13 stunning winning photos from the Nature Photographer of the Year Awards

A gorilla runs through the forest.
“Silverbach Chimanuka” by Josef Friedhuber.

  • The Nature Photographer of the Year contest announced its 2021 winners.
  • Judges chose winners in categories such as “Mammals,” “Underwater,” and “Landscape.”
  • The overall winning image by Terje Kolaas captured a flock of pink-footed geese escaping the cold.

Youth winner: An alpine ibex frolics in “Beautiful World” by Levi Fitze.

The silhouette of a doe in the dark.
“Beautiful World” by Levi Fitze.

“A young alpine ibex strolls dreamily across an alpine meadow,” Fitze wrote. “The flowers in the foreground and the sun breaking through the clouds in the background give this image something unique. It shows the beauty of our nature and the carefree life that this young ibex is living during the warm summer months.”

Animal Portrait winner: William Burrard-Lucas’ “Black Leopard” shows the rare animal in the wild.

A black leopard at night.
“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,” Burrard-Lucas wrote. “Then I heard about a melanistic leopard that had been seen in Kenya’s Laikipia County and I knew this could be the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I had been waiting for.”

Landscape winner: “Dragon’s Lair” by Denis Budkov shows a volcano mid-eruption.

A volcano erupting.
“Dragon’s Lair” by Denis Budkov.

“The photo shows the eruption of the highest and most active volcano in the natural park Kamchatka, Klyuchevskoy,” Budkov wrote. “The park is near the seismic station Apakhonchich. The lenticular cloud above the top of the volcano, illuminated by hot lava, creates the impression that a fire-breathing dragon is sitting on the top under the clouds.”

Fred Hazelhoff Portfolio Award winner: Lea Lee Inoue’s series “Emotional Range” captures the many moods of ground squirrels.

A ground squirrel belly flops.
“Emotional Range” by Lea Lee Inoue.

“Several years back, when moved out to the base of the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, I noticed a round-tailed ground squirrel family,” Inoue wrote. “I decided to photograph them, hoping to show that these animals think, feel and have emotions too.”

You can view the entire “Emotional Range” series on the Nature Photographer of the Year website. It took the Fred Hazelhoff Portfolio Award, named for the Dutch nature photographer.

Nature of “De Lage Landen” winner: Andius Teijgeler titled this photo “Fox Crossing the Bridge.”

A fox crossing a bridge.
“Fox Crossing the Bridge” by Andius Teijgeler.

“During the spring, I went for many evenings to the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen to look for foxes and cubs,” Tejgeler wrote. “Due to the frequent visits, we knew a bit more about the behavior of some of the foxes. This fox has crossed this bridge regularly in the spring.”

Plants and Fungi winner: Sun streams through trees covered with hoar frost in “Heat of Hoar” by Rupert Kogler.

Sun streams through trees in a forest.
“Heat of Hoar” by Rupert Kogler.

“Close to my hometown of Linz, Austria, there’s a hill partially covered with some nice forests,” Kogler wrote. “And since in late autumn, there’s quite often heavy fog in Linz, I often go up this hill hoping for some sun above the layer of clouds, especially the areas where sun and fog merge in the woods. When the temperatures are below zero, the fog creates mesmerizing patterns of hoar frost on the branches of the trees.”

Nature Art winner: Gheorghe Popa’s aerial photo of a frozen lake resembles an “Ice Cell.”

An aerial photo of a frozen lake.
“Ice Cell” by Gheorghe Popa.

“‘Ice Cell’ is one of the images from my 2021 Ice Anatomy project photo series,” Popa wrote. “Ice Anatomy is an aerial series of photos of the Cuejdel Lake in Romania during the winter when it is completely frozen. The fresh snow and the ice cracks created these shapes that resemble neurons or cells.”

Underwater winner: Georg Nies took this photo of a red pygmy seahorse, titled “Red In Red.”

A red pygmy seahorse.
“Red In Red” by Georg Nies.

“Photographing pygmy seahorses is an extremely difficult business,” Nies wrote. “They are very small; rarely larger than two centimeters. But above all, they are very well-camouflaged and difficult to find in the gorgonians in which they live. Even if you know that a seahorse is living in a gorgonian, does not guarantee that you will find them. Thanks to years of experience and a local dive guide who knows where to find the animals, it can be possible.”

Human and Nature winner: A swordfish swims through the sea in “The King of the Ocean” by Francisco Javier Murcia Requena.

A swordfish swims through the ocean.
“The King of the Ocean” by Francisco Javier Murcia Requena.

“The image shows a juvenile swordfish (Xiphias gladius) inside the labyrinth that forms ‘the Almadraba,’ an ancient fishing art used since the times of the Romans and Phoenicians that is currently used to catch large pelagic fish, such as tuna,” Requena wrote.

Black and White winner: Roie Galitz titled this image of polar bears in courtship “White Wedding.”

Polar bears in the snow.
“White Wedding” by Roie Galitz.

“The wind was so strong and the snow was blown so strongly, I almost couldn’t keep my camera steady to frame the bears,” Galitz wrote. “We were lost in this whiteout for hours, with no point of reference around us. The white polar bears in the white surrounding blended perfectly and I thought about the song by Billy Idol ‘White Wedding’ as the white surrounded me.”

Other Animals winner: Ruben Perez Novo photographed a caterpillar on a branch in “Walking Among Fennels.”

A caterpillar on a branch.
“Walking Among Fennels” by Ruben Perez Novo.

“The machaon butterfly is one of the most beautiful diurnal butterflies in Europe,” Novo wrote. “They have a large wingspan in relation to other butterflies within Europe. Unfortunately, a consequence of its beauty is that the species are very popular by collectors. The caterpillar of this butterfly, the one that appears in the photo, is also very striking because of its color in green and yellow with black stripes and orange points. These caterpillars are very common to be found among fennels (Foeniculum vulgare) and they love to feed on this plant.”

Mammals winner: A gorilla runs through the forest in “Silverbach Chimanuka” by Josef Friedhuber.

A gorilla runs through the forest.
“Silverbach Chimanuka” by Josef Friedhuber.

“The photo was taken in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, close to Lake Kivu,” Friedhuber wrote. “There are two habituated groups of eastern lowland gorillas in the park. Chimanuka is the silverback of one group with about 20 individuals … The females were eating in the bushes out of the sight of Chimanuka. Suddenly, he came out of the bush about five meters in front of me, drumming on his breast and showing his impressive behavior. I was frightened and fell back in a bush. While falling I took the picture, so it is blurred because of the movement.”

Birds and overall winner: Terje Kolaas captured a flock of pink-footed geese escaping the cold in “Winter Migration.”

Birds flying.
“Winter Migration” by Terje Kolaas.

“I positioned myself close to a field where I knew that the geese would feed [regularly] and waited for them there,” Kolaas wrote. “As soon as I heard incoming geese, I took off with the drone and waited for them in the air. Most of the shots did, as always, have something [imperfect] to them; like being too far away, being unbalanced, having a wing or a head cut, or some birds overlapping wrong. But this particular one I’m very happy with. And I’m very happy that the jury of the NPOTY 2021 liked it too!”

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