GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018


Winner Young Photographers up to 14 years: Lasse Kurkela (Finland) 
Fight of the magpies 


Sitting in a hide near Kajaani (Finland), I had been waiting all day in vain for wolves or wolverines. At least some action went on among the magpies, and I enjoyed photographing them in the driving snow. This fight only lasted for a fraction of a second, and I was happy to have succeeded in capturing this moment.



Winner Young Photographers 15 to 17 years: Simon Johnson (Norway) 
Dipper in flight


Not far from my parents’ house, there is a river where dippers (Cinclus cinclus) breed. When I had found their nesting site, I watched the birds for several days to find out where their preferred perches and flight routes might be, because knowing this would help me shoot in-flight photos. After several hours with no useful image, I was finally successful. This bird here is on its way back to the nest to feed its young. I had pre-set the focus on this spot, and when the bird finally appeared, I started releasing the shutter continuously, and at last one of the images came out sharp enough.


Overall Winner: Cristobal Serrano (Spain) 
Rainbow City


I flew my drone high above the huge flocks of lesser flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor) at the muddy banks of Lake Bogoria (Kenya), where they find their favourite food, cyanobacteria of the spirulina genus, in the alkaline water of the lake. Because of the dry season, minerals and salts from the volcanic subsoil are highly concentrated, creating an explosion of rich colours that is visible from the air. The pink colour of the flamingos perfectly complemented the colour range of the great artist Mother Earth.


Winner birds: Jaime Culebras (Spain) 
Mother to be


Watching this female Anthony‘s nightjar (Caprimulgus anthonyi) for a few days, I discovered its favourite resting places. This image shows the bird at its future breeding place. It has not yet laid eggs but will soon contribute to the conservation of its species. Using a flash on low setting and a softbox, I tried to depict the bird during the blue hour within its habitat, the Choco rainforest of Ecuador, one of the most devasted areas of the world.


Runner up Birds: Andrés Miguel Domínguez (Spain) 
In a snowstorm


A scene like a painting: a pair of white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) rests amidst a snowstorm in the Finnish taiga. They seem to be fairly happy despite the low temperatures. As the eagles were quite far away, I used a long lens and an extender, which also helped to compress the snow and intensify the atmosphere.


Winner Mammals: Jan van der Greef (Netherlands)
The lonely hunter


In a snow-covered Finnish forest, the calls of ravens signalled that soon something was going to happen. Out of the blue, a wolverine (Gulo gulo) appeared, hastily cutting along the edge of the woods. Adrenalin rushed through my body. Mechanically, I chose a long shutter speed of 1/10 sec. to reveal the animal‘s motion and panned the camera along. Later, I was happy to discover that not only the animal but also the wonderful winter landscape came out well. To enhance the monochrome look, I converted the image to black & white.


Runner up Mammals: Ole Jørgen Liodden (Norway)
Polar bear world


This photograph of a polar bear on drift ice was created at a latitude of 82° north. The animal had caught a seal and had just finished its meal. Using a two-and-a-half metre pole-cam system and a screen, I was able to carefully compose the image I had in mind for so long – a polar bear in its harsh environment of water and ice. Documenting this habitat and at the same time pointing out the effects of climate change is an important matter for me as a photographer.


Highly Commended Mammals: Audun Lie Dahl (Norway) 
Next generation


It is a known fact that male polar bears (Ursus maritimus) will kill the cubs fathered by another male to mate with the bear mother and ensure their offspring gets a chance. But this kind of behaviour is very difficult to observe and has been very rarely documented. I encountered this scene on the east coast of Spitsbergen. The mother was still around, constantly calling for the cub she had lost the previous night.


Winner Other animals: Christian Wappl (Austria)


It was long past midnight in the Peninsular Botanic Garden of Trang (Thailand) when I noticed a light that slowly but constantly moved through the darkness. The light organ of a large firefly larva (Lamprigera sp.) was emitting a constant glow. To depict its bioluminescence properly, I opted for a long exposure with rear-curtain flash. It was an image idea difficult to achieve, because in the near-darkness I could only estimate the insect‘s actual position within my camera frame.


Runner up Other Animals: Georg Kantioler (Italy)
Mating toads


After I had discovered a pond with plenty of spawning common toads (Bufo bufo), I spent days photographing these animals. Only very few individuals showed a reddish base colouration. They stood out especially well against the rich green of the aquatic plants. The numerous long egg strings along the water‘s edge were fascinating. Some of them formed geometric lines and shapes, but it was still difficult to get a nice image on the memory card.


Winner Plants and Fungi: Hannu Ahonen (Finland)
A lily pad in the first ice 


I had been fascinated with this subject for many years: lily pads and the first ice. Every autumn, I impatiently wait for the lakes to freeze. This floating leaf of a dwarf waterlily (Nymphaea tetragona) was captured by the ice in a particularly attractive way. The ice not always supported me, and then, I suddenly would find myself in the world of fish…


Runner up Plants and Fungi: Samuel Pradetto Cignotto (Italy)
Compositions of nature


As soon as spring arrives, you will find me scrutinizing my environment with a keen eye, looking for something to attract my attention. Whorled Solomon‘s seal (Polygonatum verticillatum) is a truly artistic and elegant plant. The young shoots are a perfect subject: they emerge from the ground like little umbrellas, leaning into every direction, ready to accept the wonders of life. Nature never fails to amaze me.


Winner Landscapes: David Frutos Egea (Spain) 
Sandy shapes


The foreground of this photograph features a very specific sand formation shaped by the forces of the waves. It is a result of torrential rain that had afflicted this region of Spain a few days earlier, taking large amounts of sand from the beaches out into the lagoon Mar Menor (Murcia, Spain). On this particular morning, the mountains in the distance were veiled in a mist, which gave the image a soft, mystical atmosphere.


Runner up Landscapes: Eberhard Ehmke (Deutschland) 
Ice trees


After many frosty nights, a thick layer of ice had developed on the lake. Then, the weather changed, it was getting warmer and sunnier, and cracks and fissures shaped like trees formed in the ice. It is in such moments that aerial photography reveals the artistic gifts of nature.


Winner Underwater world: Claudio Ceresi (Italy) 
Alien starship 


During a night dive at a reef at the Murex dive resort (Manado, Sulawesi), I encountered this bigfin reef squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana). It followed me for quite a while, and I was tempted to think that it liked me. Actually, it was using the light of my diving torch to hunt. In this image, it is feeding on a small fish.


Runner up Unterwater world: Jacob Degee (Poland) 
Holes in the water 


This shot shows a feeding whale shark (Rhincodon typus) near Isla de Mujeres (Mexico). A feast of vast amounts of fish spawn had attracted these sharks by the hundreds. The wide-open mouth of this specimen reflects on the slightly disturbed surface of the water, which created the impression of black holes – a nice ornamental effect. Meeting the largest fish species in the world is exciting enough; to be surrounded by hundreds of these fantastic animals is an unforgettable experience.


Winner Man and nature: Joan de la Malla (Spain) 
Acting under pressure 


‚Topeng Monyet‘ is a procedure during which macaques are forced to perform in street events in Indonesia. This is not a traditional custom, just a way for some people to earn a bit of cash. These monkeys usually live in the most abhorrent conditions – isolated from other macaques, deprived of any social contacts that are so important to all primates. But these tough facts also reflect the poverty that is present in so many people‘s life in Indonesia.


Runner up Man and nature: Felix Heintzenberg (Sweden) 
Worlds apart 


A kingfisher sits on its lookout perch at the outlet of a municipal wastewater treatment plant near the Swedish town of Lund, providing an unexpected contrast to the urban surroundings. Here, the treated water from the plant is discharged into the river Höje. Since the efforts to improve water quality are taking effect, even urban surroundings in Sweden have started attracting organisms again that need clean water to thrive.


Highly Commended Man and nature: Neil Aldridge (Great Britain) 
Waiting for freedom 


A young white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) waits in an enclosure, blindfolded and partially drugged after a long journey from South Africa, before being released into the wild in Botswana. Botswana is saving rhinos from poaching hotspots in neighbouring countries and translocating them to re-establish the populations it lost to poaching in 1992.


Winner Nature’s studio: Johan Siggesson (Sweden)
The Egg


The amazing secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is a fairly common sight in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (South Africa, Botswana). Using long exposure settings, I aimed at highlighting this bird‘s extraordinary appearance in abstract images. While working on this, I noticed a light coloured stone behind the bird, which stood out against the darker background. With a slight camera shake I wanted to make it look as if the bird had just laid an egg in the savannah.


Runner up Nature‘s studio: Jan Leßmann (Germany) 
Night shadow


At the harbour of Greifswald (Germany), a grey heron sits still and secretly. It is raining constantly, my clothes are soaked, and small pools of water have settled on the camera. Slowly, I creep up on the bird from behind, position the flash unit and return to my camera as quickly as possible. I can see on the display that the edges of the stairs in the background show as a white stripe.


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