WHEN I visited the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at The Base in Greenham I was expecting to enjoy looking at some stunning photographs of animals and nature.

I wasn’t expecting to be so inspired and moved by the incredible display. But the exhibition on loan from the Natural History Museum in London is far more than just pretty pictures of the natural world.

The world-renowned exhibition features exceptional images which capture fascinating animal behaviour, spectacular species and breathtaking diversity.

Using photography’s unique emotive power to engage and inspire audiences, the images shine a light on stories and species around the world, encouraging a future of advocating for the planet.

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Basingstoke Gazette: Wildlife Photographer of the Year at The BaseTo put it simply, Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the most prestigious photography event of its kind, and it is on display right here, in Greenham, just a 20-minute drive from Basingstoke.

The competition this year attracted an astounding 49,957 entries from photographers of all ages and experience levels from 95 countries. During an intense week at the Natural History Museum, entries were judged anonymously on their creativity, originality, and technical excellence by an international panel of industry experts.

This year’s award-winning images are on show at The Base in the 59th year of the competition which launched in 1965, before going on an international tour to allow them to be seen by more than a million people.

I felt incredibly privileged to be one of those to see this exhibition in person. Walking around the display, the sounds of nature add to the experience such as gentle raindrops pattering, a torrential tropical downpour and crashing waves.

Inspirational quotes from some of the judging panel are displayed around the room, including from Celina Chien, an artist and storyteller, who encourages curiosity wherever you live.

“You don’t need to travel far to explore the natural world. Discover nature on your doorstep. Observe it, listen to it and be curious in everything you do,” she said.

Others advocate for experimentation and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Stefano Unterthiner, wildlife and conservation photographer and judge, said: “Don’t be afraid to try something different. When you leave your comfort zone, you have to be brave. Look for ways to convey emotion with original and fresh approaches.”

Accompanying each image is a description of what it is and how it was captured.

It was fascinating to find out the extraordinary lengths some photographers went to capture the perfect image, and their patience to wait for that winning shot.

Some were educational, such as Star of the Sea by D’Artangnan Sprengel, from New Zealand, who captured the reef starfish in its environment, with the evening light emphasising its rich colour.

Basingstoke Gazette: Wildlife Photographer of the Year at The BaseHaving set his heart on photographing the reef starfish, he faced a challenge finding them. They were only visible for about 10 minutes when the tide was at its lowest.

“Then I had to run back and forth between the waves,” he explained.

The starfish play a vital role in controlling populations of New Zealand green-lipped mussels by feeding on them. Without the carnivorous reef starfish, the mussels could out-compete other species on the shoreline.

Other photographs were artistic and breathtakingly beautiful, such as the winner of the under-18s category October Walk by 14-year-old Mia Lamb from Canon.

She had captured mushrooms growing on a tree, the evening light illuminating them and creating a majestic, magical photograph that could be from the pages of a fairytale.

Basingstoke Gazette: Wildlife Photographer of the Year at The BasePerhaps the most moving part of the exhibition for me was the photojournalism category, with each image telling a powerful or thought-provoking story, sometimes heartbreaking.

Fight to the Death by Jasper Doest from the Netherlands showed the final moments of extreme distress felt by an elephant hit by a train.

The collision had shattered the elephant's hip beyond repair and it had to be killed. Taken at Lope National Park in Gabon, Jasper witnessed the episode. There are regular wildlife-train collisions at the park, despite the director’s efforts to get the train company to slow trains.

The exhibition at The Base finishes on Sunday, April 14, giving people living locally just a few days left to witness this unique glimpse into our natural yet fragile natural world.

To book tickets visit thebasegreenham.co.uk