The world's finest wildlife photographs are currently on display at the Natural History Museum in London. Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition showcases the winners and runners-up of the most prestigious photography competition of its field.
Finnish photographers are well represented in the exhibition, with Esa Mälkönen's image of Antarctica penguins voted as one of the most popular in the show.
Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the annual competition owned by BBC Wildlife Magazine and the Natural History Museum, was organised last year for the 46th time. The winning and runner-up images were chosen among tens of thousands of entries.
Finnish wildlife photographers succeeded again very well in the competition. Altogether, the exhibition contains works by five Finns.
A picture that captures a goshawk swooping down to snatch a gull searching for scraps that covered a rubbish tip near Porvoo, Finland, was named winner of the Behaviour: Birds category. Snatch and grab was the result of five winters' work by Finnish photographer Arto Juvonen, from Koskenkyla.
"I spent many winter days in a dumping place near Porvoo and waited for a goshawk to appear", the winner describes. "This is the shot I've always dreamed of."
In addition to Arto Juvonen, the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition also showcases photos by Esa Mälkönen, Ilari Tuupanen, Jari Peltomäki and Kai Fagerström. Mälkönen, the winner of one of the categories in 2009, jokingly describes his ranking this year as runner-up as 'disappointment'. "Out of international competitions, this one is the most distinguished among Finnish photographers", he regards. "That's because the very best photographers take part every year".
For Mälkönen wildlife photography is in principle just a hobby, but when you count the vast hours "it's more like a part-time job". He is also busy being the chairman of the association for Finnish Wildlife Photographers. "Our association has 3,000 members, which is a lot", he says. "It is the largest amount of wildlife photographers in a country per capita, but might also be the largest amount in absolute terms."
Esa Mälkönen's winning picture Back in front out depicts penguins in Antarctica. Having paired up, a male and female penguins will devise a rota: one sits on the eggs (for up to five days) while the other walks back to the sea to feed.
"Even from a distance it was clear which of the penguins did what. The black backs told one story, the white front another. The challenge was to capture a moment when backs and fronts of the penguins formed an aesthetically functional entity."
Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is showing at the Natural History Museum until March 11.
Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Natural History Museum
Text: Tiina Heinilä and Olli Turtiainen, Embassy of Finland in London
Pictures are published by courtesy of the Natural History Museum