Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013

Get a picture-perfect peek at a night owl, a troop of elephants and other creatures captured by winners of the 2013 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition.

The winners of the 2013 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition were announced at a gala awards ceremony at London’s Natural History Museum. Click through our slideshow to see the winners, selected out of 43,000 entries from 96 countries.

Connor Stefanison (Canada)
Winner: The Eric Hosing Portfolio Award

This female barred owl had a territory near Stefanison's home in Burnaby, British Columbia. Setting up his camera and lights near one of the owl's favorite perches, Stefanison put a dead mouse on a platform above the camera and waited for the swoop that he knew would come. "She grabbed the mouse, flew back to her perch and began calling to her mate. It is one of the most exciting calls to hear in the wild." Connor Stefanison / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Paul Souders (USA)
Winner: Animals in Their Environment

The fact that most images of polar bears show them on land or ice says more about the practical difficulties faced by humans than it does about the bears' behavior. Polar bears, are, in fact, highly aquatic.

Souders took his Zodiac boat to Hudson Bay, Canada, in midsummer to rectifiy this bias. He spotted a bear, this young female, on sea ice some 30 miles offshore. When the bear slipped into the water, he just waited. "There was just a flat, world of water and ice and this polar bear swimming lazily aorund me. I could hear her slow, regular breathing as she watched me below the surface or the exhalation as she surfaced, increasingly curious. It was very special." Paul Souders / WorldFoto
Isak Pretorius (South Africa)
Winner: Behavior: Birds

In May, the seafaring lesser noddies head for land to breed. Their arrival on the tiny island of Cousine in the Seychelles coincides with peak web size for the red-legged golden orb-web spiders. The female spiders create colossal conjoined webs up to 5 feet in diameter in which the tiny males gather. These are woven from extremely strong silk and are suspended up to 20 feet above the ground, high enough to catch passing bats and birds, though it's flying insects that the spiders are after. Noddies regularly fly into the webs. Even if they struggle free, the silk clogs up their feathers so they can't fly. It was only human intervention that saved this noddy. Isak Pretorius / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Connor Stefanison (Canada)
Winner: The Eric Hosking Portfolio Award

"Anticipating the pounce -- that was the hardest part, " says Stefanison, who had come to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in search of wildlife as much as for the spectacular landscape.

He had found this fox, his first ever, on his last day in the park. It was so absorbed in hunting that Stefanison had plenty of time to get out of the car and settle behind a rock. It quartered the grassland, back and forth, and then started staring intenly at a patch of ground, giving Stefanison just enough warning of the action to come. When it sprung up, Stefanison got this shot. And when it landed, the fox got his mouse. Connor Stefanison / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Joe McDonald (U.S.)
Winner: Behavior: Mammals

As he sweltered in a boat on the Three Brothers River in Brazil's Pantanal, McDonald expected to record the rites of courtship between a male and female jaguar who had emerged from the undergrowth for a drink and a rest. The male approached the female, who was lying in what appeared to be a pose of enticement. Then the female rose, growled and suddenly charged, slamming the male back as he reared up to avoid her outstretched claws. His own claws were sheathed.

"I couldn't believe the energy and intensity of those three seconds," says McDonald. The pair then disappeared into the undergrowth to resume their courtship, leaving McDonald with a sense of awe and a winning image. Joe McDonald / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Luis Javier Sandoval (Mexico)
Winner: Behavior: Cold-blooded animals

The beaches of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula are traditional nesting sites for the endangered green turtle. Resort development has reduced the area available to turtles, but fortunately, many nest sites are protected and there are turtle hatcheries to help numbers increase.

Sandoval earns enough from tourism photography to give him time to document his beloved wildlife. "This meter-long female, grazing on seagrass, took no notice of me, apart from glancing up briefly," he says. Recently, he has noticed what may be a new threat: At certain times of year, yellowish algae cover some of the seagrass. The suspicion is that the algal growth is the result of sewage from the resort. Luis Javier Sandoval / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Udayan Rao Pawar (India)
Winner: Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year

One night, 14-year-old Udayan Rao Pawar camped near a nesting colony of gharial crocodiles on the banks of the Chambal River. Before daybreak, he crept down and hid behind rocks beside the babies. "I could hear them making little grunting sounds," says Udayan. "Very soon a large female surfaced near the shore, checking on her charges. Some of the hatchlings swam to her and climbed onto her head. Perhaps it made them feel safe." It turned out she was the chief female of the group, looking after all the hatchlings.

Gharials were once found in rivers all over the Indian subcontinent. Today, only 2,000 or so breeding adults remain in just 2 percent of the former range. "The Chambal River is the gharial's last stronghold," says Udayan. Udayan Rao Pawar / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Sergey Gorshkov (Russia)
Winner: Wildscapes

On Nov. 29, 2012, Gorshkov received the call that he had long hoped for. Plosky Tolbachik on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula had begun to erupt. "It had been 36 years since the last eruption," he says, "so I dropped everything and went." Flying toward the volcano, he could see a 700-foot-high fountain of lava spouting out of the crater.

He worked fast, strapped to the helicopter's open door. "I just kept shooting, kept changing lenses and camera angles, knowing I had this one chance, hoping that I'd take one image that might do justice to what I was witnessing." That was indeed his last chance. At 1 a.m., a new explosion took place, the ground rumbled, huge lava bombs threatened the campsite, and a heavy rain of ash and smoke made it impossible to take pictures. Sergey Gorshkov / Wildlife photographer of the Year
Jasper Doest (The Netherlands)
Winner: Creative Visions

While photographing the famous Japanese macaques around the hot springs of Jigokudani, Doest had become fascinated by the surreal effects created by the arrival of a cold wind. Occasionally, a blast would blow through the steam rising off the pools. If it was snowing, the result would be a mesmerizing pattern of swirling steam and snowflakes, which would whirl around any macaques warming up in the pools.

A year later, Doest returned to the hot springs, determined to get the shot he'd been obsessing about. But as the steam started whirling above the water, there wasn't a monkey in sight. "All of a sudden, one adult appeared and jumped on a rock in the middle of the pool. When I started shaking off the snow I knew this was the moment." Jasper Doest / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Greg du Toit (South Africa)
Winner: Wildlife photographer of the year

Du Toit's prize-winning picture was taken at a waterhole in Botswana's Northern Tuli Game Reserve, from a hide (a sunken freight container) that provided a ground-level view. Du Toit chose to use a slow shutter speed to create the atmosphere he was after and try "to depict these gentle giants in an almost ghostly way." Greg du Toit / Wildlife Photographer of the Year