Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners announced
Ten long months spent stalking the rare and elusive snow leopard in temperatures as low as -40ºC paid off for a dogged photographer.
An image of the Himalayan big cat, silhouetted against a black sky filled with snow, won the aptly-named Steve Winter the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.
The picture captures the majestic beauty of the endangered leopard and the bitingly cold and hostile high-altitude landscape it manages to survive in.
Camping out on a mountainside in Hemis High Altitude National Park in northern India he used 14 remote-controlled cameras as part of his quest to find the secretive snow leopard.
"As the weather turned warmer, I moved the camera traps to higher altitudes along the trail. I put a camera in this location because it was where three trails converge," said Steve from Hoboken in New York.
He checked the camera in May 2007 more in hope than expectation to find the winning image.
"I was thrilled to have finally captured the shot I had dreamed of - a wild snow leopard in its true element," he said.
An estimated 3,500-7,000 snow leopards (Uncia uncia) survive in the high-altitude regions of the Himalayas and mountains of Central Asia. A fearsome predator, it has suffered a steep decline in numbers because of poaching for its highly-prized skin and body parts.
The competition, run by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, attracted more than 32,000 entries from 82 countries.
Other winners, runners-up and commended in 17 categories, included a comical baboon with a punk-style haircut, a dramatic picture of a Whooper swan lifting off from an icy sea, a pod of orca whales on the ocean surface at sunset, and two polar bears disputing the ownership of a freshly killed seal.
An exhibition of the winning images will be on view at the Natural History Museum from October 31 2008 - April 26 2009.
Last year the exhibition attracted almost 134,000 visitors and was later seen by more than 1m people at regional and international venues.
Source : Seeing Is Believing