From the furry to the tender and the scary, the images of nature that won this year’s World Nature Photography Awards (WNPA) capture spectacular moment of life on our precious and endangered planet.
A mud-caked crocodile surveying his surroundings with a piercing yellow eye at Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe by German photographer Jens Cullmann won the top $1,000 prize.
“This photograph is the result of my staking out the largest pool in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe, at a time when an extended drought had reduced the pool to rapidly-drying mud,” Jens Cullmann explains.
“I had to be very careful not to disturb the crocodile, even though it was buried in dry mud. They will launch themselves with tremendous speed and power at any animal foolish enough to come too close.”
During the dry season, temperatures can reach 45 degrees Celsius and crocodiles will attempt to reduce their body temperature by burying themselves in mud. A giant crocodile such as this one could survive submerged for a month without eating by living off its fat reserves. This is a process known as aestivation.
The overall winner and the gold, silver and bronze winners of the various categories were chosen from thousands of entries submitted from 45 countries across six continents.
“When great science and great art combine, amazing things can be achieved,” the organizers said.
“We congratulate all our winners and offer our deepest thanks for capturing such spectacular images of our precious planet,” said Adrian Dinsdale, co-founder of WNPA. “Once again, we hope it provides great motivation to us all to do everything we can to protect the Earth for future generations.”
Upon announcing the winners, WNPA officially opened the call for entries for this year.
The World Nature Photography Awards were founded in the belief that we can all make small efforts to shape the future of our world in a positive way and that photography can influence people to see the world from a different perspective and change their own habits for the good of the planet.
From landscape photography to animals in their habitats, photojournalism and humans’ interaction with nature, there are 14 categories in the contest that is free to enter.
See all the winning images here.
An African Savannah Elephant, Loxodonta africana, camouflaging itself behind a too-small bush at Marataba Private Reserve, Marakele National Park in Limpopo, South Africa.
The elephant stepped in behind the bush in an apparent attempt to hide itself from Widstrand’s car. The car stopped so the passengers could watch and the animals seemed to realize its cover had been blown. It walked calmly away.
These elephants are endangered, according to the IUCN Red List.
Behavior: Amphibians and reptiles
The Japanese stream toad lives deep in the mountains of Owase in Mie, Japan, and only comes down from the mountains to the river when it is time to spawn.
A male Hooded Merganser takes flight, heading directly at the photographer. “I had been watching a pair of Hooded Mergansers in anticipation of them taking off,” Charles Schmidt recalled. “Ducks will often begin swimming more quickly when they are preparing to fly.”
A red crab in La Gomera Island, Spain, appears surrounded by a thin curtain of water produced by the waves of the sea when it hits the rocks where it searches for the small crustaceans and plants it feeds on.
Black and White
Corals are animals and this is how they reproduce to create new generations of baby corals.
Usually, at the exact same time, thousands of corals of a given species along hundreds of kilometers of the reef reproduce by spawning egg-and-sperm bundles together into the open sea. These bundles will be carried away by the currents, mixing in the water until they finally encounter a match. A sperm will fertilize an egg and new life will be created.
Yet, catching coral spawning is tricky business as it usually happens only once a year, in a certain month on a specific night of the month and at a certain hour of the night for a very short window of only a few minutes.
In this photo, a close up of a branching coral spawn pinkish egg-and-sperm bundles.
This is a unique presentation of Red Spider mites. “I found these mites in my backyard during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown period,” said Anirban Dutta. “These are very tiny in size, approximately 1-2 millimeters, and make a silky web net to escape from predators.
As macro photographer, I have always tried to search and show the unique and unseen small world. This is a multiple exposure shot. I have taken fuve shots in different angles and merged them into one.”
A couple of Harlequin shrimps, Hymanocera picta, photographed with the snoot on the blue sea-star Linkia laevigata in Lembeh strait, Indonesia.
Plants and fungi
“The tree is seen as a sacred symbol, which carries significant meanings in both religious and spiritual philosophies,” said Julie Kenny. “From above, the surrounding sheep tracks combined with the fallen tree reminded me of the Tree of Life. While the aerial perspective focuses on the earth, you can see the pooled water in the sheep tracks reflecting hints of blue from the sky and communicating the interconnection of all things, beginnings and endings, the cycling of life.”
Planet Earth’s landscapes and environments
“On June 17th, 2021, I hiked, snowshoed, and climbed to the 11,000-foot summit of Wyoming’s Table Mountain to photograph the Milky Way over Grand Teton Peak,” said Jake Mosher. “While these iconic mountains have been photographed tens of thousands of times, I wanted to show an entirely unique view of them. I was treated to one of the most spectacular displays of airglow that I’ve ever seen, similar to the aurora and created by photo-charged particles but spanning much of the horizon.”
A male common kestrel perches in its nest, a dilapidated tall and rusty street lamps that has become the bird’s home. “I took the picture at sunset to see the rust, the lamps and the bird in natural light,” said Vladislav Tasev. “The photo was taken in the town of Stara Zagora near the Thracian University, in an abandoned parking lot near a small forest.
An Australian fur seal in Port Kembla, Australia, shows severe injuries from a boat’s propeller.