9 Amazing nature photos that are sure to inspire

Winning images from the Nature Photographer of the Year show the world at its most stunning…

There aren’t many photo contests as prestigious as the Nature Photographer of the Year awards and 2021’s winners have just been announced. This year the contest’s judges had to work their way through 20,061 submissions from photographers in 97 different countries.

This year’s big winner was named as Norwegian photographer Terje Kolaas, who claimed the grand title for a frame entitled ‘Winter Migration’. Terje is privileged to have thousands of Pink-footed Geese literally in his garden several months a year. More than 80,000 of them make a stopover in the Trondheim fiord wetland system on their way between the wintering grounds in Denmark, the Netherlands and the breeding grounds in Spitsbergen every spring and autumn. 

Image by Terje Kolaas / Nature Photographer of the Year

The winner of the Mammals category was named as Josef Friedhuber from Austria for an image entitled ‘Silverbach Chimanuka’, which shows a gorilla moving at high speed.

Image by Josef Friedhuber / Nature Photographer of the Year

Taking first place in the ‘Other Animals’ category was this ethereal frame by Spanish photographer Ruben Perez Novo. Entitled ‘Walking Among Fennels’, the image is a great example of nature photography meeting fine-art.

Image by Ruben Perez Novo / Nature Photographer of the Year

‘Heat of Hoar’ was named as the winner of the Plants and Fungi category. Taken by Austrian photographer Rupert Kogler using a Canon 5D Mark II paired with a 24-105mm lens, Rupert commented; ‘Close to my hometown of Linz, Austria, there’s a hill partially covered with some nice forests. 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, are the ones I’m looking for. Even more when the temperatures are below zero and the fog creates mesmerising patterns of hoar frost on the branches of the trees. This particular day I was lucky enough to experience these conditions, but not enough of that, the sun was already very low and the light was warm. The most fascinating thing to me actually was, that the sun melted the hoar frost in the tree tops and these particles of ice finally fell down as a glittering curtain from time to time. So I just tried to find an appealing composition hoping for the rays not to disappear and some ice coming down in front of me, backlit by the sun, while I used a wide aperture to enlarge and blur the glittering dots. Again nature’s magic delivered a memorable and enriching moment.’

Image by Rupert Kogler / Nature Photographer of the Year

This epic frame by Russian photographer Denis Budkov was named as the winner from the Landscapes category. Captured with a Canon 5D Mark III paired with a 24-70mm lens, Denis commented on ‘Dragon’s Lair’; ‘The photo shows the eruption of the highest and most active volcano in the natural park Kamchatka “Klyuchevskoy”. 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. For 10 years now I have been photographing the eruptions of this volcano and for the first time I have 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 volcano “Kamen” (height 4585 meters) and on the left is the volcano “Bezymyanny” (height 2882 meters). Unfortunately on this day it was covered with clouds. When we went to the shooting, I already knew exactly which picture I would like to take. I had to catch 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 outlines of the volcano were not visible, but the lava was 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. Therefore, I used the continuous shooting of about 100 frames and it turned out to be the very frame that I wanted.’

Image by Denis Budkov / Nature Photographer of the Year

‘Red in red’ by German photographer Georg Nies was named as the winner of the Underwater category. Captured on a Nikon D850, Georg commented; ‘Photographing pygmy seahorses is an extremely difficult business. They are very small; rarely larger than 2 centimeter. 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 could be possible. Usually such an image is created as a joint production. The local dive guide shows the seahorse to the underwater photographer. Because the animals are so tiny and we are talking about image scales of 2:1 or less, the usual way of working is as follows: The dive guide points to the animal with a small metal rod pointer stick. The photographer first looks at the hand of the dive guide and finds the seahorse using the pointer stick as a pathfinder. This requires a good interaction between the photographer and the dive guide.’

Image by Georg Nies / Nature Photographer of the Year

The winner of the Nature Art category demands a second look. Entitled ‘Ice Cell’ and captured by Romanian photographer Gheorghe Popa via a DJI Mavic Pro 2 drone, the frame shows an aerial view of Cuejdel Lake during winter.

Image by Gheorghe Popa / Nature Photographer of the Year

One of the most startling images from the competitions was the winner of the Animals category. ‘Black Leopard’ was captured by UK photographer William Burrard-Lucas using a Canon 1D Mark IV paired with a 17-40mm lens.

Image by William Burrard-Lucas / Nature Photographer of the Year

The Youth category was won by this amazing image by Swiss photographer Levi Fitze. Entitled ‘Beautiful World’, the image was captured using a Sony A7R IV paired with a 200-600mm lens and shows a young Alpine Ibex strolling across an alpine meadow.

Image by Levi Fitze / Nature Photographer of the Year