The Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, founded in 1964, is an annual international showcase for the very best nature photography. Owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide, the contest includes 18 individual categories, ranging from birds and mammals to "Creative Visions" and "Nature in Black & White." This year's competition drew more than 48,000 entries from 98 countries. The winning photos will be on exhibit at the Natural History Museum in London until March 3, 2013.

The overall winner of the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year is Paul Nicklen (Canada) for his photo "Bubble-jetting emperors". It was taken near the emperor penguin colony at the frozen edge of the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Paul awaited the return of parent penguins, remaining motionless in the freezing water and using a snorkel to breathe.

Junior overall winner Owen Hearn took his image "Flight paths" at his grandparents' farm in Bedfordshire, UK. Owen, aged 14, photographed the red kite at the site chosen for London’s third airport in the late 1960s. "Opposition to the planned airport stopped it going ahead, which is why I can photograph the wildlife on the farm today," he explained.

Steve Winter (US) was the winner of the Wildlife Photojournalist Award. The animal is one of fewer than 400-500 wild, critically endangered Sumatran tigers. Steve set up an auto-trap camera to catch this shot. A former tiger hunter, now employed as a park ranger, advised Steve where to set up his equipment.

Thousands of Caribbean flamingos - the largest and pinkest of the five species - gather each winter on the estuary of the Ria Celestun on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. From the door of a plane, Klaus Nigge (Germany) used lenses with image stabilisers to get an aerial shot showing the beauty of the mass aggregation.

Anna Henly (UK) took this image on a boat in the Svalbard archipelago early in the morning. The polar bear was walking on broken ice floes, a poignant reminder that global warming is eroding the marine sea ice environment that the bears rely on for survival.

Gregoire Bouguereau (France) won the Behaviour: Mammals category with this image of cheetah cubs chasing a Thomson's gazelle calf that their mother had caught but not killed. At first, the cubs took no notice of the calf lying on the ground. But when it struggled to its feet, "the cubs' natural predatory instincts were triggered," says Gregoire.

The opaque turquoise tint on Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, Canada, is caused by light bouncing off silt suspended in the water, known as "glacial milk". Vladimir Medvedev (Russia) waited for an opportunity between snowfalls to overcome the challenges of light in such a pale environment.

Kim Wolhuter (South Africa) won the Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Species. Kim has been filming African wild dogs at Zimbabwe's Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve for more than four years. He knows one pack intimately. ‘I have travelled with them, on foot, in the pack itself, running with them as they hunt."

This black-headed gull caught Eve Tucker's eye as it sat in the middle of the extraordinary patterns in the water. Eve (UK) realised these patterns were in fact the reflections of some of the tallest buildings in London surrounding the docklands at the heart of the business and financial district of Canary Wharf.

Luciano Candisani (Brazil) was the winner in the Behaviour: Cold-blooded Animals category. His image shows a yacare caiman lurking in the shallow, murky waters of Brazil's Pantanal. Organised by London's Natural History Museum (NHM) and BBC Wildlife Magazine, the WPY competition is now in its 48th year. An exhibition of the best pictures opens this Friday at the NHM and runs until March


Commended. Photographer Richard Peters sat in his car and from a distance watched the fox hunting, just enjoying the performance. He was in Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming, and there was snow on the ground. The fox was listening for rodents under the snow, then leaping high to pounce down on the unsuspecting prey. It was too far away to photograph, and so when it disappeared and suddenly reappeared, on a snow bank level with the car window, Richard was taken by surprise. "It was already in pounce position, and I barely had time to lift the camera before it leapt up into the air almost clean out of my field of view. I managed to get a sequence of the leap, but I love this quirky image best, which gives a real sense of just how high these wonderful animals can jump." (Richard Peters)

Runner-up. Ever since Daniel Eggert first fell in love with pasque flowers, among the first flowers of spring, he had wanted to photograph them covered in hoar frost. Now it was pasque-flower time once again. He had already identified a spot of chalky grassland near his home where the plants grew, on the rim of the Nördlinger Ries crater (a meteor crater) in Bavaria, Germany. So as soon as a cold, frosty, sunny dawn was forecast, Daniel headed up the hill. "I found the ideal flowers to photograph, but I didn't have much time," he says, "because I knew that as soon as the sun rose, the frost would quickly melt." He took this image just as the rising sun began to bathe the hill in a wonderful orange light. "I love the colors," he says, "and the contrast between the warm background and the cold ice." (Daniel Eggert)

Specially commended. The grey-headed flying fox is the largest bat in Australia -- and one of the most vulnerable. Once abundant, there are now only around 300,000 left. The main threats include loss of habitat, extreme-temperature events and human persecution (roosting in numbers, eating cultivated fruit and an undeserved reputation for bearing disease brings it into conflict with people). The bat is now protected throughout its range, but its future remains uncertain. Photographer Ofer Levy spent several days in Parramatta Park in New South Wales photographing the bat's extraordinary drinking behavior. "At dusk, it swoops low over the water, skimming the surface with its belly and chest," he says. "Then, as it flies off, it licks the drops off its wet fur." To photograph this in daylight, Ofer had to be in the right position on a very hot day, with the sun and the wind in the right direction, and hope a bat would be thirsty enough to risk drinking. "This required standing in chest-deep water with the camera and lens on a tripod for three hours a day for about a week in temperatures of more than 40 degrees." (Ofer Levy)

Runner-up. It was a night of snow that gave Owen Hearn the advantage. "After spending countless hours lying in hedges and long grass trying to photograph hares," says Owen, "I couldn't believe my luck when I came across this hare just meters away, crouched down in the snow." Owen also crouched down in the snow and slowly moved forward until he was close enough to fire off four frames. "I am sure it thought it was camouflaged," he says. Owen's hare-stalking ground is his grandparents' Bedfordshire farm. "I like the challenge of trying to get close to hares, as they are so alert and so fast. They have taught me a lot about fieldcraft." (Owen Hearn)

Commended. A scattering of gecko droppings on the sunny veranda of Klaus Tamm's holiday apartment near Etang-Sale-les-Hauts, on the French island of Réunion, had attracted some unusual-looking insects. They were neriid long-legged flies. Klaus settled down with his camera to watch as they interacted. "Every so often, a couple of males would take a break from feeding and engage in a kind of combat dance that involved spinning around each other," he says. "They would finish by stretching up to their full one and a half centimeters, then pushing with their mouthparts, shoulders and forelegs until one gained height, before flying away or mating with nearby females. I was so impressed by the harmony in the combat dance that I ended up photographing them for several hours." (Klaus Tamm)

Commended. In late May, about a quarter of a million snow geese arrive from North America to nest on Wrangel Island, in northeastern Russia. They form the world's largest breeding colony of snow geese. Photographer Sergey Gorshkov spent two months on the remote island photographing the unfolding dramas. Arctic foxes take advantage of the abundance of eggs, caching surplus eggs for leaner times. But a goose (here the gander) is easily a match for a fox, which must rely on speed and guile to steal eggs. "The battles were fairly equal," notes Sergey, "and I only saw a fox succeed in grabbing an egg on a couple of occasions, despite many attempts." Surprisingly, "the geese lacked any sense of community spirit", he adds, "and never reacted when a fox harassed a neighboring pair nesting close by." (Sergey Gorshkov)

environnement is a French word for environment