When you think of wildlife photography, do you see mice brawling on a dirty London Underground platform?
That's the moment that won photographer Sam Rowley the LUMIX People's Choice Award for wildlife photography. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by London's Natural History Museum. Winners were announced on Wednesday.
"The reactions that I've got from so many people have been 'I never knew that they were so cheeky and so silly down on the tube,' " he tells NPR.
The fight lasted only a second before one of the mice grabbed a crumb and they scampered away from each other.
To get the shot, Rowley spent nearly a week down in the London Underground tunnels – much of the time lying flat on his belly to get the right perspective. While on the busy platform, he says he encountered many late-night revelers.
"Just after I took this photo, I was laying down on the platform and the next thing I knew there was this drunk, sweaty guy lying on top of me. And I thought 'What are you doing?' and he was like 'Are you OK? Are you OK?' and I was like 'Yeah, I'm completely fine. I'm obviously just taking photos of the mice, you know, as you do.' And he's like 'Ah, sorry mate, I thought you'd had a heart attack,' " Rowley says.
Rowley was one of 48,000 entries from both professional and amateur photographers across 100 countries. For winning the competition, Rowley – a professional photographer — gets £10,000 — about $13,000. The photo is part of a museum exhibition on display through the end of May.
Nina Kravinsky, Phil Harrell and HJ Mai produced and edited this story for broadcast. Heidi Glenn adapted it for the Web.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
So when you think of wildlife photography, what image comes to mind? I'm assuming it is not vermin brawling on the subway, but an award for wildlife photography just went to an image titled "Station Squabble." It is two mice in silhouette fighting each other on the London Underground.
SAM ROWLEY: I spent nearly a week just down in the tunnels all night, every night. It was an experience, to say the least.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Photographer Sam Rowley won this year's LUMIX People's Choice Award, which is a photography contest run by London's Natural History Museum. He says he wanted to offer a more relatable view of mice on the Underground.
ROWLEY: The reactions I've got from so many people have been, oh, you know, I never knew that they were so cheeky and so silly down on the tube. And, you know, I think it's definitely changed perceptions.
GREENE: I mean, clearly, he chose an unusual location for a nature shot, a busy subway platform, but he really did encounter plenty of wildlife down there.
ROWLEY: There was awfully quite a few revelers, shall we say, on the way home from nights out, which was basically the main challenge was to dodge them and their stampedes.
INSKEEP: Now, if you look at the picture, you can see why stampedes might be a concern. These mice are seen from a very, very low angle. It might seem kind of gross to you, but Sam Rowley had to lie flat on his belly for hours just to capture that split second.
ROWLEY: Just after I took this photo, and I was lying down on the platform, and the next thing I knew was there was this drunk, sweaty guy just lying on top of me. And I was like, what are you doing? Are you OK? Are you OK? And I was like, yeah, I'm completely fine. I'm obviously just taking photos of the mice, you know, as you do (laughter). And he's like, oh, sorry, mate. I thought you'd had a heart attack.
GREENE: Oh, what a scene. OK. So for doing all of this and winning the competition, Rowley gets 10,000 pounds, about $13,000. And that is not all.
ROWLEY: I'm actually terrified of mice and rats, so that was another challenge to overcome. It's probably not the most sensible project for someone like me.
GREENE: He says all of that time spent in the tube has diminished that phobia of his, ever so slightly at least. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.