30 Incredible Winning Photos From the 2021 Nature Photographer of the Year Contest

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Winter migration,” by Terje Kolaas. Overall Winner / NPOTY 2021”

The beauty of nature is boundless. And through the lens of a talented photographer, we often get to see its magnificence from a new perspective. The winners of the 2021 Nature Photographer of the Year competition give us just that with their stunning images that take us everywhere from the highest heights of winged flight to the depths of the dark sea. Already in its sixth year, the worldwide nature photography contest presented by Nature Talks received more than 20,000 entries spanning 13 different categories for the 2021 edition. And from all of these, the judges chose an overall winner to be named Nature Photographer of the Year.

Norwegian photographer Terje Kolaas took home the highest honor this year with his winning photograph titled Winter migration. The arresting image offers up a gorgeous view of a gaggle of pink-footed geese in flight. But instead of watching them take off from the ground, the viewer is placed right in the midst of the soaring flock. “This photograph immediately grabbed our attention in large part due to the novel perspective it provides,” explains Tony Wu, one of the judges on the 2021 jury.

“I’m privileged enough having thousands of pink-footed geese literally in my garden several months a year,” says Kolaas, explaining how he captured the winning shot. “More than 80,000 make a stopover here in the Trondheim Fjord wetland system on their way between the wintering grounds in Denmark and the Netherlands and the breeding grounds in Spitsbergen every spring and autumn, and the whole scenario is simply spectacular. I have been photographing them for more than 20 years, and at one point I kind of ran out of ideas and got the feeling that ‘everything’ with geese was already done. So what now?!…Thanks to the amazing drone technology, the element of air opened up a few years ago. And the dream of photographing the geese as being one of them, a part of the flock, up in the air actually became possible.”

The rest of the competition’s winning photos are equally as stunning, spread out between categories ranging from Animal Portraits to Plants and Fungi. And another special entry was chosen to receive the Fred Hazelhoff portfolio award. Lea Lee Inoue won this portion of the contest with her moving photo project following a family of round-tailed ground squirrels. The collection of images, titled Emotional Range, gives a poignant look at the daily lives of these adorable creatures.

“I decided to photograph them, hoping to show that these animals think, feel and have emotions too,” Inoue explains. “With this understanding, love and respect is developed for the natural world. Conservation is the natural effect of this endearment. This is a paradigm shift in thought—that conservation can begin early, at a ground level—with each person awakening to the natural world. With this realization comes animal respect, conservation, and welfare.”

Scroll down to see more incredible winning photos from the 2021 Nature Photographer of the Year Competition. If you’d like to submit your own work, entries for the 2022 edition will be accepted until May 29. For the full list of 2021 winners, runners-up, and honorable mentions—and to find out more information about their images—visit the contest page.

Here are more incredible winning photos from the 2021 Nature Photographer of the Year competition.

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Emotional Range,” by Lea Lee Inoue. Winner of the Fred Hazelhoff Portfolio Award / NPOTY 2021

'Sundance' by Christian Spencer

“Sundance,” by Christian Spencer. Highly Commended, Birds Category / NPOTY 2021

'Fishing Trip at Sunrise' by Miquel Angel Artus Illana

“Fishing trip at sunrise,” by Miquel Angel Artús Illana. Runner-up, Birds Category / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“White wedding,” by Roie Galitz. Category Winner, Black and White / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Black Leopard,” by William Burrard-Lucas. Category Winner, Animal Portraits / NPOTY 2021

'Slow But Safe' by Ruben Perez Novo

“Slow but safe,” by Ruben Perez Novo. Runner-up, Other Animals / NPOTY 2021

'Shortness of Breath' by Csaba Daroczi

“Shortness of breath,” by Csaba Daróczi. Highly Commended, Black and White / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“The prow,” by Andrea Pozzi. Runner-up, Landscapes / NPOTY 2021

'Yin and Yang' by Gheorghe Popa

“Yin and Yang,” by Gheorghe Popa. Runner-up, Black and White / NPOTY 2021

'Leafy Night' by Scott Portelli

“Leafy Night,” by Scott Portelli. Highly Commended, Animal Portraits / NPOTY 2021

'Contemplation' by Gergo Kartyas

“Contemplation,” by Gergő Kártyás. Runner-up, Youth / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Twilight hunters,” by Kovács Norbert. Highly Commended, Mammals / NPOTY 2021

'Dragon's Lair' by Denis Budkov

“Dragon's Lair,” by Denis Budkov. Category Winner, Landscapes / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Dolphins Home,” by Dmitry Kokh. Runner-up, Underwater / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Ice cell,” by Gheorghe Popa. Category Winner, Nature Art / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Hero,” by Juan Jesús González Ahumada. Runner-up, Nature Art / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Young Wolf (Canis Lupus),” by Aare Udras. Runner-up, Mammals / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“The king of the ocean,” by Francisco Javier Murcia Requena. Category Winner, Human and Nature / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Water lilies marvelous world,” by Gaël Modrak. Highly Commended, Underwater / NPOTY 2021

'Natures Eatable Arctic Gould' by Audun Rikardsen

“Natures eatable Arctic gould,” by Audun Rikardsen. Runner-up, Plants and Fungi / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Heat of Hoar,” by Rupert Kogler. Category Winner, Plants and Fungi / NPOTY 2021

'Fox Crossing the Bridge' by Andius Teigeler

“Fox crossing the bridge,” by Andius Teijgeler. Category Winner, Nature of ‘De Lage Landen' / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Flying Over a Pastel ‘Rainbow',” by Ronald Zimmerman. Runner-up, Nature of ‘De Lage Landen' / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year Photo Contest

“Walking among fennels,” by Ruben Perez Novo. Category Winner, Other Animals / NPOTY 2021

'Silverbach Chimanuka' by Sepp Friedhuber

“Silverbach Chimanuka,” by Josef Friedhuber. Category Winner, Mammals / NPOTY 2021

'Beautiful World' by Levi Fitze

“Beautiful world,” by Levi Fitze. Category Winner, Youth / NPOTY 2021

'Last Embrace' by Roie Galitz

“Last embrace,” by Roie Galitz. Runner-up, Animal Portraits / NPOTY 2021

'Unusual Visitor' by David Hup

“Unusual Visitor,” by David Hup. Runner-up, Human and Nature / NPOTY 2021

Nature Photographer of the Year: Website | Instagram | Facebook

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by NPOTY.

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Arnesia Young

Arnesia Young is a contributing writer for My Modern Met and an aspiring art historian. She holds a BA in Art History and Curatorial Studies with a minor in Design from Brigham Young University. With a love and passion for the arts, culture, and all things creative, she finds herself intrigued by the creative process and is constantly seeking new ways to explore and understand it.
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