South African Greg du Toit has been named Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 by a panel of international judges in a prestigious competition run annually by London's Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide.
Du Toit's image Essence of elephants, a mysterious and energetic portrait of African elephants in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana, beat almost 43 000 other entries from 96 countries to take the overall prize.
His photograph will take centre stage at an exhibition of photos from this year's competition that will run at the Natural History Museum from 18 October through 23 March 2014 before embarking on a UK and international tour.
"The acclaimed show celebrates the rich array of life on our planet, reflecting its beauty and also highlighting its fragility," the museum said in a statement on Tuesday following the announcement of the winners at a gala awards ceremony in London.
"Greg spent 10 years on the quest for a perfect portrait of an elephant herd and preparation, passion and luck combined to help him secure this winning image."
According to the UK's Daily Mail, the image was taken from a hide at ground level "using a slow shutter speed to create an atmosphere and show the giant animals in a ghostly way".
Du Toit told BBC Worldwide that his goal had been "to throw caution to the wind ... to abandon conventional photographic practices in an attempt to capture a unique elephant portrait. This image hints at the special energy I feel when I am with elephants."
The chair of the judging panel, accomplished wildlife photographer Jim Brandenburg, said: "Greg's image immediately catapults us to African plains. This image stood out for both its technical excellence and the unique moment it captures - it is truly a once in a lifetime shot."