ODDLY enough for a competition with the heft of something that ought to come around once every few years, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year is an annual event, this year’s winners barely out on the road before next year’s applicants have submitted their shots.

And what painstaking shots. Wildlife photography is about graft, patience, inspiration and a certain luck that is usually a result of the first three, but the results must betray nothing of the weeks, months, years, even, spent endlessly tracking the same group of animals or watching the same watering hole, the same garden view, the same patch of sky.

And the 100 images from 2017 are superb examples, writ large on back-lit panels in the National Museum’s main gallery space for the first time – and so also attracting, for the first time, an entry fee. Much life, under the water and beneath the skies, is here, from a science fiction-esque shot of three divers investigating the underwater footprint of a vast iceberg, to a sperm whale gathering and an octopus trying to grab its prey amongst an army of crabs.

The overall Wildlife Photographer of the Year is South African photojournalist Brent Stirton, for his visceral image of a slaughtered black rhino, shot by poachers, with its horn brutally hacked off. Compelling, damning and incredibly sad, the photograph was taken as part of an undercover investigation into the devastation of the rhino horn trade.

The Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year is Daniel Nelson of the Netherlands for his image of a young gorilla – also an endangered species – lounging in the forest of Odzala-Kokua National Park in the Republic of Congo, munching on a snack of breadfruit.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year, National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, 0300 123 6789, www.nms ac.uk Until 29 April, daily 10am – 5pm, £8/£6/children free

Sarah Urwin Jones