“Danger in the Mud” by Jens Cullmann (Germany). Grand Prize Winner, World Nature Photographer of the Year and Gold, Animal Portraits. Subject: Crocodile. Location: Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
After receiving thousands of entries from photographers around the globe, the World Nature Photography Awards have announced their winners. The top prize goes to Jens Cullmann for his incredible image of a crocodile swimming through the mud at the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. The German photographer learned of his win while on location in Botswana and was thrilled about his victory.
From a satellite phone, he shared a bit about the story behind the winning photograph. “This photograph is the result of my staking out the largest pool in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe, at a time when an extended drought had reduced the pool to rapidly drying mud. I had to be very careful not to disturb the crocodile, even though it was buried in dry mud. They will launch themselves with tremendous speed and power at any animal foolish enough to come too close.”
Cullmann also shed some light on why the hot temperatures cause the crocodile to cover itself in mud. “During the dry season, temperatures can reach 45 degrees Celsius and crocodiles will attempt to reduce their body temperature by burying themselves in mud. A giant crocodile such as this one could survive submerged for months without eating, by living off its fat reserves. This is a process known as aestivation.”
His efforts in taking the photo certainly paid off, as it rose to the top of a strong pool of photographers. They submitted their work to 14 different categories that explore wildlife and the natural world. Other standout imagery includes Hidetoshi Ogata‘s adorable photo of Japanese macaques huddled together for a cuddle.
“This photo captures a rare moment during the lactation season when three pairs of monkeys have formed a huddle after grooming,” explains the Japanese photographer. “Most Awaji monkeys are non-aggressive and when they are raising their babies, mothers create individual communities that have no social hierarchies.”
Wildlife was not the only subject celebrated by the awards. Norwegian photographer Virgil Reglioni won the People and Nature category for a photograph that takes us inside an Icelandic glacier. “Not many people would even dare to go in there, where it is dark, deep, cold, loud, and wet” he shares. “And that is the whole purpose of this photograph; pushing your limits to capture what only a few people will ever experience at night.”
See all the winning images, as well as some of our favorite runner's ups below. And, if you want to throw your hat into the ring, the 2023 awards are now open for entry.
Check out the winners of the 2022 World Nature Photography Awards.
“Playgroup” by Hidetoshi Ogata (Japan). Gold, Behavior – Mammals. Animal: Japanese macaques. Location: Awaji Island, Japan
“Harlequin Shrimps” by Adriano Morettin (Italy). Gold, Underwater. Animal: Harlequin shrimps Hymanocera. Location: Lembeh strait, Indonesia
“The World is Mine” by Sascha Fonseca (UAE). Gold, Animals in their Habitat. Animal: Snow leopard. Location: Indian Himalayas
“The Guts” by Virgil Reglioni (Norway). Gold, People and Nature. Subject: Inside a glacier. Location: Solheimajokull, South Iceland
“The Home of the Kestrel” by Vladislav Tasev (UK). Gold, Urban Wildlife. Animal: Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). Location: Stara Zagora, Bulgaria
“Thankfulness” by Alain Ernoult (France). Gold, Black and White. Animal: Lesser Antillean Iguana. Location: Grenada Island, West Indies
“The Grand Tetons” by Jake Mosher (USA). Gold, Planet Earth's landscapes and environments. Subject: Grand Teton Peak. Location: Wyoming, USA
“Prey” by Takuya Ishiguro (Japan). Silver, Behavior – Invertebrates. Animal: Praying mantis and lizard. Location: Miyagi, Japan
“Ride on You” by Norihiro Ikuma (Japan). Gold, Behavior – Amphibians and Reptiles. Animal: Japanese stream toad. Location: Owase Mountains, Mie, Japan
“Fungus Horizon” by Mr. Endy (Singapore). Silver, Plants and fungi. Subject: Crepidotus fungus. Location: Windsor Nature Park, Singapore
“I'm Coming for You” by Charles Schmidt (USA). Gold, Behavior – Birds. Animal: Male Hooded Merganser. Location: Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA, USA
“Connection” by Tamas Aranyossy (Hungary). Silver, Behavior – Birds. Animal: Red-billed Oxpecker. Location: Zimanga, South Africa
“Tree of Life” by Julie Kenny (Australia). Gold, Plants and fungi. Subject: Eucalyptus tree. Location: Mount Barker, Western Australia
“The Ghost of the Rocks” by Javier Herranz Casellas (Spain). Gold, Behavior – Invertebrates. Animal: Red crab (Grapsus adscensionis). Location: La Gomera Island, Spain
“Underwater Colorful Snowstorm” by Tom Shlesinger (Israel). Gold, Nature Art. Animal: Spawning coral. Location: Red Sea
“Injured Fur Seal” by Nicolas Remy (Australia). Gold, Nature photojournalism. Animal: Australian fur seal. Location: Port Kembla, NSW, Australia
“Parallel Universe” by Beatrice Wong (Hong Kong). Silver, Planet Earth's landscapes and environments. Location: Laguna Colarada, Bolivia.
“Catch Me If You Can” by Thomas Vijayan (Canada). Silver, Animals in their Habitat. Animal: Leopard. Location: Kenya