Stunning polar bear, bird portraits earn Canadians Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards

Intimate pictures that present a uncommon window into the lives of polar bears, birds and bugs have earned a number of Canadians recognition on this yr’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards.

The winners of the 2021 version of the annual competitors, developed by the Natural History Museum in London have been introduced Tuesday night. This yr’s competitors drew 50,000 entries from 95 international locations.

The grand prize winner was “Creation” by French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta. It options camouflage groupers leaving their annual mating frenzy beneath a full moon in a lagoon in Fakarava, French Polynesia.

French underwater photographer Laurent Ballesta gained the grand prize on this yr’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competitors for his photograph of camouflage groupers leaving their annual mating frenzy beneath a full moon in a lagoon in Fakarava, French Polynesia. (Laurent Ballesta/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Intimate moments with animals

Several Canadians gained awards in numerous classes.

Martin Gregus of Vancouver, B.C., gained the Rising Star Portfolio Award, for pictures of polar bears having fun with the summer season in Hudson Bay, together with a mom napping with a cub who’s lacking a leg and two grownup females enjoying collectively in the shallow water.

“These bears really did share with us many intimate moments and they shared their story with us,” he stated. “In doing so, they allowed us to sort of share it with the world. 

Gregus and his team of two others were invited by a tourism company to scout out a new area near Churchill, Man., during the tourism lull caused by the pandemic in 2020. “It was an incredible alternative,” he recalled.

He said that while people are used to seeing polar bears in the snow or starving bears in the summer, he wanted to show the resilience of a population that has adapted to this region and climate by hunting prey such as terns and marmots and eating flowers instead of just hunting seals.

“I would like them to see the resilience of the polar bear … given the alternative and given our safety of their panorama.”

A polar bear swims away from the last of the sea ice in spring on Hudson Bay in a photograph by Martin Gregus. (Martin Gregus/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

‘Step outside and look’

Gil Wizen of Mississauga, Ont., received recognition for four photos.

“Spinning the cradle,” captured along the Credit River near his home, won the Behaviour: Invertebrates category. It features a mother fishing spider weaving its egg sac.

Photographer Gil Wizen captured this fishing spider (Dolomedes scriptus) spinning an egg sac in Mississauga, Ont. (Gil Wizen/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

“The spider room” won the Urban Wildlife category. It features a larger-than-life portrait of a female Brazilian wandering spider, one of the world’s most venomous, that he found under his bed while working as an entomologist in Ecuador.

A venomous Brazilian wandering spider guards her young under a bed in Ecuador in this photo by Gil Wizen. (Gil Wizen 2014/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Two more of his photos were highly commended in the Behaviour: Invertebrates category.

“Beautiful bloodsucker” featured an ornamented mosquito as it fed on his knuckle.

An ornamented mosquito sucks blood from photographer Gil Wizen’s knuckle. (Gil Wizen/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

7:24How a Canadian photographer captured this stunning image of a dangerous mosquito

When entomologist Gil Wizen took photos of a mosquito biting his knuckle, he wanted to show how beautiful it can be. Now his photo of the tiny metallic-coloured insect has been honoured in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. 7:24

“Big filling station” captured a stink bug nymph sucking the blood out of a caterpillar.

A nymph of the predatory stink bug (Euthyrhynchus floridanus) sucks a caterpillar’s hemolymph (insect blood) using its piercing mouthparts in this photo by Gil Wizen. (Gil Wizen/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)


Wizen said all the photos represented several hours of work, and some of them a certain amount of hazard. He found the mother Brazilian wandering spider on a trip in 2014 after he noticed baby spiders all over the room and searched for their nest. He decided to use a wide-angle lens to capture a corner under the bed to make it feel human-sized. The resulting photo went viral online.

He said his goal is to make people stop and think and to recognize the diversity of life around them, including small and overlooked animals in places like the Toronto area where he photographed the fishing spider.

“You do not should journey far,” he said. “You simply should step outdoors and look.”

Giving a voice to nature

Shane Kalyn of Vancouver, B.C., won the Behaviour: Birds category with an intimate portrait of two courting ravens.

He took the photo in early February in 2019 at Mount Seymour, a local ski resort he visits every year at that time to watch the ravens’ unique courtship behaviours. He said humans can get quite close to the birds because they’re so focused on each other.

In this photo, the amorous couple was taking turns inspecting around and inside each others’ beaks, something Kalyn had never seen before. He acknowledged the photo doesn’t capture the full experience.

Shane Kalyn of Vancouver, B.C., won the Behaviour: Birds category with an intimate portrait of two courting ravens. (Shane Kalyn/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

“The better part … is the complete time they have been clearly speaking to one another in that raven language,” he said. “It was actually cool to see.”

He said his goal with photography is to show the beauty of nature. “It’s at a time the place we have to begin giving a voice.”

Celina Chien’s photo “Imprisoned” was highly commended in the Photojournalism category. It features an orangutan gripping the bars of its cage while standing upright with its head bowed at a zoo in Yunnan, China.

Chien, who was visiting the zoo on her day off while working on a conservation photography project in the region, saw the animal, a tree-dweller that almost never stands on the ground, as begging for freedom.

Celina Chien photographed an orangutan gripping the bars of its cage in a zoo in Yunnan Province, China. (Celina Chien/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

“I took the photograph mainly, as a result of what else might I presumably do? It’s the solely factor I might suppose of doing the place I knew that I might do one thing to assist — not solely him, but additionally all non-human animals in captivity,” said Chien, who currently lives in the U.K. She has Canadian citizenship from her Chinese-Canadian father, but has never lived in Canada.

Nichole Vijayan of Oakville, Ont., captured a highly commended photo in the 11-14 years youth category. “Bluebird morning” shows an eastern bluebird feeding its chick at sunrise near her home. Vijayan is the sister of one of last year’s winners, Hannah Vijayan, and daughter of wildlife photographer Thomas Vijayan

‘Bluebird morning’ by Nichole Vijayan of Oakville, Ont., was named a extremely recommended photograph in the 11-14 years youth class. (Nichole Vijayan/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

The complete exhibition can been seen at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto from Nov. 13, 2021 to April 18, 2022.

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