Wildlife Photographer of the Year: 50 Years

Have a soft spot in your heart for animals? Love unexpected and mesmerizing nature photographs? If so, this coffee table book is for you.

This book features the best of the best: a sampling of fifty years of winners from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest as well as an essay describing and presenting the history of the art.

It also includes some early nature photography, photographs that inspired later nature artists including Ansel Adams' 1941 photo "Snake River, the Tetons" with its magnificent play of light and shadows, curvilinear boulders and twin mountain peaks. Another great find is Eric Hosking's 1938 weirdly titled "The Tawny Owl that Robbed Me of an Eye" which turns out to a true story.  Be careful while taking pictures of owls!

Which photos in this collection wowed me? Here are a few: Frans Landing's study in tawny and blue "Impalas in Unison." This shows a line of impalas drinking along a river and their shadows perfectly captured in counterpoint. "Attractive Pickings" by Fritz Polking captures a small tussock-bird stretching toward the mouth of a huge elephant seal in the Faroes.

Frans Lanting's "Emperors at Sunset" shows earth's largest penquins in such a golden glow that the blowing snow looks more like sand and the frozen sea, like an extensive beach.

Many photos are incredibly dynamic. In "White Wolf Leaping," Jim Brandenberg zooms in at the very moment an arctic wolf floats in mid-air just before landing on an ice floe.

But all is not sweetness and life. In "Relative Values," Karl Amman shoots what could be an everyday domestic scene in West Africa, a bunch of yellowing bananas placed next to a gorilla's chopped-off head in a bowl. Surrounded by beautiful pictures of wild and free animals, this photograph is particularly shocking. It won the award for 1995.

Also, included are many photos of elephants, fish, sea mammals, big cats, insects, and even some pictures that are nature scenes only such as Olivier Grunewald's striking volcanic scene "The Depths of Danakill" alongside David Woodfall's study in golds, yellows, and browns titled "Glorious Mud."

For this book words fall absolutely flat, so you must see it with your eyes. Many of these creatures you will never watch in the flesh, but these award winning photographs have captured them so well, you feel as though you have seen these extraordianry creatures in person.