Top Wildlife Photographs of 2020

Author – Rachel Sinclair

This year I was given the privilege of choosing 10 wildlife photographs from the iPhotography member’s gallery to put forward for our Wildlife Photographer of the year 2020 award.

These 10 images would then create a shortlist so our members could vote for their favourite images. We did not reveal the names of the photographers in the hope that voting would be based on the impact of the image rather than any bias.

What Do I Look For When Judging?

I thought the only way to make this fair would be to review every single wildlife photograph that had been submitted since January 2020.

That meant scanning through over 19,000 photographs and noting down the ones that stood out.

Initially, I narrowed it down to around 70 images and then got it down to 26, that’s when it got really tough!

I wanted to choose a variety of species, so if there were two images of the same species that helped, as I could just choose the better image. But there were so many species to choose from that didn’t actually happen very often.

So then I had to look deeper, which image had the better composition, which had the better light, which was more creative and which image showed that person had put in lots of effort to get that shot.

These are the images I narrowed it down to…

Wildlife Photograph of the Year 2020: Finalists

Barbara Coulson

Barbara Coulson Wildlife photographs

This photo is very well executed! The composition is spot on, you can see all of the mouse even the tip of its tail. The spacing around the image is well balanced and has not been cropped in too tightly. The sharpness on the mouse’s whiskers and face draw you in, and the depth of field complements the look of the image leading you to the eyes and then the rest of the scene. The colours are warm and natural and it has not been over-edited.

Derek Smith

 Wildlife photographs Derek Smith

It’s not often you can capture an expression like this on an animal’s face! The owl looks like it is smiling at you and you can’t help but smile back! The shutter speed is perfect and has completely frozen the owl in the sky, with no motion blur or camera shake.

The composition works really well with the owl on the right flying into space on the left. Its wings also point your eye in that direction which I think is an added bonus. The light is very soft and natural with a bit of backlight coming through the feathers. The exposure is lovely, nothing is blown out and the face is very well lit and there is even some of that all-important catch light in the eyes!

Elizabeth Ann Kwint

Elizabethh Ann Kwint

There were quite a few fox submissions but this one stood out above the rest. The composition is great and helps to tell the story, you can’t help wondering what the fox is looking at.

Foxes are not the easiest wild animal to photograph and I know there were a few attempts to get this image and lots of patience and persistence required. The fox itself is beautiful and the catch light on the eyes is perfect. The lighting is good, very natural and nothing is blown out or too dark. The edit to this image has been done sympathetically, not distracting or over the top in any way.

Jeremy Wood

Jeremy Wood

Some wildlife photographs just have a little extra ‘wow’ factor. On its own, the Honey Valley in the Cappadocia region of Turkey makes for a beautiful photograph. But by including the balloons Elizabeth has taken it to the next level of epicness!

Jeremy Wood

JeremyWood_SunsetOverMarshes wildlife photographs

Being in the right place at the right time really does help, but it doesn’t just happen! This image shows the photographer had put in the effort to capture this image. This would have just been another shot of a flock of birds in flight but that stunning sunset makes you literally go “wow”.

There is so much to look at, the bird’s different wing formations, the birds against the orange, and what really sets it off for me is the bird encircled by the sun. The timing is just fabulous!

Jo Kayaks

Jo Kayaks

It’s not often I see straight-on images of ducks that pack a punch like this one! I must admit this Tufted Duck does look a bit angry but I think that also adds to the image and makes the viewer wonder what’s happened!

This photo is beautifully sharp in all the right places. The background is lovely and milky so your eyes are not distracted by anything. But the striking yellow eyes are pin sharp leading your eye down to the tip of the beak which is also quite sharp and definitely not too blurry, showing the photographer has used an appropriate aperture. And then, of course, the droplets, showing off this duck’s water repellent plumage. What a striking head-shot!

Julia Briggs

Julia Briggs

Who would have thought snails would be so popular amongst members, there were quite a few to choose from. However, this one was the most unusual in as much as it had been shot in an urban setting. The composition and angle are both great, showing the direction the snail is heading but also the type of environment it lives in.

The photographer must have had to get low to get this shot, showing they had thought about how best to take it. The lighting is beautiful and gives a real feeling of being somewhere hot and sunny, the feeling you get when you are on holiday. This gives me “the world goes on” feeling. Even when we are on holiday, people and wildlife just carry on with their daily routines.

Montse Bartlett

Montse Bartlett

This kind of shot doesn’t just happen by luck! Kingfishers are very fast and very hard to photograph so I was delighted to see this photographer nail this shot of a Kingfisher fishing! I know this must have taken a lot of practice, patience and persistence.

The shutter speed is superb, showing the splashes of water and freezing the kingfisher in time. Its eye and beak are sharp but I really like the movement in the wings which helps to convey the speed it was travelling at. The background is nice and blurry and there is nothing distracting in the frame.

Paul Bates

wildlife photographs Paul Bates

This wildlife photograph clearly shows an understanding of the depth of field and how composition can enhance your image. It is very well balanced and I like that the photographer has not cropped in too much as this may have decreased the quality of the image. As it is, the frog’s eye is pin-sharp and then focus falls off slightly throughout the body, leaf and water droplets leading your eye through the image.

The background is beautifully blurred and there is nothing distracting in the image. The frog is facing into the images and there is a good amount of “negative space” giving the viewer the feeling that the frog is about to pounce due to its body language/pose. This image has not been over-edited, the colours look vibrant and punchy but it still looks lovely and natural.

Sue Hamblin

wildlife photographs sue hamblin

Red Squirrels are a rare treat for British wildlife photographers and this shot represents these cute little creatures beautifully. The composition is lovely with the squirrel looking into the frame and a nice bit of space in the direction it’s heading. The pose that’s been captured is great and works very well with the reflection in the water that is also lovely, adding more interest to the shot.

The background is lovely and blurry but I like the detail left in the fern to give the viewer a sense of environment. Forests, where red squirrels reside, can often be very dark but this image is beautifully lit, there’s some catch light in the eye and we can see the whole squirrel clearly even it’s wet little paws and the droplet of water on its mouth.

Highly Commended Wildlife Photographs

Some other images that also really stood out to me and if I could have chosen 16, these would have been included:

Jeremy Wood

JeremyWood_Pigeon

Fabulous use of side lighting to make a “common” bird look very interesting!

Justyna Adamek

JustynaAdamek_Beatle

Really love the depth of field used here, the bokeh is beautiful. The angle and the editing all work really well!

Roy Dale

Roy_Dale_ThePollinator

This was the sharpest and best exposed image we had of a bee, I love that you can see it’s tounge sucking out the nectar.

Craig Bryant

CraigBryant_Resting

Lovely light and colours, great pose and reflection.

Summary

A very well done to everyone above, and also well done to many other members that didn’t quite make the list! There is a lot of talent out there and wasn’t easy to narrow it down. I really enjoyed looking through your images and I noticed that many of you share my passion for wildlife. Hopefully reading through this has given you some ideas and inspiration to get out there and photograph more wildlife.

Don’t forget you don’t have to zoom in or crop in loads to create a great wildlife image. Lighting is important, try and get some catch light in those eyes. Think about your composition and look out for distractions. Remember to keep checking your apertures and shutters speeds.

Great wildlife photographs don’t just happen, so like these fabulous examples above, persist until you nail it. I look forward to seeing many more of your wonderful wildlife photographs in the gallery!

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