Pictures of wildlife are captivating. Whether the animals show bizarre behavior or more relatable reactions, we are drawn to these candid portraits of other species. Knowing that the subjects are totally out of the photographer’s control makes them all the more impressive.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is a competition put on by the U.K.’s Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide. Photos are judged in a variety of categories based on content and the photographer’s age. Below are some of the most stunning images from this year’s winners.
Mother’s little headful. Udayan Pawar was the winner of the contest’s 11–14 age bracket with this photo of a gharial (a kind of crocodile) wearing a crown of her offspring in central India’s Chambal River.
Lionfish bait. Lionfish are taking over the Eastern Seaboard, but this one was photographed in the Red Sea, part of its native range. The swirling buffet of its prey includes cardinalfish and silversides.
Giant with sunbeams. Photographer Alexander Mustard had to dive down to capture this silhouette of a whale shark, the largest fish in the world, off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
Sharing a shower. Even big cats hate getting wet, though these lions of the Serengeti took advantage of the storm afterward by licking their fur for a drink of water.
The flight path. A barred owl swoops down to snatch a dead mouse (left as bait by photographer Connor Stefanison) amid the red cedars in British Columbia.