With over 31,800 votes from members of the public around the world, this ethereal image of a willow trees reflected in a frozen lake has been announced as the winning image for this year's category winner for the People’s Choice Award of the renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.


The image, titled “Lake of ice”, was submitted by Italian photographer Cristiano Vendramin in dedication to a lost friend who loved the Santa Croce Lake in northern Italy.

“I hope that my photography will encourage people to understand that the beauty of nature can be found everywhere around us, and we can be pleasantly surprised by the many landscapes so close to home,” says Vendramin. “I believe having a daily relationship with nature is increasingly more necessary to have a serene and healthy life. Nature photography is therefore important to remind us of this bond, which we must preserve, and in whose memory, we can take refuge.”

The winning image was one of 25 images that were shortlisted by the judges for the People's Choice Award (view the full gallery of the 25 images), and in addition to Vendramin's wintry image, four more photos were awarded ‘Highly Commended’ following the public vote (see below). All five images will be displayed in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London (NHM), which runs until Sunday 5 June 2022.

“Cristiano’s poignant image symbolises the positive impact nature can have on our wellbeing and lives,” says Dr Douglas Gurr, director of the NHM. “It can provide solace and a space to reflect on the past and even spark hope for the future. These past two years have redefined what truly matters in life, the people and the environments that play a crucial role in our own personal ecosystems. I hope those who look at this landscape frozen in time, are reminded of the importance of connecting to the natural world and the steps we must all take to protect it.”

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition has been running since 1965, when it was first launched by BBC Wildlife (then called Animals). The NHM joined forces in 1984 to create the competition as it is known today, and now solely runs and owns it. It has grown to attract over 50,000 images submitted to the 2021 competition. The fifty-eighth Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition closed for entries on Thursday 9 December 2021, and the winning images will be revealed in October.

View all the Winning and Highly Commended images:

To view the images as a slideshow, click on the arrows in the top right-hand corner of the photos below.

Snow-covered willow trees emerge from a frozen lake. The ice below reflects the branches.
Winning image: Lake of ice. © Cristiano Vendramin/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Santa Croce Lake is a natural lake located in the province of Belluno, Italy. In winter 2019 Cristiano noticed the water was unusually high and the willow plants were partially submerged, creating a play of light and reflections. Waiting for colder conditions he captured the scene in icy stillness. After taking the image, he was reminded of a dear friend, who had loved this place and is now no longer here, "I want to think he made me feel this feeling that I'll never forget. For this reason, this photograph is dedicated to him".

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Two male lions (one lying down, one sat down), face each other, with the rain falling on and around them.
Shelter from the Rain. © Ashleigh McCord/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

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A kangaroo, with a joey in her pouch, looks at the camera, standing between rows of burnt eucalyptus trees.
Hope in a burned plantation. © Jo-Anne McArthur/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

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The Eagle and the Bear. © Jeroen Hoekendijk/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
The Eagle and the Bear. © Jeroen Hoekendijk/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

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Two male golden pheasants, with mainly red bodies, gold heads, and long tails, on a tree stump, surrounded by falling snow.
Dancing in the snow. © Qian Guo/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

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Megan ShersbyNaturalist, writer and content creator