“To photograph [the sea angels] mating, Andrey had to battle against strong currents and avoid a wall of gill netting, and when he was swept into the net and his equipment became snared, he was forced to make an emergency ascent – but not before he had got his shot.”
This extract from the label for Andrey Narchuk’s photo ‘Romance among the angels’ shows the lengths to which photographers will go to capture that magical winning picture for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
I’m in awe of anyone who can take a photo of an animal that isn’t blurry – and as someone who gets grumpy waiting at a cold bus stop for longer than two minutes, I have nothing but respect for anyone prepared to spend hours, days or even months hunched in the Arctic snow, or baking in the desert, or slapping away creepy-crawlies in a hide in the rainforest, just to take that perfect pic.
But you don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to capture nature on camera. Here in Scotland, we’re surrounded by a huge diversity of flora and fauna, whether out in the wilds of the Highlands, in parks and gardens or even on our city streets. So while the Natural History Museum’s acclaimed Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition was gracing the walls of the National Museum of Scotland, we decided to throw down a challenge to our online audiences, to share their wildlife photos, taken here in Scotland.
The challenge ran on Twitter and Instagram for 15 weeks, and every fortnight we set a different theme, with exhibition tickets and other prizes up for grabs.
This spring has been… eventful… weather-wise and the photos shared in the challenge reflected that! First up was #FavouritePlace, where we asked people to share a photo of a green space or natural environment in Scotland that they love, and two of our three winners for this fortnight captured the country under snow and ice.
For @NtlMuseumsScot's #WildScotlandChallenge my #FavouritePlace I visited was St Kilda. I was very lucky to work with the @SoaySheep, and to also take my Dad out there to see the gannets and explore Hirta. pic.twitter.com/yicd27LfBz
— Alex Chambers (@alexchambers91) January 25, 2018
What do you see when you look out of your window? What wildlife have you spotted on your way to work, or during your lunch hour? Yes, our next challenge was #EverydayWildlife, and the winning image was one of my personal favourites – this cheeky squirrel looks ready to make itself at home!
The #WildSkies challenge encouraged people to look up and share photos of birds, bats, clouds, skies, tree tops and sunsets, with the two winning images reflecting very different aspects of Scottish life.
A room with a view, although there is no longer a roof on the room! Looking over to Ness of Burgi from the Old House of Sumburgh at Jarlshof, Shetland * * * #jarlshof #sumburgh #shetland #shetlandislands #historygram #archaeology #lovescotland #historicscotland #scottishskies #hiddenscotland #wildscotlandchallenge #wildskies #myjourneywithacamera #scotlandsites #scotlandsbeauty #travelislife
#WildSkies #WildScotlandChallenge @NtlMuseumsScot starling looking wistfully up at the open sky. took this down by the river Tay pic.twitter.com/0oq2Khpt1x
— Holly3042 (@nerdyscotgirl) February 21, 2018
Our #BonnyBanks challenge coincided with the first big freeze of 2018, and the photos shared reflected this! This winning photo of the partially frozen River Esk shows the resilience of the natural world in the face of the fearsome Beast from the East.
Would there be any #SignsofSpring in the wake of the Beast? Thankfully yes, as this delicate, hope-filled winning picture clearly shows.
With Easter approaching, we next asked people to share pictures of rabbits, hares, lambs, birds, flowers, eggs and anything else that says Easter to them. And these lambs and brown hare fit the bill beautifully.
For the #TinyNature challenge, we asked people to get out their magnifying glasses and macro lenses and share their photos of nature in miniature. Larry the Snail here triumphed over a beautiful array of bees, butterflies, spiders and insects.
Our final theme was #ZooLife, where we teamed up with Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park to ask people to share their wild animal pictures from these sites for a chance to win an RZSS Membership.
We chose this beautiful portrait of a thoughtful chimpanzee as the winner, although competition was fierce in this final category.
Huge thanks to everyone who entered the challenge and shared their wonderful pictures. I’ve loved checking the hashtag regularly to see the latest entries – the only difficult bit has been picking the winners!
The challenge reflected not only Scotland’s rich and wonderful diverse nature (even when under three feet of snow) but also the determination of our homegrown wildlife photographers to capture, share and celebrate it. Could a future Wildlife Photographer of the Year winner be amongst us? Could be! Meanwhile, I’ll practice patience photographing pigeons at the bus stop…
You can see all the #WildScotlandChallenge entries at www.nms.ac.uk/wildscotland.