Gong wild! Photographers stake out the best of the animal kingdom on land, at sea and in the air to claim the honours in competition


Back front back: Three egrets fighting for the best place to fish stand on a frozen lake in Hungary

From herons rudely showing off their behinds while hunting for fish, to hungry cheetahs preparing to pounce on their next dinner - these striking images capture the magic of the animal kingdom.
The photos are entries to the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and are among a field of almost 12,500 entries by photographers from 27 countries.
The winning image, titled 'Stargazer', is a night shot of white-tailed deer in winter at their feeding place in Finland.

Hungry: Four cheetahs prepare to pounce on a gazelle as it runs away as fast as it can

Finnish photographer Tommy Vikars spent countless hours at night in the forest to get the shot.
He worked with a hidden camera, which he could trigger with a remote shutter release, while he sat in his hiding place about 50 metres away from the feeding place, observing the scene through the 300mm lens of a second camera.
He said: 'In the dark it was extremely difficult to see what was going on at the feeding place, and many images would come out useless.

Winning photo: Star-grazing deer search the forest floor for food with stars shining brightly above them

'Often the deer would move too fast or in the wrong direction given the long exposure time.
'For years I spent almost every spare minute in the forest. In the beginning I did not photograph that much, mostly I just wandered around thinking what a fascinating place the forest was with all its secrets to discover, and I realized how healthy, happy and whole I felt on these hikes.
'This is the kind of feeling I aim to convey in my photographs. I wanted to capture the essence of the forest, its spirit.'
The competition European Wildlife Photographer of the Year is run annually by the GDT, the Society of German Nature Photographers.

A hare in a corn field in Austria appears to be quite unperturbed by a photographer's presence

source: dailymail