CONNECTION BRONZE AWARD WINNER ñ Andy Parkinson. United Kingdom. Prize: £100.
Image Title: Nose to Nose
Subject: Mountain Hare Lepus timidus
In 20 years of having photographed mountain hares Iíd never seen this behaviour before, nor an image of it. Such is the beauty of nature that these unique experiences can occur.
Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 1DX mark II with Canon EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens. Focal length 394mm; 1/1,000 second; f/7.1; ISO 400.

Puma mother and her playful cubs win WildArt photo competition

WildArt Photographer of the Year competition 'Connection' round winners announced.

Is there anything cuter than animals in love? Apart from kittens playing with balls of wool perhaps.

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The WildArt Photographer of the Year is a new wildlife photography competition that features 10 themed category contests which are announced each month. This month’s theme was ‘connection’, and the winners have just been unveiled.

There are still many rounds to come over the following months, and once each round has been decided, an overall winner will be awarded at the end of the year.

We bring you our pick of the best from the connected category from the winners and highly commended images.

Lessons for life: Gold Winner

CONNECTION GOLD AWARD WINNER ñ Amit Eshel. Israel. Prize: £500. Image Title: Lessons for Life Subject: Patagonia Puma Puma concolor This beautiful female Puma is looking for prey from a high vantage point while her playful cubs are learning through imitation. I spent a week tracking this Puma family, comprising a mother and four cubs, in Patagonia, Chile. These incredible wild cats where completely calm in my presence, and accepted me into their world and allowed me to capture some special moments. The Puma of Patagonia, once almost hunted to extinction, has made a phenomenal comeback in the last few decades thanks to safeguarding measures. This is an example of conservation and coexistence with a wild cat that is persecuted and misunderstood in other parts of the Americas. Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 1DX mark II with Canon EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens. Focal length 381mm; 1/1,250 second; f/4; ISO 640. Website address: www.amiteshel.com Instagram: @siberianart
A female Patagonia Puma (Puma concolor) is looking for prey from a high vantage point while her playful cubs are learning through imitation. The photographer spent a week tracking this Puma family, comprising a mother and four cubs, in Patagonia, Chile. 
The Puma of Patagonia, once almost hunted to extinction, has made a phenomenal comeback in the last few decades thanks to safeguarding measures. Photo by Amit Eshel

Allopreen Gannets: Highly commended

CONNECTION – HIGHLY COMMENDED – Simon Runting, New Zealand. Image Title: Allopreen Gannets Subject: Australasian Gannet Morus serrator It's taken me a couple of years to work out the right spot and time to get the moon behind the gannet colony north of Auckland. This pair of gannets were allopreening as the moon sank behind them very early one morning. Equipment and Settings: Fujifilm X-T3 with Canon EF600mm f/4L IS II USM lens. Focal length 600mm (900mm equivalent in 35mm); 1/125 second; f/13; ISO 320. Instagram: @simonbirdphotography
A pair of Australasian gannets (Morus serrator) are shown allopreening (grooming each other) as the moon sinks behind them very early one morning, in a gannet colony north of Auckland. Photo by Simon Runting, New Zealand.

Baby garden spider cluster: Highly commended

CONNECTION – HIGHLY COMMENDED – Andrew McLachlan, Canada. Image Title: Baby Garden Spider Cluster Subject: Garden Spider (species unknown) During Ontario’s pandemic lockdowns for COVID-19 I would often wander about my rural property in search of macro photography subjects. On this particular day in spring of 2020, I encountered newly hatched garden spiders. Garden Spiders will typically cluster together when they hatch. Upon finding this cluster I opted to create an image at four times lifesize to fill the entire frame with the baby spiders by attaching a Raynox DCR-250 Diopter to the front of the Laowa 2X Macro Lens. The spiders were constantly moving about within the cluster. As a result, several frames were created to ensure a composition that featured a nice balance of spiders throughout the scene. Equipment and Settings: Nikon D800 with Laowa 100mm 2x Macro Lens and Raynox DCR-250 Diopter. Meike MK-MT24 2.4G Wireless Close-Up Speedlight Macro Twin Lite Flash. Wimberley Dual Arm f-2 Macro Bracket. Focal length 100mm; 1/80 second; f/22; ISO 400. Website: www.andrewmclachlan.ca Instagram: @mclachlanwild
Newly hatched garden spiders of unknown species cluster together after hatching. Photo by Andrew McLachlan, Canada.

Nose to nose: Bronze winner

CONNECTION BRONZE AWARD WINNER ñ Andy Parkinson. United Kingdom. Prize: £100. Image Title: Nose to Nose Subject: Mountain Hare Lepus timidus In 20 years of having photographed mountain hares Iíd never seen this behaviour before, nor an image of it. Such is the beauty of nature that these unique experiences can occur. Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 1DX mark II with Canon EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens. Focal length 394mm; 1/1,000 second; f/7.1; ISO 400.
A pair of mountain hares (Lepus timidus) touch noses in this beautiful snow scene. Photo by Andy Parkinson, UK.

She just wants a friend: Highly commended

CONNECTION ñ HIGHLY COMMENDED ñ Amit Eshel. Israel. Image Title: She Just Wants a Friend Subject: Brown Bear Ursus arctos I visited Katmai National park in Alaska in early October and was overwhelmed by the diversity and beauty of remote living environment. Born to an old mother estimated to be around 25 years old, this female cub had no other brothers or sisters to play with. All this cub wanted is to play with other cubs and with many salmon available in the river this year, many bear families have come in close contact near the river mouth. The cub expressed curiosity toward other bear families and sometimes was able to play with cubs from other litters. Mother bears are very protective about their own cubs and usually do not allow them to play with cubs from other family groups. The little blond female cub met another young bear while her mother was busy fishing in the river. It was touching to witness how much a single cub longs for attention and playtime with others. The two played for a couple of minutes before her mother noticed and came by to separate and drive the other bear away. Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 1DX mark II with Canon EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens and 1.4x converter. Focal length 560mm; 1/1,000 second; f/5.6; ISO 800. Website address: www.amiteshel.com Instagram: @siberianart
Born to an old mother estimated to be around 25 years old, this female Brown bear cub (Ursus arctos) had no other brothers or sisters to play with. The cub expressed curiosity toward other bear families and sometimes was able to play with cubs from other litters. Mother bears are very protective about their own cubs and usually do not allow them to play with cubs from other family groups. The little blond female cub (on the left) met another young bear while her mother was busy fishing in the river at the Katmai National park in Alaska, USA. Photo by Amit Eshel.

Raging Ravens: Highly commended

CONNECTION - HIGHLY COMMENDED – TOPAZ LABS AWARD WINNER - WILDART PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR FOUNDER’S CHOICE – Johan Siggesson, Sweden. Image Title: Raging Ravens Subject: Common Raven Corvus corax This image was created from a hide during a rather uneventful trip to the Finish/Russian border to photograph the apex predators of the Taiga - the bears and the wolves. None of these showed up during our stay, so instead I worked with the ever-present ravens. I experimented with longer shutter speeds and tried to capture the little brawls for food scraps that are common among ravens. Equipment and Settings: Nikon D810 with Nikon AF-S 300mm f/2.8 ED VRII Nikkor lens and 1.4x converter. Focal length 420mm; 1/30 second; f/4.8; ISO 31. Website: www.johansiggesson.com Instagram: @johan_siggesson_photo
Common ravens (Corvus corax) engaged in a brawl for food on the Finish/Russian border. Photo by Johan Siggesson.

If you are enjoying this gallery, why not check out some more of our great wildlife images:

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Courtship: Cotton Carrier Award winner

CONNECTION – COTTON CARRIER AWARD WINNER – David Gibbon. United Kingdom. Prize: Cotton Carrier camera harness. Image Title: Courtship Subject: Arctic Fox Vulpes lagopus Between February and March Arctic Fox search for a mate. While running a workshop in Iceland in early March, I witnessed this blue morph Arctic Fox male (at the back) showing the female (in front) how dominant he is to try and impress her. I have been visiting the remote Hornstrandir for four years running during the winter and this is the only time I have seen this rarely witnessed behaviour up close. Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 1DX with Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports lens. Focal length 230mm; 1/3,200 second; f/8; ISO 1250. Website: www.davidandlouisephotography.com Instagram: @davidgibbonphotography
A blue morph Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus) male (at the back) showing the female (in front) how dominant he is to try and impress her. The photographer had been visiting the remote Hornstrandir area of Iceland for years running during the winter months and this is the only time he had seen this rarely witnessed behaviour up close. Photo by David Gibbon, UK.

In line: Highly commended

CONNECTION – HIGHLY COMMENDED – Tibor Kercz. Hungary. Image Title: In Line Subject: Sika Deer Cervus nippon This image was taken at the frozen, snow-covered bay of Notsuke Peninsula at northern part of Hokkaido, Japan. Here Sika Deer can be observed on the sea ice on cold winter days. Equipment and Settings: Nikon D800 with Nikon AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikkor lens. Focal length 160mm; 1/400 second; f/13; ISO 1250.
A group of sika deer (Cervus nippon) are photographed at the frozen, snow-covered bay of Notsuke Peninsula at northern part of Hokkaido, Japan. Here Sika Deer can be observed on the sea ice on cold winter days. Photo by Tibor Kercz. Hungary.

Bad Connection: WildArt young category winner

CONNECTION – WILDART YOUNG CATEGORY WINNER - Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz. Hungary. Prize: £50. Image Title: Bad Connection. Subject: Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avocetta. In April 2020 near my home, my father and I discovered that there were more birds than normal due to the unusually low water level on the channel called “Vidre-ér”. Encouraged by this situation, we quickly built a mobile hide from pallets, OSB boards and decorative reed walls. Several bird species like black-winged stilt, gulls, garganey, ferruginous duck, northern shoveler, spotted redshank and pied avocet could be observed in this part of the lake which is the part of “Vidre-ér”. My photo shows a territory fight between the Avocets. Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 7D mark II with Sigma 500mm f/4.5 EX DG OS HSM lens. Focal length 500mm; 1/1,600 second; f/4.5; ISO 100. Website: www.kbtamas.blogspot.com Instagram: @kbtamas
Pied Avocets (Recurvirostra avocetta) engaged in a fight over territory, in a low water area on the river Vidre-ér, Hungary, in April 2021.
Photo by Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz. Hungary.

Love: Wild Planet Photo Magazine editor’s choice

CONNECTION - WILD PLANET PHOTO MAGAZINE – EDITOR’S CHOICE – Thomas Hinsche, Germany. Prize: A year’s free subscription to Wild Planet Photo Magazine. Image Title: Love Subject: Northern Gannet Morus bassanus A pair of Northern Gannets show their affection with a courtship display in the glow of the setting sun. The picture was taken on the offshore island of Helgoland in the North Sea. Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 5D mark III with Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM lens. Focal length 500mm; 1/400; f/5; ISO 100. Website: www.naturfotografie-hinsche.de Instagram: @photography.hinsche
A pair of Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) show their affection with a courtship display in the glow of the setting sun. The picture was taken on the offshore island of Helgoland in the North Sea. Photo by Thomas Hinsche, Germany.

Dispute: Highly commended

CONNECTION – HIGHLY COMMENDED – Tibor Kercz. Hungary. Image Title: Dispute Subject: Arctic Fox Vulpes lagopus The image was taken at Svalbard on the snow-covered hillsides of Bjorndalen in the middle of March. Equipment and Settings: Nikon D850 with Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Nikkor lens. Focal length 160mm; 1/3,200 second; f/4; ISO 500.
This image of arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopuswas) having a bit of an argument was taken at Svalbard, Norway, on the snow-covered hillsides of Bjorndalen in the middle of March. Photo by Tibor Kercz, Hungary.