Michael “Nick” Nichols tracked the pride of big cats for six months before capturing this stunning shot, which stretches all the way to the horizon and includes a dramatic African sky.
The great sense of depth is enhanced by the use of infrared, which cuts through the haze.
WPY is 50 years old this year.
Supported from the outset by the BBC, it has grown into one of the world’s foremost photo competitions.
Judge Magdalena Herrera is director of photography at GEO France, as well as being a veteran of National Geographic France.
She said American Nichols’ composition had all the elements of a perfect picture.
“It tells you about behaviour, about the photographic techniques today, and it shows you the relationship of the animal to its environment,” she told BBC News.
“What is striking about Nick’s picture is its narrative – it’s not just a portrait; there’s a whole story going on inside it. And the black and white gives it a feeling of reportage.”
This story is of the females of the Vumbi pride in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.
They are sleeping with their cubs in the late-afternoon sunshine, having just fought and driven off a couple of over inquisitive males.
Nichols caught the scene, which he calls The Last Great Picture, from on top of his vehicle.
He said the infrared transformed the light, turning “The moment into something primal, biblical almost”.
Three of the females were killed a few months later when the pride ventured on to land beyond the park.
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