Lake of Ice, the winning image in the people’s choice vote (Cristiano Vendramin/ Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
An image of willows reflected in a frozen Italian lake dedicated to a lost friend has won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year people’s choice award.
The wintry shot of Santa Croce Lake in northern Italy by Italian photographer Cristiano Vendramin came top in an online vote by more than 31,800 nature and photography enthusiasts from a shortlist of 25 images.
The shortlist for the people’s choice award was chosen by the Natural History Museum from the 50,000 images from 95 countries submitted for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
Shelter from the Rain, a shot of two male lions in the Maasai Mara (Ashleigh McCord/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Among the 25 pictures, shots that also proved favourites with those voting were an image of two male lions in the rain and a portrait of a kangaroo and her joey emerging from the aftermath of Australian wildfires.
A shot of a surprising encounter between an eagle and a bear cub up a tree and an image of two male golden pheasants were the other pictures that proved most popular with the online voters.
The winning photograph and the four runners-up will be displayed in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London.
The Eagle and the Bear, taken in Alaska by Jeroen Hoekendijk, from the Netherlands (Jeroen Hoekendijk/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Mr Vendramin took his winning picture while visiting the lake, noticing the water was unusually high and the willows were partially submerged, creating the reflections on the water.
He was reminded of a close friend who had loved the place and who is no longer here, he said, adding: “I want to think he made me feel this feeling that I’ll never forget. For this reason, this photograph is dedicated to him”.
And he said: “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.
Hope in a burned plantation, taken by Jo-Anne McArthur, from Canada (Jo-Anne McArthur/ Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
“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.”
Director of the Natural History Museum, Dr Douglas Gurr, said: “Cristiano’s poignant image symbolises the positive impact nature can have on our wellbeing and lives.
“It can provide solace and a space to reflect on the past and even spark hope for the future.
Dancing in the snow, a shot of two male golden pheasants in China (Qian Guo/ Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
“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.”