What do you see when you look at this photo?
The image appears to show an enormous, scary face suddenly emerging from the ocean.
But what you’re actually looking at is a stargazer fish which has buried itself in the sandy floor of the Mediterranean.
The photo was taken by Pietro Formis from Italy and is among several to be highly commended in this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
Mr Formis explained that he doesn’t normally take photos for competitions. He submitted this image because he “liked it a lot” but didn’t expect to win any commendation.
“I’m super happy and I’m counting the days for the ceremony. I think that I will see most of my, I will say colleagues, but they are my heroes and the top of photography so I can’t describe how happy I am,” Mr Formis said.
The overall winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition will be announced at an awards ceremony on 10 October. The annual Natural History Museum exhibition showcasing 100 photographs chosen from the thousands that entered the competition will open the following Friday, 13 October, and then as usual, will then go on tour around the world.
Scroll down this page, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the other highly commended images in what is the 59th year of the contest.
Atlantic Stargazer fish, whose Latin name is Uranoscopus scaber, are so called because their eyes stick upwards. They are also predators, and in order to catch their prey they hide under sand with only their eyes and mouth visible – that’s what you can see in Mr Formis’ photo.
“To me it looks like a voodoo mask or a human face and those are species that I like most, the species that have a human-like face, with big eyes and big mouth. It’s a beautiful animal,” Mr Formis said.
Mr Formis explained that by using concentrated light from a flash, a slow shutter speed and deliberate movement he managed to photograph the stargazer almost illuminated in the clear blue water.
“For me it’s like a waterfall and then from behind you see this scary face. I took a few different images, but this one I prefer,” he said.
Underwater photography has almost become an “obsession” for Mr Formis since his father – also a photographer – took him diving and changed his life.
“Going in the water and taking pictures of all the beauty, it’s something that I feel privileged to do,” he said.
Coot on ice by Zhai Zeyu, China
Zhai Zeyu watched as coots attempted to cross a frozen pond in northeast China. After scrambling in the water for food, this coot eventually caught a loach.
Category – Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, 10 Years and Under
Firebirds by Elza Friedländer, Germany
A controlled fire was lit on an area of Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Not long afterwards, hundreds of birds – particularly storks and kites – arrived at the scene. Elza noted that while most birds kept their distance, the storks moved close to the fire looking for easy prey.
Category – Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Birds
Forest rodeo by Atsuyuki Ohshima, Japan
Atsuyuki Ohshima caught this shot of a young female Yakushima macaque enjoying a ride on a deer’s back. On Yakushima Island, this is rare but not unheard of.
Category – Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Mammals
Mason bee at work by Solvin Zankl, Germany
A mason bee builds the roof of its nest while memorising landmarks around it so it was able to find the nest again. Solvin gradually moved his equipment towards the nest each time it flew away and after two hours, the bee was using his equipment as a landmark.
Category – Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Invertebrates
War cub by Michał Siarek, Poland
While documenting the evacuation of animals from war-torn Ukraine, Michał snapped the moment a team opened a crate to check on an evacuated tiger cub.
Category – Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Photojournalism