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Magical frozen landscape is the People’s Choice for 2021 Wildlife photographer of the Year

© Cristiano Vendramin/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Wildlife photographer of the Year (WPY) treated us with its stunning 2021 winning photos in October last year. But the contest also recognizes the People’s Choice Award, and the winners have been announced this month.

The photo that won over people’s hearts was taken by Italian photographer Cristiano Vendramin. It shows fairytale-like willow branches mirrored by the surface of a frozen Italian lake – but it also hides a deeper, emotional story.

Whilst visiting Santa Croce Lake in northern Italy in 2019, the photographer noticed the water was unusually high and the willow plants were partially submerged. This created an enchanting play of light and reflections on the water surface. As Vendramin explained, the serene scene reminded him of a dear friend, who had loved this special place and is no longer here.

“I hope that my photography will encourage people to understand that the beauty of nature can be found everywhere around us, and we can be pleasantly surprised by the many landscapes so close to home. I believe having a daily relationship with nature is increasingly more necessary to have a serene and healthy life. Nature photography is therefore important to remind us of this bond, which we must preserve, and in whose memory, we can take refuge.”

Vendramin submitted this magical image in dedication to the friend he had lost. His photo touched the hearts of over 31,800 wildlife and nature enthusiasts who voted online for it to win among the shortlist of 25 images. The shortlist was chosen by the Natural History Museum in London, and it was a tough task: they had to narrow it down to just 25 from record-breaking 50,000 images submitted from 95 countries.

Other than Vendramin’s photo, the People’s Choice Award recognizes four more highly commended images. All of them will be exhibited at the Natural History Museum in London until Sunday, 5 June 2022. But if the road doesn’t take you to London, enjoy the rest of the People’s Choice photos below. You’ll find more photos and information on WPY’s website.

© Jeroen Hoekendijk/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

© Jo-Anne McArthur/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

© Qian Guo/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

© Ashleigh McCord/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

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