Cristiano Vendramin has won Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award 2021 with his image of an ethereal frozen Italian lake, submitted in dedication to a lost friend.
The Italian photographer’s winning picture touched the hearts of more than 31,800 wildlife and nature enthusiasts who voted online for his landscape to win, from a shortlist of 25 pictures.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.
The competition shortlist was chosen by the museum out of 50,000 images from 95 countries.
While visiting Santa Croce Lake in northern Italy in 2019, Mr Vendramin was struck by the beauty of the scene and was reminded of a friend, who had loved the special place and is no longer here.
“I believe having a daily relationship with nature is increasingly necessary to have a serene and healthy life,” said Mr Vendramin.
“Nature photography is therefore important to remind us of this bond, which we must preserve, and in whose memory we can take refuge.”
Dr Douglas Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum, said: “Cristiano’s poignant image symbolises the positive impact nature can have on our wellbeing and lives.
“These past two years have redefined what truly matters in life, the people and the environments that play a crucial role in our own personal ecosystems.
“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.”
Four finalists were also Highly Commended, seen below with descriptions from the competition.
All five images will be displayed in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London, until 5 June.
Shelter from the rain by Ashleigh McCord, from USA
During a visit to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Ashleigh captured this tender moment between a pair of male lions.
She stayed and watched until the rain was falling so hard that they were barely visible.
The eagle and the bear by Jeroen Hoekendijk, from The Netherlands
Black bear cubs will often climb trees, where they wait safely for their mother to return with food.
Here, in the depths of the temperate rainforest of Anan in Alaska, this little cub decided to take an afternoon nap on a moss-covered branch under the watchful eye of a juvenile bald eagle.
The eagle had been sitting in this pine tree for hours, and Jeroen found the situation extraordinary.
Hope in a burned plantation by Jo-Anne McArthur, from Canada
Jo-Anne flew to Australia in early 2020 to document the stories of animals affected by the devastating bushfires that were sweeping through the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
This eastern grey kangaroo and her joey pictured near Mallacoota, Victoria, were among the lucky ones.
The kangaroo barely took her eyes off Jo-Anne as she walked calmly to the spot where she could get a great photo.
Dancing in the snow by Qiang Guo, from China
In the Lishan Nature Reserve in Shanxi Province, China, Qiang watched as two male golden pheasants continuously swapped places on this trunk – their movements akin to a silent dance in the snow.
The birds are native to China, where they inhabit dense forests in mountainous regions.
Although brightly coloured, they are shy and difficult to spot, spending most of their time foraging for food on the dark forest floor, only flying to evade predators or to roost in very high trees during the night.
All pictures are subject to copyright.