A stunning image of a Siberian tigress embracing an ancient tree, deep in a remote Russian forest, has just won one of the world’s most prestigious photography awards.
Earlier this month, Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov beat 49,000 other entries from across the globe to take the top prize in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 competition. The Duchess of Cambridge announced his victory during a special ceremony at London’s Natural History Museum.
The image, titled “The Embrace,” didn’t come easily though. It took Gorshkov nearly a year to capture it, having left hidden cameras in the forest. His patience though was handsomely rewarded, both with the image and later the prize.
Roz Kidman Cox, chair of the judging panel, described the photograph as “a unique glimpse of an intimate moment deep in a magical forest,” according to the Guardian.
The wonderful creature is in fact an Amur or Siberian tiger. They live mostly in the vast woodlands of eastern Russia, with maybe a small number across the border in China and possibly North Korea. With the tigers having nearly been hunted to extinction, poaching and logging still threaten the species, the latter by removing the habitat of their prey—wild boar and deer. However, recent surveys have suggested that the increased protection afforded to these majestic creatures may have helped raise their population to around 500–600.
Speaking about the image, Kidman Cox said that it told this story “in glorious color and texture of the comeback of the Amur tiger, a symbol of the Russian wilderness.”
She added, “It’s a scene like no other, shafts of low winter sun highlight the ancient fir tree and the coat of the huge tigress as she grips the trunk in obvious ecstasy and inhales the scent of the tiger on resin, leaving her own mark as her message.”
Gorshkov believed his chances of capturing an image of the totemic animal were slim, but he remained determined. He scoured the forest for signs of life—scent, hair, or scratch marks—and eventually set his camera opposite the magnificent Manchurian fir, the supporting centerpiece of the shot. The camera trap was set in January 2019 and captured the winning image later in November.
“The remarkable sight of the tigress immersed in her natural environment offers us hope,” said Tim Littlewood, jury member and executive director of science at the Natural History Museum. “Through the unique emotive power of photography, we are reminded of the beauty of the natural world and our shared responsibility to protect it.”
The prize, now in its 56th year, leads to a very popular photography exhibition, which will feature Gorshkov’s “The Embrace” alongside other category winners. The exhibition opened on Oct. 16 at the museum and will run to June 6, 2021, before heading on an international tour, taking in countries such as Canada, Australia, and Germany. In light of current pandemic restrictions, ticket numbers will be limited, and booking is essential.
Here are several other notable entries of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 competition:
Below are more photos by Sergey Gorshkov, winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 competition:
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