Curious Animals and Chance Encounters Highlight Photo Entries

They're vying for Wildlife Photographer of the Year honors.

polar bear in abandoned home

Dmitry Kokh / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

There’s a half-hidden giraffe, a lounging polar bear, what look like interesting conversations between a beetle and a rabbit, and a sloth with a dog.

Those are some of the highly commended images for the 2022 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Now in its 58th year, the contest has drawn photographers from 93 countries of all ages and experience levels.

“Polar frame,” above, by Dmitry Kokh is a noteworthy entry in the animal portraits category. Kokh was in a boat that was approaching the island of Kolyuchin in the Russian high Arctic. He saw movement in one of the houses on a settlement that had been abandoned by humans since 1992 and found more than 20 polar bears had moved into the area. Kohn used a low-noise drone to photograph what he saw.

The entries are being judged by a panel of an international panel of experts including wildlife photographers, filmmakers, and researchers.

“What’s stayed with me is not just the extraordinary mix of subjects in this year’s collection—a vast panorama of the natural world –but the emotional strength of so many of the pictures,” Roz Kidman Cox, chair of the judging panel, said in a statement.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. Winning photos will be announced on Oct. 11 and then become part of an exhibition at the museum.

Here are some of this year’s highly commended images.

“Dipper dispute”

two dipper birds arguing

Heikki Nikki / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Photographer: Heikki Nikki, Finland
Category: Behavior: Birds

After years of visiting the same river in Kuusamo, Finland, Heikki Nikki knew all the rocks that white-throated dippers loved to use as a launch pad when they go fishing. Nikki sat quietly on the bank and was able to capture a moment when two dippers argued over the spot.

“Treefrog pool party”

tree frog pool party

Brandon Guell / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Photographer: Brandon Güell, Costa Rica/U.S. 
Category: Behavior—Amphibians and Reptiles 

Brandon Güell slogged chest-deep through mosquitoes and murky water in the Osa Peninsula, Puntarenas, Costa Rica to document a gathering of male gliding tree frogs that were looking for females to mate with.

“The disappearing giraffe”

disappearing giraffe

Jose Fragozo / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Photographer: Jose Fragozo, Portugal 
Category: Natural Artistry 

Jose Fragozo shows the contrast between the natural world and human construction as he photographs a giraffe in Nairobi National Park near the gray-blocked pillars of Kenya’s new Standard Gauge Railway.

“The Snow Stag”

stag in the snow

Joshua Cox / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Photographer: Joshua Cox/U.K.
Category: 10 Years and Under 

Young photographer Joshua Cox was with his father in Richmond Park, London, which is home to herds of red and fallow deer. They followed a deer as snow began to fall. "He almost looked as if he was having a snow shower," says Joshua. 

“The octopus case”

octopus in clam shell

Samuel Sloss / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Photographer: Samuel Sloss, Italy/U.S. 
Category: 15-17 Years 

Samuel Sloss was muck diving (diving close to the ocean floor) in Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi, Indonesia when he spotted a coconut octopus peeking out from a clam shell. He lowered his light in order not to stress the animal. First, it shut the lid of the shell as Samuel approached, but then slowly opened it.

“Burrow mates”

rabbit and beetle outside burrow

Morgan Heim/ Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Photographer: Morgan Heim, U.S. 
Category: Animals in their Environment 

Morgan Heim set up camera traps near the burrows of pygmy rabbits in the Columbia Basin in Washington state to see what she could document. She caught this moment as a rabbit sniffed a stink beetle that had been using the burrow for shelter.

“The right look “

whale in water

Richard Robinson / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Photographer: Richard Robinson, New Zealand
Category: Animal Portraits 

A young whale became quite intrigued by Richard Robinson in the waters of Port Ross, Auckland Island, New Zealand. Robinson interacted with the calf for nearly 30 minutes as it circled him, swam off, then returned to check him out again.

“Underwater wonderland”

school of perch fish

Tiina Törmänen / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Photographer: Tiina Törmänen, Finland
Category: Under Water 

Tiina Törmänen snorkeled through cloud-like algae in Honkalampi, Posio, Finland, where she found a school of interested European perch. In the past, she’s only ever found dead fish because the algae use up oxygen and threaten aquatic wildlife.

“Sloth dilemma”

dog and sloth

Suzi Eszterhas / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Photographer: Suzi Eszterhas, U.S.
Category: Urban Wildlife 

Suzi Eszterhas captures the moment a brown-throated sloth met a dog in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica. The sloth had just crossed a road but needed to crawl to make it to the next group of trees. It froze, but the dog had taken part in a sloth-safety program and simply sniffed it.