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BG Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2002

by Brian Pitkin

Organised by BBC Wildlife magazine and The Natural History Museum and sponsored by the BG Group, this is an annual event, which is now the largest and most prestigious of its kind in the world.

Its aim is to gather together, the best wildlife images taken by photographers throughout the world, and to emphasise through such photographs the beauty, wonder and importance of the natural world. This year, photographers from over 60 countries entered more than 18,500 slides into the competition.

The competition comprises numerous categories including The Underwater World.

The Underwater World Winner


Doug Allan (UK)

These sociable and inquisitive mammals are among the most vocal of the toothed whales. You�ll hear their amazing repertoire of squeaks, twitters and clicks even above the surface. The best way to see them (in this case, in Lancaster Sound in the Canadian Arctic) is by snorkelling and singing softly, waiting until you become an object of curiosity. They become aware of you by using echolocation and will eventually come over for a look. They tend to hang beneath you (as in this case), peering up at your silhouette while you appreciate their pristine white against the blue-black depths.

Belugas.Doug Allan (UK)

Belugas. Doug Allan (UK)

Nikonos V with 20mm lens; 1/125 sec at f5.6; Fujichrome Sensia 200.

The Underwater World Runner-up

Bigeye jacks on the move

Malcolm Hey (UK)

At night, these predators hunt alone. But during the day, they gather in huge numbers at their favoured spots on the reef. While diving in the Solomon Islands, I found a sea-mount with a resident shoal. After watching for a while, I saw that they were circling the mount in a regular pattern, crossing the same part of the reef each time. I waited for the shoal to pass, then positioned myself in its path. As the fish re-appeared, I held my breath to prevent bubbles from spooking them. Then I rose up right in front of them and took several photographs as the shoal parted just inches in front of my camera.

Bigeye jacks on the move

Bigeye jacks on the move

Malcolm Hey (UK)

Nikon F90x with 16mm fish-eye lens; 1/80sec at f8; Fujichrome Velvia 50; underwater housing; one strobe

The Underwater World Specially Commended

Saltwater crocodile on a coral reef

Kelvin Aitken (Australia)

A subordinate saltwater (Indopacific) crocodile which fails to establish a territory may be forced out of the tidal river system by more dominant individuals. It will then scour the coast in search of another rivermouth to settle in. I found this rather undernourished, 1.5m-long crocodile travelling across an inshore coral reef near Popendetta in eastern Papua New Guinea. It swam by sweeping its tail from side to side, swinging gracefully from the hips. For extra power, it would lower its hind legs and �run� across the seabed. Saltwater crocodiles can, in fact, travel more than 1,000km by sea.

Saltwater crocodile on a coral reef

Saltwater crocodile on a coral reef

Kelvin Aitken (Australia)

Canon EOS 3 with 20mm lens; 1/60sec at f5.6; Fujichrome Velvia 50; underwater housing.

Highly commended were Constantinos Petrinos (Greece), Doc White (USA), Malcolm Hey (UK) and Sally Sharrock (UK).

The Underwater World Highly Commended

Pygmy goby resting on star coral

Malcolm Hey (UK)

The pygmy goby is less than two centimetres long, and lives in close association with reef creatures such as corals and sponges. As I drifted alongside a wall on a coral reef at Bunaken Island in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, I spotted several gobies on a star coral. They were easily spooked by the close proximity of my camera lens and the light from my lamp, and so I had to pre-focus on the spot where I anticipated one would alight and then wait patiently for it to settle.

Pygmy goby resting on star coral

Pygmy goby resting on star coral

Malcolm Hey (UK)

Nikon 801s with 105 mm macro lens; 1/100 sec at f22; Fujichrome Velvia 50; underwater housing; two strobes.

The Underwater World Highly Commended

Striped mackerel feeding

Sally Sharrock

There must have been more than 40 mackerel in this shoal. I found them filter-feeding on plankton in the shallows at Marsa Egla in the Red Sea when I was swimming to shore after a dive. They moved in tight, perfectly synchronised formations. I knew how easy it would be to disperse them, and so I waited until there was a gap in the circle, then quickly slipped into the centre of the whirling carousel. The mackerel cruised around me, seemingly oblivious to my presence.

Striped mackerel feeding

Nikon F90x with 60mm lens; 1/125 sec at f8; Fujichrome Sensia; underwater housing.

The exhibition of prize-winning images is on show at The Natural History Museum from 19 October 2002 until 5 May 2003, and throughout the year at various UK and international venues.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

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