The beautiful 2023 winning images of the international Nature Photographer of the Year (NPOTY) contest celebrating the beauty of nature photography have been unveiled at an awards ceremony that took place at the annual Nature Talks Photo Festival in the Netherlands.
The NPOTY prizes include €3,000 for the winner and €500 cash prizes and photo equipment for the category winners. The organization supports various nature conservations projects such as Photographer Against Wildlife Crime
The winning images are displayed at a photo exhibition devoted to the festival and will travel afterwards through the Netherlands, Belgium and France
The next contest will start on December 20, 2023.
The 2023 title of Nature Photographer of the Year was awarded to Jacquie Matechuk, a nature photographer from Canada, for her Spectacled Bear image (below): “The Spanish moss hanging from this centuries-old fig tree gives an incredible sense of three-dimensionality, while the soft light filtering through the colors highlights the profound connection between species and habitat,” the jury said about the image.
“Spanning more than 8,000 kilometers, the Andean Mountain range occupies more than a quarter of the land surface in Ecuador,” Matechuk said. “Rich in biodiversity, it’s also home to a unique species called the Spectacled Bear.”
In this image, Tony — a large male — and frequent traveler through these parts, had climbed into a century-old fig tree seeking refuge from the midday sun. It was draped in Spanish moss, gently swaying with each breath inhaled and exhaled by the canyon walls.
This image of a pink flamingo was taken in the French Camargue last winter. At certain times of the year and in certain places, the water level drops and the substrate becomes denser. Despite this, Greater Flamingos like to come and look for food in the muddy water.
A thin film of black mud clings to their plumage for a few seconds.
Birds of a feather
“At the beginning of 2022, we were surprised by news in the local press that the Al-Jarim area, located north of the Kingdom of Bahrain, would be transformed into industrial areas and tourist resorts,” Omran explains.
With this image of the Socotra cormorants that breed in the islands, with their necks elongated by slow shutter while moving the camera up, the photographer wants to send a message: The birds are monitoring the place, on the lookout for any intruder that wants to seize their space.
This picture of Hoopoe was taken in Dubai at the Al Qudra Lakes. This Hoopoe bird was on its daily routine of catching prey.
“I observed that each time it caught a prey, it flew in the same direction to a nearby tree which gave me the idea to photograph the bird against a background with light and dark sides to represent the dark and light sides of existence,” said Valiyandiyil.
Every 10-to-15 minutes, this Polar bear sitting in the snow in front of a sand dune covered with snow would rise up and shake off as strong winds and a massive blizzard fell on the Hudson Bay coast in Churchill Manitoba Canada.
Under the sea
This image of a paper nautilus with jellyfish was shot in Balayan Bay, Batangas, Philippines during a Blackwater dive. This type of dive is performed over very deep water at night. “At approximately 10-15 meters of depth, I spotted this paper nautilus or Argonaut, which is often seen riding on the back of a jellyfish,” Capozolla recalled. “This paper nautilus is a female as it features a thinly secreted coiled shell or egg case which resembles a hat. These unique cephalopods rise towards the surface at night to feed and in this case, aerate their eggs.”
In a huge crowd of Moon jellyfish, the female changes her body color to pink or purple when she’s ready for spawning eggs as many males chase after her.
In spring, amphibians migrate en masse to the water to mate.
In black and white
Lentorre, nestled alongside the Maasai Mara grasslands in Kenya, is a highland region known for its breathtaking natural beauty. However, in recent years, it has been experiencing the harsh impacts of the monsoon and the effects of global climate change, resulting in prolonged periods of scorching, arid weather.
At night, many wild animals arrive to quench their thirst in this waterhole. First there were antelopes, zebras, giraffes, porcupines and mongooses. Then, Li explains, “an eerie stillness fell over the water, signaling that something was about to unfold: Emerging gracefully from the obscurity of the thicket, an adult leopard made its grand entrance. As the apex predator, it displayed none of the timidness seen in herbivorous animals.
Slowly and deliberately, it patrolled the water’s edge, casting a flawless reflection in the tranquil pool. When it reached a sinuous tree at the water’s edge, it executed a graceful pivot, the epitome of elegance in the Kenyan night.”
In the Canadian High Arctic, the photographer lay flat on the ground as the temperature dropped below -40, and this herd of Musk Ox, some of which weigh up to 400 kilos each, charged at full speed.
“It was a real test of nerve, as they approached me, to stay flat to the ground, to capture the image, said Gibbon. “As they got closer, I quickly stood up and, thankfully, the herd changed direction and ran past me.
Art in nature
The vibrant colors of the gills of a mushroom lying upside down seem to wve under the natural soft forest light.
“The big lesson I learned through this image is to slow down in nature and not only take in its beautiful grand vistas but to appreciate all the small marvels offered by nature,” said Rumpf.
The red wicker fields, in Cañamaras, Cuenca, Spain, offers a unique visual spectacle.
A black-speckled palm pit viper curls in the cloud forest of the Cordillera de Talamanca, Costa Rica. The snake was in the ground basking in the sun. “It was extremely difficult to spot the camouflaged viper in the colorful and dense pattern of mosses and epiphytes,” Carugati explained.
Humans and Nature
Nautili are grabby little creatures known to latch onto passing jellyfish in the ocean, either as a mode of travel or for more advantageous reasons, like sneakily siphoning the jellyfish’s food for themselves.
“I did a double-take at how cartoonish this Nautilus looked when I first saw it in Anilao (Philippines),” said Toh. “But it’s initial silliness hid a sobering truth: Despite living more than 20 meters underwater, this Nautilus had found this plastic packaging.
Leopards are some of the most elusive and adaptable big cats in India. Habitat loss due to rapid urbanization has pushed these big cats close to human habitation. They use farmlands and human settlements to hunt small mammals, poultry, other farm animals and stray or free-roaming dogs.
These majestic cats are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.
“No Land for Leopard” is an ongoing project that for five years has been capturing urban wildlife through camera trapping in and around Mysore in south India. This image, showing how close these cats move around human habitation is part of the series. It also reiterates that ‘we humans live in a shared space’.
Every year, about 15% of the population of the threatened wood Bison in northern British Columbia, dies as a result of road collisions with cars.
When winter arrives, sometimes the snow is so deep the Wood Bison herds that inhabit the forest along the Alaska Highway tend to use the free-of-snow highway to move from one grazing area to another.
Plants and Fungi
Blue auto-fluorescing star-shaped defensive hairs covering the surface of a Deutzia leaf are silhouetted against the leaf’s red-fluorescing chlorophyll-packed cells. When exposed to invisible Ultraviolet light (but visible to insects), plant Chlorophyll fluoresces bright red.
All green plants fluoresce red while photosynthesizing. Measurable fluctuations in this fluorescence indicate the plant’s health and ability to fix carbon. Environmental stress (for example, heat waves, dry spells, flooding) brought on by climate change can severely impair a plant’s ability to photosynthesize, and in turn, impact crop productivity and food production.
The “other” animals
A December moth lands on an antler-shaped fungus as the air current spread the spore clouds released by the 3-5 centimeter-tall mushroom. The image was taken on a cold evening last November in Börzsöny hill, Hungary.
A water wolf spider rests in a giant Victoria regia Lindl leaf vein framework.
This kind of water wolf spider lives near the water (hence its name) and can float and even run on the surface due to its light weight and dense hydrophobic hairs on its toes.
Summer sunset by the sea in Oravais, Finland
A red sunrise illuminates the grass with the first light of the day as the fog lifts from the trees in eastern France’s Vosges mountains, creating a cold/warm contrast that looks like fire in the foreground.
Balam (jaguar in the Mayan language) is considered an umbrella species and an indicator of the conservation status of ecosystems since it is at the top of the food chain and needs large areas of land to survive.
Unfortunately, in Mexico it’s listed as an endangered species. Illegal hunting, habitat fragmentation and the destruction of natural areas have caused an increase in negative interactions with humans.
As their habitat is reduced and the populations of their potential prey decrease, they are forced to approach human settlements to feed on cattle and other domestic animals, which most of the time does not end well for jaguars.
Despite all of the above, there are people and organizations dedicated to the study and conservation of these cats, developing strategies to preserve the natural areas where they live to mitigate the negative impact of human actions.
The images were taken on the Yucatan peninsula.
See all the winning photos and photographers comments here.