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Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Portfolio 16    by BBC order for
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Portfolio 16
by BBC
Order:  USA  Can
BBC Books, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This remarkable coffee table book - with a cover image of a 'pensive Hanuman langur' taking his ease in the treetops and looking awfully like Rodin's Thinker - showcases the very impressive winning and commended pictures from the 2006 Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition (run by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine). In addition to a text description giving the photographer's perspective of each picture, a technical summary is provided, indicating how it was taken.

In her Foreword, Cristina Goettsch Mittermeier asks given the 'imminent extinction wave' and other current world problems, 'Can images influence the fate of our planet's natural wonders?' She answers her own question with a resounding yes, telling us that photography plays 'a pivotal role in showcasing the beauty and uniqueness of wild places, the frailty and irreplaceability of endangered species and the wonder of indigenous cultures' - and provides a powerful tool 'to mould perceptions, to call on our principles, to inspire.'

After a section explaining the competition come the spectacular images themselves. The 2006 winner, Beast of the Sediment, shows a walrus underwater, making eye contact with the photographer. The remaining pictures are grouped into categories: Animal Behaviour - Mammals; Animal Behaviour - Birds; Behaviour - All Other Animals; Animals in Their Environment; The Underwater World; Animal Portraits; In Praise of Plants; Urban and Garden Wildlife; Creative Visions of Nature; Wild Places; The World in Our Hands; Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife; Eric Hosking Award; and Young Wildlife Photographers. A winner is indicated for each category.

The awesome winner in the Birds category (also on the back cover) shows an owl's perfect Snowy Landing against grey sky and smooth white landscape. I had to smile at Rockhopper Rush Hour - penguins scurrying across sand, arms out for balance - which reminded me of Christmas shoppers. Turtle Grooming is a luminescent underwater spa scene - looks most relaxing for the turtle. In Wild Places, I loved the Antarctica Sunrise, and in the Endangered Wildlife section, I was enchanted by Human encounter, which shows an adorable baby gorilla clinging to a bamboo stem. Then there's the remarkable Eric Hosking Award winner, Moon crow, showing a hooded crow framed by the moon at night.

As in previous years, Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Portfolio 16 is a wonderful collection of images, that inspires us to get out in nature and look more closely at all the wonders around, above and beneath us.

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