British amateur photographer Nima Sarikhani’s dreamy and serene portrait of a sleepy polar bear on an iceberg has been voted the People’s Choice winner in this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, the 59th edition of the famous photo contest.
The People’s Choice Award saw a record-breaking 75,000 votes cast, propelling Sarikhani to victory over 24 other finalists. These 25 finalists were chosen by the Natural History Museum in London and an international judging panel from nearly 50,000 submitted photos.
“Nima’s breathtaking and poignant image allows us to see the beauty and fragility of our planet. His thought-provoking image is a stark reminder of the integral bond between an animal and its habitat and serves as a visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss,” says Dr. Douglass Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum.
Sarikhani captured the image after three days of searching for polar bears off the coast of Norway. The expedition vessel the photographer was on decided to change its course and head toward areas where there was still sea ice.
The vessel located a pair of polar bears and one of them, the particularly photogenic of the two, clambered onto a small iceberg around midnight. He proceeded to carve out a bed for himself and settle in for a restful sleep.
“I am so honored to have won this year’s People’s Choice Award for WPY, the. Most prestigious wildlife photography competition,” Sarikhani says. “This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it. Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope; there is still to fix the mess we have caused.”
With the votes tallied, four “Highly Commended” finalists have also been decided, which can be seen below.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. The annual contest was originally founded in 1965 by BBC Wildlife Magazine. The Natural History Museum joined forces in 1984 and now owns and operates the contest.
Sarikhani’s People’s Choice Award joins the overall competition winners announced last fall.
The entrants of the 60th Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest are currently being judged, and the winners will be announced in October at a special awards ceremony in South Kensington, England.
Image credits: Images courtesy of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, which is organized by the Natural History Museum in England. The individual photographers are credited in accompanying image captions.