Mario Cea's image, The blue trail, has won the 2016 Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award
The arrow-like dive of a kingfisher is the winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award. Almost 25,000 nature fans voted, and Spanish photographer Mario Cea's shot, The blue trail, emerged as the favourite.
Mario's image will be showcased in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum until it closes on 10 September.
The People's Choice Award recognises outstanding competition entries, as preferred by the public.
'This picture took about five months, 5,000 attempts and a huge amount of preparation to achieve,' says Mario, who is delighted to have won. This year's vote showcased 25 images preselected by the Natural History Museum.
Capturing the flawlessly straight dive of a kingfisher in a natural way is a rare accomplishment in wildlife photography. For Mario, his persistence and keen observation paid off.
'I observed this particular kingfisher for a long time and visited the location regularly for five months. The bird repeatedly hunted in the same spot several times - a small bend in a shallow pond with a high concentration of fish. My understanding of the bird's natural behaviour and hunting routines was essential in achieving the shot.'
Mario's image was taken at a small pond in the outskirts of Salamanca, north-western Spain.
'The pond was created artificially as the minor diversion of a nearby riverbed. Over the years, the wildlife and ecosystem around the pond have grown naturally and it is now an established and attractive habitat'.
For Mario, what makes his image special is the light trail the bird seems to leave behind it.
'The incredible speed of the bird means the movement is almost invisible to the human eye, so I had to use lighting to both illuminate the image and freeze movement. I think one of the reasons people like this image is the palpable trail of light the bird leaves behind.'
Championing the discovery and enjoyment of the natural world through the power of photography, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition is the most established contest of its kind.
Exhibition: 21 October 2016 - 10 September 2017. For ticket details see nhm.ac.uk/wpy