Incredible Nature: 30 Award-Winning Photos from the 2024 Nature Photographer of the Year

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Here are 30 winning photos from the 2021 Nature Photographer of the Year Awards.

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1. Fred Hazelhoff Portfolio Award Winner: “Emotional Range” by Lea Lee Inoue

nature photographer

“Emotional Range: A Photographic Portfolio of a Family of Round-Tailed Ground SquirrelsSeveral years ago, when I moved to the base of the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, I noticed a family of round-tailed ground squirrels.

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74249I decided to photograph them, hoping to show that these animals also think, feel and have emotions. People often think that dogs and cats are the only animals that have feelings. Could it be that people think this because observation is easier with a pet?My hope is that through photography I can show that all animals think and feel emotions. With this understanding, love and respect for the natural world develops. Conservation is the natural effect of this affection. This is a paradigm shift in thinking: that conservation can start early, at ground level, with each person waking up to the natural world. With this understanding comes respect, conservation and the well-being of animals.”

2. Highly recommended, Birds: “Sundance” by Christian Spencer

“The SUNDANCE photo is part of a collection or series called WINGED PRISMS.A black Jacobean hummingbird hovers in front of the sun in the Atlantic rainforest of Brazil. As sunlight penetrates the wings, it creates a prism effect that fills the feathers with rainbows.This is a natural effect and contains no digital manipulation and cannot be seen with our eyes.I discovered this natural phenomenon in 2011 while I was making a film THE DANCE OF TIME.The film opens with the scene of the hummingbirds facing the sun in slow motion,revealing the secret of rainbows. The film won 11 awards.While trying to make a photo for the DVD cover, I took most of the photos with the same effect, which later became the WINGED PRISMS series.”

3. Winner, Black and White: “White Wedding” by Roie Galitz

nature photographer

“Polar bears in courtship, during a blackout in Svalbard. The wind was so strong and the snow was blowing so hard that I could barely hold my camera steady to frame the bears. We were lost in this blackout for hours, with no point of reference around us. The white polar bears in the white surroundings blended in perfectly and I thought of the Billy Idol song “White Wedding” as the white surrounded me.”

4. Winner, Animal Portraits: “Black Leopard” by William Burrard-Lucas

“Black panthers have fascinated me since childhood and it had always been my dream to photograph one in Africa, but they are so rare and elusive that I never expected to achieve it. Then I heard about a melanistic leopard that had been spotted in Laikipia County in Kenya and knew this could be the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I had been waiting for. In early 2019, I spoke to people who had seen the leopard and, with their help, selected locations for my camera traps. For me, the definitive photo would show the black leopard under the stars in a single exposure. It took me several months of perseverance and many mistakes before I achieved this image. For the image to work, many elements had to come together. First of all, it had to be a cloudless night, which was unusual this time of year. The only way to expose the faint stars was to use a long exposure time and therefore there could be no moon which would otherwise cause ghosting. And, of course, the leopard himself had to appear.”

5. Winner, Landscape: “Dragon’s Lair” by Denis Budkov

nature photographer

“The photo shows the eruption of the highest and most active volcano in the Kamchatka natural park “Klyuchevskoy”. The park is near the “Apakhonchich” seismic station. The lenticular cloud above the summit of the volcano, illuminated by hot lava, creates the impression that a fire-breathing dragon is sitting on the peak below the clouds.I have been photographing the eruptions of this volcano for 10 years now and for the first time I filmed it from this angle. This place is amazing because here you can see 3 volcanoes standing side by side like the great pyramids of Giza. On the right is the highest volcano “Klyuchevskoy” (height 4750 meters). In the middle is the “Kamen” volcano (height 4585 meters) and to the left is the “Bezymyanny” volcano (height 2882 meters). Unfortunately on this day it was covered in clouds.When we went to the shoot, I already knew exactly what photo I would like to take. I had to capture the right moment in the twilight. When it is too light, the volcano is clearly visible, but the incandescent lava is not visible, and vice versa, when it is too dark, the contours of the volcano are not visible, but the lava is clearly visible. Therefore, the main task was to capture the moment when the volcano was still visible and lava was already glowing on its slope. So I used continuous shooting for about 100 frames and it turned out to be the frame I wanted!”

6. Accésit, Pájaros: “Dawn fishing trip” by Miquel Angel Artús Illana

“A group of Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) head out to sea early in the morning, just as the sun rises over the horizon. They will spend the whole day fishing and eating in the sea. When they return they will have to feed their hungry babies, who will wait for them on the beach.The image was taken in El Nec – Saunders Islands – Falkland Islands, where for five days I was isolated with a small group of photographers, only with the company of penguins and oysters, species of birds and mammals.Since the best light was at dawn, I stood on a small hill at five in the morning and waited for the penguins to appear in groups as they usually do. The light and the environment did the rest.”

7. Winner, Plants and Mushrooms: “Heat Of Hoar” by Rupert Kogler

nature photographer

Near my hometown of Linz, Austria, there is a hill partially covered in beautiful forests. And since late autumn there is often thick fog in Linz, I often climb this hill in the hope that a little sun will rise above the cloud cover. Especially areas where sun and fog merge into the forest are what I look for. Even more so when the temperatures are below zero and the fog creates fascinating frost patterns on the tree branches. This particular day I was lucky enough to experience these conditions, but not enough, the sun was already very low and the light was warm. The most fascinating thing for me actually was that the sun melted the frost on the treetops and these ice particles finally fell like a bright curtain from time to time. So I tried to find an attractive composition in the hopes that the rays wouldn’t disappear and some ice would fall in front of me, illuminated by the sun, while using a large aperture to enlarge and blur the bright spots. Once again the magic of nature delivered a memorable and enriching moment.

8. Winner, Other animals: “Walking among fennels” by Rubén Pérez Novo

“The machaon butterfly is one of the most beautiful diurnal butterflies in Europe. They have a large wingspan in relation to other butterflies within Europe. Unfortunately, a consequence of its beauty is that the species is very popular with collectors.The caterpillar of this butterfly, the one that appears in the photo, is also very striking due to its green and yellow color with black stripes and orange dots. These caterpillars are very common among fennels (foeniculum vulgare) and they love to feed on this plant.When I found this little machaon caterpillar it was already a little late and the sun was starting to set. On the horizon were some trees with sunlight shining through them, creating a beautiful background among their leaves. To illuminate and give volume to the caterpillar I used a small LED panel and combining natural and artificial light I created this image. The photo was taken on a hot summer afternoon in mid-August in Ares – Coruña – Spain.”

9. Winner, Art of Nature: “Ice Cell” by Gheorghe Popa

nature photographer

“Ice cell is one of the images from my photo series from the Ice Anatomy 2021 project. Ice Anatomy is a series of aerial photographs of Lake Cuejdel in Romania during the winter, when it is completely frozen. Fresh snow and ice cracks created these shapes that resemble neurons or simply cells. My Ice Anatomy project follows the transformations of ice on the lake over several winters. “This is a topic I have been researching for over two years and I came up with the idea during the winter when I observed the shapes and cracks appearing on the surface of the lake after the freezing and thawing process.”

10. Highly recommended, Mammals: “Twilight Hunters” by Norbert Kovács

“Near my place of residence there is a karst mountain range called Mecsek with numerous sinkholes and caves. During one of my trips through the mountains I came across this small sinkhole. There and then I could see the photo in my mind.I usually take photos in the spring before the trees start budding. I mount and place the equipment before sunset, I take position at the mouth of the cave and when I hear the sound of the bats I know that they are about to leave their nest to hunt one by one. It is an incredible experience to literally feel the wind stirred by the flapping of their wings as they fly past me. When the bats begin their hunt, I usually wait about two hours at the location because then their activity level decreases.Although I am still invisible to them, they can feel my body temperature when they leave the cave. Some bats are more cautious and return to the cave at first. However, when they realize that I am not harming them, they also fly away. Since they are an endangered species, I only disturb their life cycle for two or three days in the spring.I have observed individuals of two species so far:1. Lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros)2. Murciélago de herradura grande (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum)The photo was taken from the mouth of a karst mountain sinkhole. Due to the long exposure time, I placed the camera on a bean bag. The exposure was monitored over a Wi-Fi network using a cell phone. I used a flash for the light source that was set to strobe mode with manual flash.”

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