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The world’s best nature photographs of 2021 revealed

March 11, 2022

The winners of the 2021 World Nature Photography Awards (WNPAs) have been announced with Amos Nachoum named as World Nature Photographer of the Year for a breath-taking image of a leopard seal and a Gentoo penguin. 

The WNPAs 2021 received entries from over 20 countries and six continents around the world.

The top award and cash prize of $1000 went to Amos Nachoum, from the United States, for his image of a leopard seal about to capture a defenceless Gentoo penguin (shown above).

To capture the image Nachoum waited patiently for hours on the remote island of Plano, off the Antarctic Peninsula. The right moment came at low tide, when the seals stealthily enter a lagoon and search for their prey.

Double winner

Nachoum’s overall winning image also won the ‘Behaviour – Mammals’ category of the 2021 WNPAs.

Adrian Dinsdale, co-founder of the WNPAs, said: ‘As always, it’s such a thrill to see the amazing calibre of entries into the awards. Seeing these images cannot fail to motivate one to do everything to protect this fragile planet of ours. We offer our heartfelt congratulations to all the winners.’

Please see below to discover the three winning images in each category (listed alphabetically) and the stories behind many of the winning photographs:


Animals in their habitat

GOLD – Thomas Vijayan (Canada)

A male Bornean orangutan. © Thomas Vijayan/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

A male Bornean orangutan. © Thomas Vijayan/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Thomas Vijayan explained, ‘Mature male orangutans have large flappy cheek-pads, known as flanges, a throat sac used to make loud verbalisations called long calls. Once they reach maturity, they spend most of their time alone, about 90%. I was lucky enough to get this fully-grown, matured orangutan giving me the best pose possible.’

SILVER – Celia Kujala (USA)

Celia Kujala's shot 'Open wide' of a juvenile California sea lion, Coronado Islands, Baja California, Mexico. © Celia Kujala/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

‘Open wide’, a juvenile California sea lion, Coronado Islands, Baja California, Mexico. © Celia Kujala/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

BRONZE – Christian Tuckwell-Smith (UK)

Christian Tuckwell-Smith's polar bear picture 'North Of The Wall'. © Christian Tuckwell-Smith/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

The polar bear picture ‘North Of The Wall’. © Christian Tuckwell-Smith/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Christian Tuckwell-Smith revealed, ‘A solitary female polar bear slowly wandered along the ice edge in front of a huge glacial wall nestled in the bay of Isbukta on the eastern coast of Svalbard. Photographing her from a nearby zodiac boat, this enormous bear was put into perspective by the towering glacier and gave a sense of the vastness of the icy wilderness. Although this scene was stunning, it also seemed a poignant one; a glacier and a polar bear – two icons of the Arctic with uncertain futures in the face of climate change.’


Animal portraits

GOLD – Tom Vierus (Fiji)

Tom Vierus's image of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis), Bali, Indonesia. © Tom Vierus/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Tom Vierus’s image of long-tailed macaques, Bali, Indonesia. © Tom Vierus/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Tom Vierus explained, ‘Three long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) enjoy the warmth of each other during a hot day in Bali, Indonesia. These animals show very similar behaviour to us humans including enjoying each others company. The macaques are used to humans and are commonly found around temples where they tend to feed on food sacrifices donated by the temple visitors.’

SILVER – Neelutpaul Barua (India)

A doting brown bear (ursus arctos beringianus)mother and her cubs, South Kamchatka Sanctuary, Russia. © Neelutpaul Barua/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

A doting brown bear (ursus arctos beringianus) mother and her cubs, South Kamchatka Sanctuary, Russia. © Neelutpaul Barua/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Neelupaul Barua revealed, ‘Brown bear cubs, like all other young ones, are extremely playful and curious and the mothers have to find ways to curtail their bursts of energy. Generally female brown bears with cubs do not approach large congregations of bears fishing for salmon to avoid risking their cubs being killed by another bear as brown bears practice infanticide. This mother had a long day providing for her and the cubs. When she sat down close to catch some rest, the two cubs continued to play amongst themselves. By lying down on the ground I could capture an eye level frame that vividly captured the expression of a watchful mother and the carefree nature of the cubs.’

BRONZE – Amit Eshel (Israel)

e' shows a female puma and her cubs, Patagonia, Chile. © Amit Eshel/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Amit Eshel’s image ‘Lessons for life’ shows a female puma and her cubs, Patagonia, Chile. © Amit Eshel/World Nature Photography Awards 2021


Behaviour – amphibians & reptiles

GOLD – Shayne Kaye (Canada)

Pacific Tree Frog at Outerbridge Park in Victoria, Canada. © Shayne Kaye/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Pacific Tree Frog at Outerbridge Park in Victoria, Canada. © Shayne Kaye/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Shayne Kaye revealed, ‘This shot came out of a “nothing” outing to a local park. It was the middle of a sunny summer day with harsh light and little activity. After going out with low expectations, I came across this tiny Pacific Tree Frog on a flower. After waiting for it to move into a more photogenic position on the flower, and trying repeatedly to catch the mottled light through the tree’s leaves above it at exactly the right spot, I got exactly what I was hoping for. It proved to me that there’s really no bad time to head into nature with a camera!

SILVER – Massimo Giorgetta (Italy)

American crocodile, Gardens of the queen, Cuba. © Massimo Giorgetta/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

American crocodile, Gardens of the queen, Cuba. © Massimo Giorgetta/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

BRONZE – Patrick Nowotny (USA)

Patrick Nowotny's shot 'Hang on' shows a green iguana in Costa Rica. © Patrick Nowotny/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Patrick Nowotny’s shot ‘Hang on’ shows a green iguana in Costa Rica. © Patrick Nowotny/World Nature Photography Awards 2021


Behaviour – birds

GOLD – Ashok Behara (India)

Vulture and fox feasting on wildebeest, Masai Mara, Kenya. © Ashok Behera/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

A wildebeest’s eyes being gorged by an African vulture, keenly watched by an African fox for an opportunity to scavenge, Masai Mara, Kenya. © Ashok Behera/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

SILVER – Robert Ross (USA)

Red billed queleas, Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania. © Robert Ross/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Red billed queleas, Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania. © Robert Ross/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

BRONZE – Robert Maynard (UK)

'Cormorant Uprising', black cormorants, Heath Pond, Hampshire, UK. © Robert Maynard/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

‘Cormorant Uprising’, black cormorants, Heath Pond, Hampshire, UK. © Robert Maynard/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Robert Maynard revealed, ‘The black Cormorant has been special to me, since my very first ever experience of photographing this magnificent creature. An hour before sunrise, with my gear set up, I was ready and waiting on the jetty overlooking the lake. The sun rose, its powerful light burning through the morning mist – it looked magical. A Cormorant swam to a nearby boat and climbed aboard, then another and then another and so on. It was a busy morning on the lake. My patience had paid off. I was blown away by what I had witnessed – to see so many Cormorants climbing out of the water, through the mist which hugged the lake. So rare to capture the lake in stillness – no movement from the boat – making the image elegant in its simplicity. I shall never be so fortunate again for I have had my Cormorants morning.’


Behaviour – invertebrates

GOLD – Chin Leong Teo (Singapore)

'Ants Crossing', red ants, Indonesia. © Chin Leong Teo/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

‘Ants Crossing’, red ants, Indonesia. © Chin Leong Teo/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Chin Leong Teo explained, ‘The common red ant is ingenious at traversing terrain. When front scout ants encounter a water obstacle, they intuitively form an “ant-bridge” with their bodies, so that their ant-mates at the back of the party can cross.’

SILVER – Lincoln Macgregor (Australia)

Hawk moth 'Hovering for Nectar', Kangaroo Valley Region, New South Wales, Australia. © Lincoln Macgregor/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Hawk moth ‘Hovering for Nectar’, Kangaroo Valley Region, New South Wales, Australia. © Lincoln Macgregor/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Lincoln Macgregor revealed,This hawk moth emerged after sunset to sip nectar from garden flowers, always remaining hovering in mid-air as it fed in the dim glow of the surrounding houselights. Over several weeks in summer, multitudes of these moths emerge to do the same each night. In the evening light these hawk moths can be difficult to notice, however their audible wingbeats are a giveaway of their arrival. It’s exciting to see that around homes in urban gardens certain forms of wildlife can still thrive.’

BRONZE – Irina Petrova Adamatzky (UK)

Green huntsman spider (Micrommata virescens) and a vinegar fly (Drosophila melanogaster), Magnitogorsk, Russia. © Irina Petrova Adamatzky/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Green huntsman spider (Micrommata virescens) and a vinegar fly (Drosophila melanogaster), Magnitogorsk, Russia. © Irina Petrova Adamatzky/World Nature Photography Awards 2021


Behaviour – Mammals

Amos Nachoum has been named World Nature Photographer of the Year 2021 for this image 'Facing reality'. © Amos Nachoum/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Amos Nachoum has been named World Nature Photographer of the Year 2021 for this image ‘Facing reality’. He also won the Behaviour – mammals category with the image. © Amos Nachoum/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Amos Nachoum revealed, ‘For hours, I waited for the low tide to arrive along a shallow lagoon on a remote island off the Antarctic Peninsula. Like clockwork, the leopard seal arrived in the lagoon just before low tide. It put its head in the water and looked just like a rock sitting in the receding water. The young Gentoo penguins only dare to enter the water when it is shallow and when they got close enough to the seal, it turned its head at lightning speed, catching one of the penguins by its feet and taking it to deep water. Once the seal reached open water, I followed it and swam parallel to it, observing its actions. To my surprise, it let go of the penguin twice. Each time, the seal chased after the penguin again, as if it was enjoying the game. The terrified penguin tried to escape as the game continued. But soon, the end came.’ 

SILVER – William Fortescue (UK)

'Rumble in the Jungle', two bull elephants sparring with each other, Amboseli National Park, Kenya. © William Fortescue/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

‘Rumble in the Jungle’, two bull elephants sparring with each other, Amboseli National Park, Kenya. © William Fortescue/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

BRONZE – Buddhilini de Soyza (Australia)

'A turbulent swim', five male cheetahs, Masai Mara, Kenya. © Buddhilini de Soyza/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

‘A turbulent swim’, five male cheetahs, Masai Mara, Kenya. © Buddhilini de Soyza/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Buddhilini de Soyza revealed, ‘Monstrous rains in Masai Mara Kenya during January of 2020 caused one of the major rivers to flood and become larger and more violent than ever before.  The world’s only recorded coalition of five male cheetahs, was looking to cross this river in terrifyingly powerful currents. It seemed a task doomed to failure, with many famous cheetahs dying trying to cross much fewer daunting waters. After hours of careful searching along the banks, they suddenly jumped into the water and began trying to swim across this maelstrom of water as we watched terrified, they would be washed away or eaten by crocodiles. Their aim was to cross over to the other side, which was part of their territory and full of game. The lead cheetah looked straight at us during the crossing while gritting teeth with swimming effort, as if accusing us of not helping them and watching them about to die. We screamed with delight as we saw them finally cross over about a 100m downstream from where they jumped.’


Black and white

GOLD – Vince Burton (UK)

Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) walking through a snowstorm, Iceland. © Vince Burton/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) walking through a snowstorm, Iceland. © Vince Burton/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Vince Burton revealed, A recent trip to Iceland where we were lucky to view and photograph the rare ‘blue morph’ Arctic fox. The weather conditions were extreme, but that didn’t seem to bother the fox.’

SILVER – Avanka Fernando (Sri Lanka)

'Mother's love', a Toque macaque being fed by its mother, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. © Avanka Fernando/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

‘Mother’s love’, a Toque macaque being fed by its mother, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. © Avanka Fernando/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

BRONZE – Michael Stavrakakis (Australia)

A family of Asiatic elephants, Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka. © Michael Stavrakakis /World Nature Photography Awards 2021

A family of Asiatic elephants, Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka. © Michael Stavrakakis /World Nature Photography Awards 2021


Nature art

GOLD – Federico Testi (Italy)

Landscape with trees, San Quirico d'orcia, Tuscany, Italy. © Federico Testi/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Landscape with trees, San Quirico d’orcia, Tuscany, Italy. © Federico Testi/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Federico Testi explained, ‘The natural creativity of San Quirico d’orcia, in Tuscany, Italy. Waves, shapes and tone created by light, in harmony with the universe.’

SILVER – Monika Schneider (Germany)

Dandelions. © Monika Schneider/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Dandelions. © Monika Schneider/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

BRONZE – Gabriel Barathieu (Mayotte)

Lettuce coral, Raja Ampat, Indonesia. © Gabriel Barathieu/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Lettuce coral, Raja Ampat, Indonesia. © Gabriel Barathieu/World Nature Photography Awards 2021


Nature photojournalism

GOLD – Alain Schroeder (Belgium), for ‘Saving orangutans’

Saving a three-month-old female orangutan, Sibolangit, SOCP Quarantine Centre, North Sumatra, Indonesia. © Alain Schroeder/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Saving orangutans: saving a three-month-old female orangutan, Sibolangit, SOCP Quarantine Centre, North Sumatra, Indonesia. © Alain Schroeder/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Alain Schroeder explained,The whole SOCP team works together to prepare Brenda, an estimated 3-month-old female orangutan (she has no teeth yet), for surgery. A sedative is administered, the arm is shaved, her temperature is taken, while others hold her head or her hand out of compassion for the baby. During the three-hour procedure, Dr. Andreas Messikommer, a renowned orthopaedic surgeon invited from Switzerland, will place a pin and screws to secure the damaged humerus. Brenda was confiscated from a villager in Blang Pidie on the west coast of Aceh who was keeping her as a pet.’

SILVER – Alexej Sachov (Ukraine)

True Maldives: a hotel sewage pipe, Maldives. © Alexej Sachov/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

True Maldives: a hotel sewage pipe, Maldives. © Alexej Sachov/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

BRONZE – Bence Mate (Hungary)

'Sickening Delicacy', frogs and toads with legs removed for human consumption, Carpathian Mountains, Romania. © Bence Mate/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

‘Sickening Delicacy’, frogs and toads with legs removed for human consumption, Carpathian Mountains, Romania. © Bence Mate/World Nature Photography Awards 2021


People and nature

GOLD – Sabrina Inderbitzi (Switzerland)

Ice cave, Lake Baikal, Russia. © Sabrina Inderbitzi/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Ice cave, Lake Baikal, Russia. © Sabrina Inderbitzi/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Sabrina Inderbitzi revealed, ‘I crawled into this ice cave on the totally frozen Lake Baikal in Russia. First, I didn’t like the fact that the car and the people were in the middle of my picture, but then on a second view I found it just perfect.’

SILVER – Mike Eyett (Austria)

'Capturing the movement', a scuba diver with a school of mackerel, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico. © Mike Eyett/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

‘Capturing the movement’, a scuba diver with a school of mackerel, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico. © Mike Eyett/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

BRONZE – Dr. Gaetano Gargiulo (Australia)

A discarded beer bottle as the home of a blenny nest, Chowder Bay, New South Wales, Australia. © Dr. Gaetano Gargiulo/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

A discarded beer bottle as the home of a blenny nest, Chowder Bay, New South Wales, Australia. © Dr. Gaetano Gargiulo/World Nature Photography Awards 2021


Planet Earth’s landscapes and environments

GOLD – Sam Wilson (Australia)

Landscape, South Island, New Zealand. © Sam Wilson/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Landscape, South Island, New Zealand. © Sam Wilson/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Sam Wilson revealed, Travelling down random dirt roads can be so rewarding when you are greeted with scenes like this. Taken on South Island, New Zealand.’

SILVER – Alessandro Gruzza (Italy)

Pumice stone field, Catamarca Province, Argentina. © Alessandro GruzzaWorld Nature Photography Awards 2021

Pumice Stone Field, Catamarca Province, Argentina. © Alessandro Gruzza/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Alessandro Gruzza explained, ‘The Argentinian puna is a remote wilderness of pure beauty and strong diversity. Nature has shaped the land in such a different way with amazing colours and textures. A telephoto lens allows focusing on particulars searching for “a landscape within the landscape”. The Pumice Stone Field is a giant deposit of white pumice formed by the eruption of a volcano dated 15 millions of years ago. The porous stone pops up between the volcanic sand in the foreground and the strongly eroded mountains in the background, rising above the desert plateau at 3,300 metres.’

BRONZE – Rie Asada (Japan)

'Winter fang', ice falls, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. © Rie Asada/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

‘Winter fang’, ice falls, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. © Rie Asada/World Nature Photography Awards 2021


Plants and fungi

GOLD – Gautam Kamat Bambolkar (USA)

Abandoned house, Goa, India. © Gautam Kamat Bambolkar/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Abandoned house, Goa, India. © Gautam Kamat Bambolkar/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Gautam Kamat Bambolkar explained, ‘Entrance to a room inside an abandoned house in Goa, India. It is fascinating how mother nature takes over from where man has left.’

SILVER – Vladislav Tasev (UK)

Young pine, covered with snow, Central Stara Planina, Bulgaria. © Vladislav Tasev/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Young pine, covered with snow, Central Stara Planina, Bulgaria. © Vladislav Tasev/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

BRONZE – Jan Czeczotka (Germany)

Panaeolus papilionaceus fungi on his habitat, on cow dung, Allgaeuer region, Bavaria, Germany. © Jan Czeczotka/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Panaeolus papilionaceus fungi on his habitat, on cow dung, Allgaeuer region, Bavaria, Germany. © Jan Czeczotka/World Nature Photography Awards 2021


Urban wildlife

GOLD – Matthijs Noome (USA)

Humpback whale's fluke with the New York City in the background, USA. © Matthijs Noome/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Humpback whale’s fluke with the New York City in the background, USA. © Matthijs Noome/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Matthijs Noome explained, ‘Finally got the shot I wanted: a humpback’s fluke with the New York City downtown skyline in the distance. As water quality measures and conservation efforts start to show real results over the last years, humpback whales are becoming more and more a common sight in New York waters.’

SILVER – Mohammad Murad (Kuwait)

An Arabian red fox kitten exploring the night just outside its den, Kuwait City. © Mohammad Murad/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

An Arabian red fox kitten exploring the night just outside its den, Kuwait City. © Mohammad Murad/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

Mohammad Murad explained, ‘Arabian Red Foxes usually breed in the desert far away from humans, so this was a really rare case that I monitored for almost three months. I found two dens near the city of Kuwait; each den had a family of five kittens with their parents. One den was really near the houses next to the shore of Kuwait and the other den was next to houses, but in an old palm reserve. This was taken in Kuwait City, an area near to the shore called Doha. The colourful lights are street and car lights. The rim light/backlight is two small, continuous light “hand flash lights”. Once the mother dug and hid food, I put those flash lights and waited for her and the cubs to come and dig the food back up… this is how I got this shot. I went to the foxes’ den for about three months, maybe four days a week, and stayed for three to five hours after sunset.’

BRONZE – Alex Pansier (Netherlands)

A fox in an industrial area of the Netherlands. © Alex Pansier/World Nature Photography Awards 2021

A fox in an industrial area of the Netherlands. © Alex Pansier/World Nature Photography Awards 2021


The WNPA’s mission

The World Nature Photography Awards were founded in the belief that we can all make small efforts to shape the future of our planet 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.

Enter the 2022 competition

Upon announcing the winners of the 2021 competition, the team also officially opened call for entries for this year. ‘Early Bird’ rates are available until 31 March 2022.

The 2022 competition is open to both amateur and professional photographers and has 14 categories.

All entrants must be over the age of 18.

To find out more about the rules and to enter, simply go to World Nature Photography Awards 2022.


Related articles:

Best photography competitions to enter in 2022

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Art Wolfe on his approach to night photography

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 winners announced

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