While I do like the overall winning image by Paul Nicklen, I personally much prefer his image in the 'Behaviour: Birds' category, as shown below:
'Frozen Moment' by Paul Nicklen
For me this image has everything. I love the frozen water drops, the light, the composition. A real 'wow' image in my opinion and certainly my favourite of all of the winning and commended images in this year's competition.
However, while many of the images in this year's competition are impressive, I do have a couple of reservations.
First, there are relatively few images with the 'wow' factor such as the one above. We are increasingly exposed to high quality wildlife images and TV footage on a daily basis and so perhaps it is just becoming more and more difficult to produce such images. But, to me, many of the images have a familiar feel to them. Even the overall winning image here bears more than a passing resemblance to Matt Doggett's winning image in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards. They are both excellent images but I suppose it's increasingly difficult to produce images that are truly unique. However, one reason that the images all feel fairly familiar is that they feature a relatively small number of species. Which brings me to my second point...
Of the 70+ winning and commended images in the adult categories of this year's competition, only one features an insect or other invertebrate. Is it any wonder that the images all feel slightly familiar when they are dominated by the usual mix of polar bears, penguins and big cats?
I find the neglect of insects and inverts difficult to understand.The judges are looking for original and unique images and so I would have thought that insects and their behaviour lend themselves to this far more than polar bears and penguins. Indeed, even the preamble to the 'Behaviour: Cold-Blooded Animals' category (which would obviously include insects and invertebrates) states that "This category offers plenty of scope for interesting photos because cold-blooded animals comprise the majority of animals on Earth and their behaviour is often little known".
Perhaps the judges would argue that they were presented with few highly quality macro images, but again this is difficult to understand given the vast number of such images that can be found on forums and elsewhere, combined with the good numbers of images that have featured in the competition in previous years. Indeed, I do normally rely on this competition to feature a few truly inspirational macro images each year (Bence Mate's winner from 2010 being a great example) and so it's very disappointing to see so few this year.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, yes I did enter the competition this year but obviously with no success. :-D