Amazing Winners of the 2020 World Nature Photography Awards Are Announced

GOLD ©Thomas Vijayan_The World Is Going Upside Down World Nature Photography Awards Winner

The Grand Prize of World Nature Photographer of the Year goes to Thomas Vijayan (Canada) for his striking Bornean orangutan image, entitled “The World is Going Upside Down,” taken in Tanjung Puting National Park, Borneo. This image also wins the Gold Medal in the category “Animals in their Habitat.” (Photo: © Thomas Vijayan/World Nature Photography Awards)

The stunning winning images of the 2020 World Nature Photography Awards have been announced. This year's honored photographers hung out in jungle canopies, tracked animals on safari, and explored the micro worlds of ponds—all to get that one amazing shot. Across 13 categories, a panel of judges scored images submitted by wildlife and nature photographers around the world. Based on the image's artistic merit, originality, subject, and style, the category winners were decided. This year's Grand Prize—the World Nature Photographer of the Year 2020—has gone to the winner of the “Animals in their Habitat” category. The prize image of a Bornean orangutan was taken by Canadian photographer Thomas Vijayan.

The year 2020 was an extraordinary one with unique challenges for many adventurous photographers who are avid travelers. Traveling was largely impossible, so many photographers were forced to take their artistic practice closer to home. Each year, the World Nature Photography Awards emphasizes their mission—”photography can go a long way in influencing people to see the world from a different perspective and change their own habits for the good of the planet.” In 2020, the competition reassured all aspiring photographers that “that great shot might not be waiting on the other side of the world but in your very own garden or in the park at the end of the street.” The winning images prove that patience, composition, and perseverance make the perfect shot—no matter where you are.

The Grand Prize image by Thomas Vijayan is the perfect example of dedication to one's craft paying off. In Borneo, the Canadian photographer knew he wanted to capture the charming orangutans. “I had this frame in my mind,” he explains. “So to get this shot, I firstly selected a tree that was in the water so that I can get a good reflection of the sky which can make the image look upside down, then I climbed up on the tree and waited for hours. This is a regular path for the orangutans to cross to another small island so I was sure to get this frame if I wait patiently. Hence I waited and waited for long and finally, I got this beautiful frame.”

For Belgian photographer Gunther de Bruyne (Gold Medal winner of the “Nature Photojournalism” category), wildlife photography is a passion that requires patience and also demands investment in sustainability. The dedicated photographer captured his winning image while spending time at the Thanda Safari Game Reserve in South Africa. There he photographed a sad conservation ritual, the horn of a white rhino being sawed off. While the image may at first glance appear to be the work of poachers, it is in fact conservationists and rangers who perform this procedure. The endangered white rhinos are targeted by poachers for their horns, which are sold on the black market. As de Bruyne notes, removing the horn preemptively is “a highly effective strategy as well as a conservation measure of last resort.”

Scroll down to explore more winning images, and check out the full gallery at the World Nature Photography Awards.

The 2020 World Nature Photography Awards has announced its winning images across 13 categories.

"Bath Time" by Nick Dale. A bengal tigress

“Bath Time” by Nick Dale (UK), Gold Medal in “Animal Portraits.” A bengal tigress at the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, India. (Photo: © Nick Dale/World Nature Photography Awards)

The Grand Prize and title World Nature Photographer of the year 2020 goes to Canadian photographer Thomas Vijayan.

Alessandro Gruzza Spirit of the ice

“Spirit of the Ice” by Alessandro Gruzza (Italy), Gold Medal in “Planet Earth’s Landscapes and Environments.” (Photo: © Alessandro Gruzza/World Nature Photography Awards)

Vijayan's winning image is of a Bornean orangutan climbing a tree over the water's surface.

Andre Fajardo Freediving Christa Funk

“Andre Fajardo Freediving Early One Summer Morning” by Christa Funk (US), Gold medal in “People and Nature.” (Photo: © Christa Funk/World Nature Photography Awards)

Other categories explore animal behavior, human/nature relationships, and other themes.

GOLD © Dale Paul Flying Saucer

“Flying Saucer” by Dale Paul (Canada), Gold Medal in “Behaviour – Birds.” A great horned owl in High River, Alberta, Canada. (Photo: © Dale Paul/World Nature Photography Awards)

Even in a global pandemic, that perfect shot may be waiting just outside your door.

The World Nature Photography Awards stresses the importance of photography to encouraging conservation and sustainability.

GOLD © Dipanjan Pal Glacial Veins

“Glacial Veins” by Dipanjan Pal (India
), Gold Medal in “Nature Art.” A glacial river in southern Iceland. (Photo: © Dipanjan Pal/World Nature Photography Awards)

GOLD © Doron Talmi Mist at the Swamp

“Mist at the Swamp” by Doron Talmi (Israel), Dolf Medal in “Plants and Fungi.” A bald cypress stand in East Texas. (Photo: © Doron Talmi/World Nature Photography Awards)

GOLD © Dr Tze Siong Tan Heart wheel

“Heart Wheel” by Dr. Tze Siong Tan (Singapore), Gold Medal in “Behaviour – Invertebrates.” (Photo: © Dr Tze Siong Tan/World Nature Photography Awards)

21st Century Rhino Conservation

“21st Century Rhino Conservation” by Gunther De Bruyne (Belgium), Gold Medal in “Nature Photojournalism.” A white rhino is dehorned to prevent being killed by poachers, a sad but effective strategy of conservation. (Photo: © Gunther De Bruyne/World Nature Photography Awards)

GOLD © Harry Skeggs Long live the King

“Long Live the King” by Harry Skeggs (UK), Gold Medal in “Black and White.” Ulysses, one of the last remaining “great tuskers,” Kenya. (Photo: © Harry Skeggs/World Nature Photography Awards)

GOLD © Patrick Nowotny Lion Fight

“Lion Fight” by Patrick Nowotny (US), Gold Medal in “Behaviour – Mammals.” Lionesses in the Serengeti, Tanzania. (Photo: © Patrick Nowotny/World Nature Photography Awards)

GOLD © Vittorio Ricci The Kiss

“the Kiss” by Vittorio Ricci (Italy), Gold Medal in “Behaviour – Amphibians and Reptiles.” Two European common brown frogs in Aveto Regional Natural Park, Italy. (Photo: © Vittorio Ricci/World Nature Photography Awards)

SILVER © Darren Donovan Muddy Rhino

“Muddy Rhino” by Darren Donovan (South Africa), Silver Medal in “Behaviour – Mammals.” White rhino bull in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. (Photo: © Darren Donovan/World Nature Photography Awards)

SILVER © Jocelyn Chng Quiet Kids

“Quiet Kids” by Jocelyn Chng (Singapore), Silver Medal in “Urban Wildlife.” (Photo: © Jocelyn Chng/World Nature Photography Awards)

SILVER © Mustafa Demirors Before the Storm

“Before the Storm” by Mustafa Demirors (Sweden), Silver Medal in “Planet Earth’s Landscapes and Environments.” (Photo: © Mustafa Demirörs/World Nature Photography Awards)

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My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by World Nature Photography Awards.

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and reading while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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