin’s “poignant image symbolises the positive impact nature can have on our wellbeing and lives.”

Gurr added in the press release: “I hope those who look at this landscape frozen in time are reminded of the importance of connecting to the natural world and the steps we must all take to protect it.”