Forester’s incredible woodpecker pic awarded at world’s most prestigious nature photography competition
A forester turned wildlife photographer has won a ‘highly commended’ award in the world’s most prestigious nature photography competition for his striking candid shot of a green woodpecker feeding in the hollow of an oak tree.
Łukasz Gwiździel from Debrzno in northern Poland, received the award in the 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in the category: ‘Behaviour: Birds’, one of five awarded in the category.
The ‘highly commended’ image is among only 100 total images selected as the world’s best depictions of nature among 50,000 entries received this year from 95 countries, and is now on display at the award winners’ exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London.
Gwiździel told TFN: “It’s a huge distinction to be recognised among the best photographs at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which is like the Oscars of nature photography, it’s a dream come true really.
“I couldn’t quite believe it when I first got the email in the Spring that I’d been selected and I had to keep it secret until the official results announcement was made in October.
“I travelled to London to see it on display and it was really amazing to see it there among so many amazing photographs.”
“The most important thing is that the nature on my photograph has been recognised. At the moment, it is a common species, not an endangered one, like some of the other photographs awarded, but despite that, we don’t know if the species popular today, will still be available to for our children to see in the wild.”
The remarkable image, which shows a green woodpecker with its colourful plumage, set against the dark background of an oak tree hollow, craning its head upwards looking for ants, was actually not the subject matter Gwiździel had planned on capturing.
He said: “I had planned on taking pictures of a mouse burrow, there were lots of mice scurrying around and I had set up my equipment to get some images of them, when suddenly a green woodpecker appeared. It was very special.
“I took a series of shots and then selected the one I thought was the best and decided to try and send it in to Wildlife Photographer of the Year.”
“I first started submitting photos to small regional photo competitions, then slightly larger ones, then national ones and when I realised that people liked them in Poland and I was getting awards, I thought why not try international competitions.”
“I think the image captures the essence of wildlife photography, that you can have a lot planned, but at the end of the day, wildlife is unpredictable and sometimes the best pictures are those that can’t be planned.”
The award-winning photographer’s magical and breath-taking images of Polish forest wildlife have been dazzling viewers and competition juries ever since he took up nature photography 10 years ago, initially taking shots on his way to and from work and on weekends.
His many accolades include a Photographer of the Year 2020 award by the Toruń District Group of the Association of Polish Nature Photographers for his picture of two cranes and second prize in the Wildlife category of the 5th 35Awards International photography competition for a series entitled ‘A morning with cranes’.
Cranes are a particular favourite subject for Gwiździel and a species he enjoys devoting a little more time to capturing.
He told TFN: “There is a lake nearby where I observe cranes and I love to photograph them especially trying to get images of them at the boundaries of light and darkness.”
Though his photo sessions are now usually more carefully planned than when he started, Gwiździel’s photos are all captured on his doorstep, in parts of forests within 1 km of his home, some of which he discovered as a result of being able to take more walks around his home during the pandemic.
He said: “When remote working was introduced and I was spending more time at home, I also had the opportunity of taking more walks around where I live and exploring it more closely. The woodpecker photo was taken in a forest I can see from my window for example.
“I am not sure I would have necessarily discovered that exact location if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.”
Gwiździel said that his example shows that “a good photo can be found even just around the corner” from where people live and that inspiration for nature photographs doesn’t have to be found in far-flung places.