Coming Face to Face with the Animal Kingdom

In the search to find this year’s European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the German Society of Wildlife Photographers has compiled a collection of the most spellbinding moments caught on camera in the natural world.

A hummingbird stares into the eyes of a snake. A hunting kingfisher dives into a school of fish. A lonely hyena is silhoetted against a watering hole reflecting the dawn sky. These are just some of this year’s captivating moments caught on camera by the finalists in the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

This year’s top prize went to German-born photographer Britta Jaschinski for her image of a startled cheetah against the bleak, ash-grey backdrop of the aftermath of a bush fire in Ndutu, Tanzania. Normally, a bush fire like that would be a blessing for a cheetah because it would make it easier for him to hunt for confused and frightened potential prey.

“But this cheetah looks unsettled, strange and lost — almost ghostly,” says Jaschinksi. “I took the photo and then watched as he disappeared into the scorched surroundings.”

Judges awared prizes in nine further categories including birds, mammals, plants and funghi, landscapes, underwater and man and nature. British photographer Paul Hobson received first prize in the man and nature category for his photo of a bird nesting in a set of traffic lights.

The German Society of Wildlife Photographers awarded the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year title for the tenth time this week.

Ghostly Cheetah: This is the photo that won Britta Jaschinski the title “European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010”. The picture was taken in Tanzania.

A Mute swan (Cygnus color) floats over a school of chub (Squalius cephalus). This image won Swiss photographer Michel Roggo second prize in the birds category. The picture was taken in January 2010 in the Rhine in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Puffins in the snow: This photo by Werner Bollmann made it into the final round in the the bird category.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus). This photo won French photographers David Allemand and Christophe Sidamon-Pesson the Public Choice Award.

Hyena at sunrise. Grégoire Bouguereau watched a herd of hyenas for days at this water hole in the Serengeti National Park before getting this picture early one morning. It won him second place in the mammals category.

Red deer between cranes: This photo taken by Polish photographer Marek Kosinski at Milicz Fishponds in western Poland reached the finalist stage of the mammal category.

A rodent devours a frog: Sven Zacek received a special mention in the mammals category for his photo “Dinner on the Steamy River.”

A snail in a sunbeam. This photo won Csaba Gönye of Hungary first place in the other animals category.

A starfish in the surf. Spanish photographer Asier Castro de la Fuente aptly called his photo “The Comet”.

Hummingbird and snake: “Eye to Eye.” Bence Máté’s photo was shortlisted in the other animals category.

Seaweed in the sand: this photo won Gabi Reichert first prize in the plants and fungi category.

Veliki Prstvaci waterfalls. Maurizio Biancarelli took this early morning atmospheric photo of the Upper Lakes in Plitvice, Croatia.

Ice floes in the Arctic Ocean. Swiss photographer Olivier Seydoux named his photo “The End,” refering to the increasing threat to the polar regions from climate change.

A kingfisher hunting underwater. Manfred Delpho captured an amazing split second with his camera. This photo made it onto the short list in the marine life category.

Life in the City Center: British photographer Paul Hobson won first prize in the man and nature category with his picture of a mistle thrush nesting in a traffic light.

An imprint of a young spotted woodpecker which flew into a window. The feathers can be clearly seen on the impression left behind on the freshly cleaned glass. Josef Vorholt’s picture came second in the man and nature category.

A  polar bear at the zoo: Andrea Ballhause called her picture “Ich bin dann mal weg” – “I’m off then.”

“Wood Visions.” A photo by the Finnish photographer Tommy Vikars.

Icebound: Imprisoned between ice and snow. This striking image won Polish photographer Michal Budzynski the Fritz Pölking Junior Award 2010.

A floating olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea): The animals are very curious and like to probe any objects that resemble food — even the photographer’s equipment. Unfortunately, they also swallow large amounts of plastic waste which can often be fatal for the animals. This image won Solvin Zankl the Fritz Pölking Award 2010.

A young olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) seen from below. The German photographer Solvin Zankl observed the animals for a long time on the coast of Costa Rica.

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,728303,00.html