(Pocket-lint) – Each year, the Nature Conservancy’s global photography contest receives masses of entries from photographers all around the world. Breathtaking images of our world at it’s finest.
As the organisation’s director of photography, Bill Marr explains “TNC’s Photo Contest is a wonderful intersection for those who love nature and those who love photography. We have wonderful entries from all over the world, from beautiful Western landscapes to squirrels in a backyard in Austria. Photography is a common language for all.”
As you can imagine, the entries are fairly magnificent, over the last couple of years alone, there have been some seriously impressive images. We’ve collected some of our favourite images for your enjoyment, but there are many more to view in the past galleries.
Penguins in paradise. This brilliant photo shows the magnificent creatures in their natural habitat before a refreshing morning dip. The photographer tells the tale of the effort that went into taking this incredible competition entry:
“King penguins gather on beach at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia Island for a morning swim. Making it ashore at sunrise in South Georgia requires a bit of planning since it is really about 3 am. South Georgia is a natural paradise.”
From the ferocity of nature, to the incredible, breath-taking beauty. This image from Jeremy Stevens shows the peaceful beauty of Iceland.
“Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall in Iceland, January 2018. The places that are hardest to get to are often the best and most peaceful.”
Pure energy and fire
This photo shows the sheer destructive force hidden beneath the surface of our humble planet. An incredibly clear night’s sky makes a magnificent backdrop for the Colima volcano in Mexico.
“Colima volcano erupting during the night showing its strength, was taken in the Yerbabuena, Comala, Colima. Volcanic eruptions in small quantities help reduce global warming.”
Cosmic Cany Cane
The folding plains of nature, the incredible curves of the landscape and a view that’s awash with colour and wonder. This brilliant photograph by Dustin Gregory shows the majesty of our world, with untouched nature on display under an incredible night’s sky.
“Geologic wonders unfold beneath the starry skies of Valley of Fire State Park in May 2017. The immense light pollution emanating from Las Vegas illuminates the landscape making it almost appear to be daytime in the dead of night. This place had a spooky aura that night and I felt as if I was being watched, making for one of my most uneasy yet memorable nights of shooting the night sky.”
The end is near – second place
This lone shard of an iceberg seems to speak volumes about global warming. This photograph, perfectly titled “the end is near” was taken in Iceland by photographer Andre Mercier and chosen as the second place winner for the competition.
“This ice could be thousands of years old, and only recently broke off the Vatnajokull Glacier at Jokulsarlon Bay in Iceland, and will soon melt into the sea…”
Stallions Playing – grand prize winner
This incredible image by Camille Briottet was selected as the grand prize winner this year. The photographer describes the scene unfolding before our eyes:
“Two young stallions play on the Rhône Delta in the Camarguais region of France. They are training for future fights against other stallions for reproduction rights within the herd. This image inspires me because it shows both the strength and freedom of nature. My photograph is telling the story that life is a fight! Nature is magnificent, albeit, hard and sometimes cruel; but at the same time, nature is whole and true.”
Meeting of the alligators
These alligators casually sitting around in the waters make them seem docile and beautiful too. Another simple nature photograph that shows just how different our world can be.
“Lagoon with many alligators in the Northern Pantanal, Poconé region. Late afternoon left the scene a bluish colour.”
Sometimes in nature, undisturbed beauty also means perfect symmetry. This incredible image is from Iceland and once again shows the attraction of that part of the world. Photographer Stephen Dean explains:
“Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland – An iceberg in Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon that has calved from the Vatnajokull Glacier. The iceberg is perfectly reflected in the calm water of the lagoon- I particularly liked the symmetry of this particular iceberg”
This photo by Aristo Risi shows the destructive forces of man colliding with the depths of nature. Strangely beautiful.
“A plastic bag in its natural habitat, the ocean. Shot in Shellharbour in 2017. Plastic was once worshipped, now it destroys everything we love. Nature connects us all, we have a duty to protect her.”
Floating in the dead sea
This image seems to show just how peaceful nature can be and, perhaps, just how insignificant mankind can be in the grand scheme of things. The waters of the dead sea are only slightly disturbed by a lone swimmer at the very edge.
Photographer Aline Fortuna describes the scene:
“One of the most unique experiences of the world in the lowest point on earth. We belong to nature and not the reverse. Without nature, we do not live, but without us, it lives.”
Frog hug – Third place
The third place winner shows a young girl discovering the joys of nature. The photographer’s daughter caught on camera giving a small bullfrog a gentle cuddle, like a princess trying to release her prince.
Photographer, Terra Fondriest, said:
“Down at the mud puddles on our road, we found several young bullfrogs hopping around. Up on our hilltop, wet spots are few and far between, so our mud puddles are home to a constant flow of tadpoles, frogs and toads. My daughter loves all critters, her goal is to create a wildlife rehab centre someday. She constantly inspires me with her care towards every living thing.”
The desert sands have retaken the lands previously claimed by man as sand dunes fill abandoned homes in the United Arab Emirates. This photograph looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic film but is a real-world snap of nature by Jesse Yang who said:
“The eeriness of exploring this ghost town in the United Arab Emirates went away after an hour or so of exploring. But, I still felt uneasy about entering some of these ‘homes.’ It felt like I was trespassing, so I tried being oddly respectful. The Arabian Desert obviously didn’t feel the same way, reminding me that nature will always reclaim what we abandon.”
This perfectly timed photograph shows the moment a Kingfisher plunges into the water to capture a light snack. Another amazing image of nature and the wonder of our world.
Petar Sabol describes his photo in more depth:
“Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) hunting for small fish on fishpond. It was taken on November 2nd, 2014. in Croatia, near Palovec village, local fishpond. It is very important that we keep nature clean in every aspect, but especially water. Water is the essence of our lives on Earth and it gives us so much to discover. “
Sunlight strikes through the depths of this towering forest of massive redwood trees in Northern California. These huge trees have seen years and years of growth, somehow avoiding being cut down by man in all that time.
Photographer Patrick McDonald commented:
“A huckleberry tree sits perched beneath towering redwoods in Northern California. Only 5% of the original old-growth redwood forests remain, and they are invaluable.”
Nature is incredible, right down to the finest most minuscule detail. We’ve often marvelled at how amazing snowflakes can be – each one different from the last, each a perfect and intricate gift from Mother Nature.
Kathleen Greeson’s photograph was one of those highlighted as a favourite by the judges and it’s easy to see why. A perfect moment captured in a second.
“A perfect snowflake rests in my daughter’s hair during a snow shower at our home on Signal Mountain, TN. Completely fascinating to see all of the different individual flakes falling in our yard.”
Pink Flamingos in Celestun
A much warmer image from Mexico shows Flamingos knee-deep in the waters, blissfully unaware of the photographer snapping this brilliant image.
Outside of the winners, there are many other incredible shots worth marvelling at. This image shows just how fierce nature can be. A school of fish dash for freedom as a large white shark strikes in the waters of Guadalupe Island, Mexico.
Super blue blood moon
Over the rises of the Yosemite Valley, a supermoon hangs in the sky for all to see. We like how the mountain tops appear to be reaching up towards the moon in this photo. Another beautiful example of all the brilliant photos submitted to the contest.
The breakfast club
In 2017, Dene Miles took this photo in the early hours of the morning at Olympic National Park. He notes there was a momentary pause for breakfast as the nearby wildlife were perfectly backdropped by mountain tops and a superb misty cloud cover.
Mallard in Flight
In 2019, Jessica Kirste snapped this image of a female Mallard in flight across Rahway River in New Jersey. The photo is almost too perfect with a wonderful framing of out-of-focus beech trees in the background. Those trees had orange leaves at the time too, perfectly complimenting the bird and resulting in this awesome image.
Incredible views from the coast of the Mexican city of Tuxpan, Veracruz as a small, newly emerged baby turtle takes its first steps on the untouched sands.
A chilly view of some intriguing ice formations. The way this ice has frozen almost looks faked or computer-generated. Yet it was an image Erik Ruiz captured in 2019.
Polar bear out for a stroll
A magnificent view of an equally magnificent creature out for a stroll in Alaska. David Glatz took this photo in 2019, as the sunset over Kaktovik and a Polar Bear wandered by.
Milky Way Rising
This is one of the most interesting views we’ve seen of the Milky Way. The attention is drawn by both the stars and the bright light breaking out of the abandoned barn. Man-made structure and nature captured together in a brilliant way.
A perfect pair of owls
Mitch Walters struck photography gold when taking photos in the Carrizo Plain National Monument as these birds briefly appeared to provide the perfectly framed nature image.
“Sometimes the bird photography Gods smile upon you. While photographing Painted Rock, located in the Carrizo Plain National Monument, CA, USA, a pair of Barn Owls miraculously landed right next to each other in mirror-like fashion. I snapped a few photos before they quickly took off, one of the most amazing encounters I’ve had while photographing.”
Another striking wildlife view captured at the top of a mountain range. This time in Ethiopia:
“The photo shows a Gelada monkey and its son, on the edge of a cliff of the Semien Mountains, in Ethiopia. This picture represents the maternal instinct typical in nature, among all the species; and the protective behavior of every living being towards its offspring. To take this picture I went to the Semien Mountains, in Ethiopia, a beautiful place characterized by these high peaks and the unspoiled.”
This is one of the oldest photos in our list, dating back to 2012. It was taken in the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania and shows a line of Giraffes crossing the Rufiji River. What we like though, is the way they’re doing it together, in an orderly fashion, treading carefully across the waters.
My big meal
Sometimes nature can be a harsh mistress, but everyone has to eat. Including this scaley chap who’s eating up his lunch.
We love Claire Ryser’s photo of a dolphin in flight. This mammal should not be in the sky, yet here it is, briefly defying gravity in the most majestic of ways.
The photographer notes that the dolphin is actually trying to remove a Remora. These are also known as suckerfish, a type of sea creature that spends its life attached to other marine mammals. They’ve been known to grapple onto whales, turtles, sharks and even scuba divers. They feed off host’s faeces and enjoy free travel but nothing else.
A chilly view of the home for this Nordic Wolf who has appeared majestically in the frame:
“A Nordic Wolf, captured as it gets closer to a bait in the Eastern Part of Finland. These amazing animals are heavily decimated by hunting.”
50 Shades of Fall
In April 2019, Leah Horstman was in Patagonia, South America capturing this magnificent view of a sunset over an incredible backdrop.
Monte Fitz Roy can be seen in the background with a mix of incredible clouds, colourful trees and the wonderful lights of the sunset.
A beautiful green photo of a dangerous creature and a menace to those who visit the area. These snakes are known to bit anyone who’s unfortunate enough to be nearby. The results of a bite are nasty too – leading to spontaneous bleeding from the mouth, nose and eyes as well as issues with coagulation of blood. Miserable but still a staggering photo.
“Amazonian palm viper (Bothrops bilineatus) from Yasuni National Park, Ecuador. Unfortunately, these gorgeous snakes are responsible for many snake bites throughout the Amazon Basin. They normally sit on low branches. Subsequently, most bites occur on the arms, face and hands!”
Prince of Thorns
Jannicko Kelk took this photo at the start of 2019 in Western Australia. A fantastic close-up image of a lizard that’s native to Australia and has a name to match:
“Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus) from Laverton, Western Australia taken on the 20/01/2019. These strange animals can be found in the central sandy deserts of Australia. They can collect water from the morning dew. As moisture touches the spines, they are redirected to the mouth.”
This Grizzly bear looks like he’s been caught red-handed, doing something naughty.
Fishing at the edge of Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, this chap was nice enough to (accidentally) pose for the camera and in a wonderful way too. An excellent photo and a marvellous submission to the 2019 competition.
We doubt many people could pull off a selfie this grand. Unless you happen to be an astronaut or an absolute madman, your self-portraits are probably pretty average. They’re certainly not like this:
“This is a self-portrait taken from 640m tall iconic mountain peak Segla. We started the hike with low clouds and zero visibility but ended up seeing the midnight sun from one of the greatest locations in Northern Norway. This is a massive panorama of 8 vertical images- and the image is 100% real.”
Sundew and blue damselfly
Bruce Moffat snapped this brilliant image of a blue damselfly in action in 2019. The result is a beautiful close-up image of nature in action.
“This spring while drifting in a canoe on Maple Lake, BC I ended up beside a floating log that supported a colony of round leafed sundew plants. These are particularly interesting plants given their carnivorous behavior. Here a Blue Damselfly has found out the hard way the sticky clear drops are a key part of the trap and digestive system.”
The Reef Wanderer
A few of the photos from the Nature Conservancy global photo contests include images of endangered species. Animals who are the last of their kind and are at risk of being wiped out. Usually because of our own destructive influence on the world around us.
Here, Jordan Robins captured such an image, a photo of a Green Sea Turtle swimming carefree through the waters of the Great Barrier Reef in 2018.
White Spotted Jellyfish Sunset
This photo was taken in Jervis Bay Australia at the start of 2019 and shows a white-spotted jellyfish, aka Phyllorhiza punctate. These weird-looking jellyfish aren’t actually dangerous to humans, unlike other jellyfish off Australian shore. They feed off plankton while seemingly effortlessly drifting along with the current.
A wonderful sight of nature with a parent trying to teach its young chick to get used to the water while also feeding it at the same time. Also a magnificent image taken just before the poor feathered creatures were knocked by the waves.
“We were on the beach in the Falklands in 2019, waiting for the Gentoo Penguins to come ashore. This one adult was being chased by its chick for food. The parent kept running in the water, to get the chick used to it. Finally it fed the chick – right in the path of a large wave. The chick did get some food, but also went for a swim under the crashing wave.”
American crocodile backlight
There’s a lot of teeth to this image from 2017 as an American Crocodile is seen just below the surface of the waters of Gardens of the Queen, in Cuba.
Somehow he seems to be happy to be photographed, but we don’t think we’d wasn’t to be anywhere nearby.
This simple yet beautiful image is one of the most interesting on the list thanks to its humble creation. While many of the photos are from staggering locations around the world, this one was taken in a garden.
Signe Fogelqvist proving that amazing images of nature can be taken anywhere:
“I’ve come to learn that you don’t need the most extravagant locations to find inspiration for photography, just go out in your garden and look for your little local life.”
Australian Sea Lion
This photo was taken Jurien Bay, Western Australia in 2019. At first glance, it could easily be mistaken for a dog having a dip, but it’s actually an Australian Sea Lion.
This photo by Jeffrey Munoz shows an Olive Ridley Sea Turtle coming out of the waters ready to build a nest on the coast of Costa Rica. They don’t look very happy about it.
Silence in the swamp
Almost camouflaged by the murkiness on the waters’ surface, this frog is enjoying a little bit of light on the swamps of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.
Another nature photo that demonstrates the survival of the fittest with a small rabbit who wasn’t quite swift enough to get away from this red fox.
With a successful hunt complete, the mother fox returns to her den with the prize.
Taken in the middle of a Safari, this wonderful photo by Mary Hulett shows a majestic king of the jungle resting on a termite mound. A calm and serene view.
Another sight that many of us won’t ever get to see in the flesh. A Long Tongue Bat captured feeding from a Balsa Wood Flower in there rainforest of Costa Rica.
Shake It Off
Chilly weather can’t be much fun to live in, but it sure results in some interesting, curious and beautiful photographs. Here, a Barred Owl is shaking off the snow stuck in its feathers.
In Landa Park, New Braunfels, Texas, two colourful ducks were caught on camera by Jorgen Hog resting on a log. Peaceful, yet curious creatures with an eye on the camera.
One thing the photos from the Nature Conservancy global photo contests show is that lizards are extremely photogenic.
Here a netted dragon (Ctenophorus nuchalis) eyes up the camera while an angry storm gathers in the skies above.
On the shores of Tasmania, Stanley Aryanto snapped this photo of incredible bioluminescence – marine life giving off a wonderful glow while washing about on the surface.
We enjoy seeing thjese images of magnificent creatures backdropped by the wonders of nature. This image and several others like it on this list are proof that even the smallest creature can be fantastic.
“This is a photo of an eastern bluebird I took this past fall. We had an early snowstorm one day and I came across a small group of bluebirds and was able to capture this photo”
Clownfish and Anemone
Nemo? Is that you?
“We were photographing in the Maldives in May 2019, when we came across this very small anemone, only about 4″ across. While setting up for the shot, a very small clown fish suddenly poked his head out from the anemone.”
Writing by Adrian Willings.