2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest Winners Highlight Global Wildlife and Nature

Western lowland gorilla female 'Malui' walking through a cloud of butterflies she has disturbed in a bai

Grand Prize. Photo: Anup Shah, United Kingdom.
“Western lowland gorilla female ‘Malui' walking through a cloud of butterflies she has disturbed in a bai (Gorilla gorilla gorilla).”
Bai Hokou, Dzanga Sangha Special Dense Forest Reserve, Central African Republic. December 2011.

After a one-year hiatus, The Nature Conservancy Photo Contest is back. More than 100,000 images were entered into the contest, with acclaimed wildlife photographer Anup Shah taking home the grand prize. His photograph of a female gorilla walking through a cloud of butterflies in the Central African Republic is a more than worthy winner of the contest. Given how strong the competition was, his win is an even more incredible achievement.

“I like photos that keep dragging you in,” commented celebrity judge and musician Ben Folds. As he also notes, it's hard to tell if the gorilla's face is one of tolerance or bliss, which is part of what keeps viewers engaged in the photograph. Another image that is equally intriguing won the People's Choice Award. Prathamesh Ghadekar's photo of hundreds of thousands of fireflies swarming just prior to a monsoon is particularly powerful. At first glance, it appears that the tree is illuminated by small LED lights, but when one realizes that we're actually watching nature at work, the photo takes on new meaning.

“These images are a gorgeous and unforgettable reminder of the vibrancy and awe-inspiring power of nature,” said Meg Goldthwaite, chief marketing and communications officer for The Nature Conservancy. “Year after year, we are amazed, delighted, and moved by these scenes from around the world. They remind us how connected we all are on this planet, and they energize us as we continue the important work of conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends.”

Photographers from Mexico, Bangladesh, Australia, Turkey, and Hong Kong are all represented on the winner's list. This gives The Nature Conservancy's contest a truly global look at nature and harkens back to the non-profit's mission. Since 1951, the U.S.-based charitable organization has been “working to create a world where people and nature can thrive.”

See more winning images from 2021 The Nature Conservancy Photo Contest.

Fireflies Congregating in India Just Before a Monsoon

People's Choice Winner. Photo: Prathamesh Ghadekar, India.
“Just before Monsoon, these fireflies congregate in certain regions of India, and on a few special trees like this one, they are in crazy quantity which can range in millions. This particular image is a stack of 32 images (30 seconds exposure each) of this tree taken on a tripod. Later the images were stacked in Adobe Photoshop. This image contains 16 minutes of viewing time of this amazing tree.”

Carcass of a Pantanal alligator on Dry Earth in Brazil

Landscape, First Place. Photo: Daniel De Granville Manço, Brazil.
“Carcass of a Pantanal alligator (Caiman yacare) in the dry soil on the banks of the Transpantaneira highway, municipality of Poconé (Mato Grosso). The photo was taken with a drone on October 4, 2020, at the height of the droughts that hit the Pantanal that year.”

Man in the Sahara Desert During a Sandstorm

People and Nature, Second Place. Photo: Tom Overall, Australia.
“A guide in the Sahara Desert enduring a sand storm.”

Orangutan Sitting On the Ground Surrounded by Fallen Palm Trees

Wildlife, Honorable Mention. Photo: Thomas Vijayan, Canada.
“It is a sad sight to watch. We humans could have easily found an alternative option to grow palm trees and could have given a second thought before running the ax over these matured trees and while snatching the habitat of this gigantic ape. Orangutans are accustomed to live on trees and feed on wild fruits like lychees, mangosteens, and figs, and slurp water from holes in trees but we have options.”

Waterfall in Iceland During the Winter

Water, Third Place. Photo: Man Wai Wong, Hong Kong.

Medical Plastic Waste in the Mediterranean

People and Nature, Third Place. Photo: Sebnem Coskun, Turkey.
“New danger to underwater life ‘Covid-19 wastes’ According to a report prepared by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), plastic waste equivalent to 33,880 plastic bottles is being mixed into the Mediterranean per minute. One of the countries hit most plastic waste coming to the shores of Italy and then Turkey. The medical wastes used during the pandemic process we live in reach the seas.”

Mountain Range Coming Through the Clouds

Landscape, Second Place. Photo: Denis Ferreira Netto, Brazil.
“In a helicopter flight through the sea mountain range, I came across this white cloud cover, which resulted in this magnificent image that
resembles the head of a dinosaur.”

Black and White Photo of Water Splashing with Man in the Background

Water, First Place. Photo: Kazi Arifujjaman, Bangladesh.

Young Indonesian Orangutan Being Prepped for Surgery

People and Nature, First Place. Photo: Alain Schroeder, Belgium.
“This picture document the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of Indonesia's orangutan. They are under threat from the ongoing depletion of the rainforest due to palm oil plantations, logging, mining, hunting. The whole SOCP team works together to prepare Brenda, an estimated 3 month-old female orangutan (she has no teeth yet), for surgery.”

Freediver and Divers in the Cenotes

Water, Second Place. Photo: Joram Mennes, Mexico.
“Three levels of leisure: swimmers, freedivers, and divers enjoy their respective sport/recreational activities in a freshwater mass know locally as the Cenotes.”

Five Male Cheetahs Swimming in Raging River

Wildlife, First Place. Photo: Buddhilini de Soyza, Australia.
“Incessant rains in Masai Mara had caused the Talek river to flood. This unusual coalition of five male cheetahs (Tano Bora – Fast Five), were
looking to cross this river in terrifyingly powerful currents. It seemed a task doomed to failure and we were delighted when they made it to the
other side. This was a timely reminder of the damage wreaked by human-induced climate change.”

Birds Feeding on Dried Out Sunflowers

Wildlife, Second Place. Photo: Mateusz Piesiak, Poland.
“This year due to a high water level a giant field of sunflowers could not be mown. In winter it attracted thousands of different species of birds, mostly greenfinches, goldfinches, and bramblings.”

The Nature Conservancy: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by The Nature Conservancy.

Related Articles:

Breathtaking Winners of the 2019 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest

Arctic Seals Resting on Floating Ice Wins Nature Photography Contest

Amazing Winners of the BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition

Subway Fight Between Two Mice Wins People’s Choice Wildlife Photography Award

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.

Sponsored Content