Andean Bear Resting in a Tree Wins Nature Photographer of the Year Award

Large bear in the trees in the Andean Mountain range

“He Looks to the Heavens” by Jacquie Matechuk (Canada). Overall Winner and Winner, Mammals.

Canadian nature photographer Jacquie Matechuk has been named the overall winner of the 2023 Nature Photographer of the Year competition. Her photo of a male spectacled bear looking to the sky as he took refuge in an old fig tree is an enchanting look at a rare species found in the Andean Mountain range. Her photograph beat out over 21,400 entries from photographers in 96 different countries.

“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 in this image,” shares Marco Gaiotti, chair of the judging panel. “Finally, the pose of this spectacled bear fits perfectly into the texture of the photograph.”

Winners were also named in 12 different categories, as well as a special portfolio award. Standouts include Hermis Valiyandiyil's unique portrait of a hoopoe against a background sharply divided into light and dark, as well as XJ Toh‘s haunting photo of a nautilus using its predilection for attaching to jellyfish to cling to a piece of plastic packaging. The photographs won the Birds and Human and Nature categories, respectively.

“Usually, the critters attach to a jellyfish, but in this case, plastic pollution present in the ocean, seemed like a perfect carrier for the nautilus, oblivious that plastic does not have the same advantages food-wise as a jellyfish, the nautilus does have a confused look. The image was taken with one strobe used as backlight to emphasize the resemblance of plastic and jellyfish, and the photographer named the capture Sad Poncho, evoking the feeling of a rainy day, maybe a doomed future?” says juror Ellen Cuylaerts.

See more of the thought-provoking winners and runner-ups below; and if you are a nature photographer yourself, get ready. The 2024 edition of the competition will begin taking entries on December 20, 2023.

Here are the winners of the 2023 Nature Photographer of the Year contest.

Hoopoe lit from behind

“Dawn's Whispers: Graceful Hoopoe Silhouette at Sunrise” by Hermis Valiyandiyil (UAE). Winner, Birds.

Nautilus clinging onto a piece of plastic packaging

“The Sad Poncho” by XJ Toh (Singapore). Winner, Human and Nature.

Roe deer in silhouette on a hill

“Walk on the hill” by Őrsi Ákos (Hungary). Winner, Youth.

Leopard walking around a neighborhood in India

“No land for leopards” by Pruthvi B (India). Runner-up, Human and Nature.

Polar bear shaking off snow

“Shaking Off The Cold” by Jeffrey Kauffman (USA). Runner-up, Mammals.

Blue auto-fluorescing Star-shaped defensive hairs (Trichomes) covering the surface of a Deutzia leaf

“Star Spangled” by David Maitland (UK). Winner, Plants and Fungi.

The photo competition is organized by Nature Talks, which runs the annual Nature Talks Photo Festival.

Sunset by the sea in Finland

“Sunset” by Jens Lax (Finland). Runner-up, Landscape.

Black and white photo of Musk ox bulls running through the snow

“The Charge” by David Gibbon (UK). Runner-up, Black and White.

Flamingo dipping its beak into the mud

“The Pen and Inkwell” byt Jonathan Lhoir (France). Winner, Animal Portrait.

The red wicker fields, in Cañamaras, Cuenca, Spain

“The Ethereal Mist of the Wicker” by Juan Lucas (Pixelecta) (Spain). Runner-up, Nature Art.

Socotra cormorants in Bahrain

“Long necks” by Zakariya Omran (Bahrain). Runner-up, Birds.

Owl sitting in a weeping willow

“The owls birch” by Anton Trexler (Germany). Runner-up, Youth.

Paper Nautilus with jellyfish in the Philippines

“Paper Nautilus Rider” by Renee Capozzola (USA). Winner, Underwater.

Over 21,400 images photographers in 96 different countries were entered into the contest.

Water wolf spider on the back of a giant Victoria regia Lindl leaf

“Spider in frame” by Minghui Yuan (China). Runner-up, Other Animals.

Jaguar at night in the Yucatan peninsula

“Balam, the endangered king of the Mayan jungle” by Fernando Constantino Martínez Belmar (Mexico). Winner, Portfolio.

Black and white photo of the tail of a dolphin

“Heads or Tails” by Jodi Frediani (USA). Winner, Black and White.

A hare in silhoutte

“Big Ears” by Paul Mckenzie (Hong Kong). Runner-up, Animal Portraits.

Black woodpecker on a tree at night

“Big Wing” by Alex Pansier (Netherlands). Winner, Lage Landen.

Winners were named in 12 categories, and a special portfolio prize was also handed out.

Photo of a melting glacier by Thomas Vijayan

“Austfonna Ice Cap” by Thomas Vijayan (Canada). Winner, Landscapes.

December moth flying into an antler-shaped fungus

“December moth” by Imre Potyó (Hungary). Winner, Other Animals.

2023 Nature Photographer of the Year

“Fields of Dreams” by J Fritz Rumpf​ (USA). Winner, Nature Art.

Salamanders crawling on leaves

“Green triplets” by Johan de Ridder (Belgium). Runner-up, Lage Landen.

Swimming salamander underwater

“ALPENSALAMADER” by Luc Rooman (Belgium). Runner-up, Underwater.

Nature Photographer of the Year: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by NPOTY.

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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.
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