It took almost a year to capture, but perseverance has won Sergey Gorshkov the title Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
His image, The Embrace, shows an Amur tiger hugging an ancient Manchurian fir tree in Russia’s Far East.
The female Amur tiger, also known as Siberian tigers, was caught by hidden camera tucked in the region for more than 11 months and is now being honoured by the Natural History Museum in London as the most compelling image of more than 49,000 submitted from around the world.
“It’s a scene like no other,” noted Rosamund ‘Roz’ Kidman Cox, chair of the judging panel. “A unique glimpse of an intimate moment deep in a magical forest. Shafts of low winter sun highlight the ancient fir tree and the coat of the huge tigress as she grips the trunk in obvious ecstasy and inhales the scent of tiger on resin, leaving her own mark as her message. It’s also a story told in glorious colour and texture of the comeback of the Amur tiger, a symbol of the Russian wilderness.”
The winner of this year’s competition was revealed by live stream last night.
Gorschkov was born in a remote Siberian village and was raised “immersed in the nature of the Russian wilderness,” according to the judges. He is the founding member of the Russian Union of Wildlife Photographers with work published around the world.
His winning photo was snapped with the help of the park rangers, he explained on Facebook. He attached a camera to a tree 10 metres away from the giant fir back in January, 2019.
“From then on, I could think of nothing else,’” he continued.
Gorshkov would hike to his sites every three months being careful not to disturb the environment and dissuade cautious tigers from visiting.
He said he saw a tiger with night-vision equipment once, but only captured three three images including the one of the tigress hugging the tree in November, 2019.
“At that moment my hands started sharking,” he wrote on Facebook.
The tiger is believed to have three cubs, so now Gorshkov is on a mission to snag a picture of the family.
But that won’t be easy. Siberian tigers are rare.
The big cats were once hunted down to 20 to 30 individuals in the wild. There are now perhaps 550 due to conservation efforts.
“Hunted to the verge of extinction in the past century, the Amur population is still threatened by poaching and logging today,” Dr. Tim Littlewood, Natural History Museum’s Executive Director of Science, added in a statement. “The remarkable sight of the tigress immersed in her natural environment offers us hope, as recent reports suggest numbers are growing from dedicated conservation efforts. Through the unique emotive power of photography, we are reminded of the beauty of the natural world and our shared responsibility to protect it.”