20 Winning Images in Big Picture’s 2023 Nature Photo Contest

Photography’s strength resides in its capacity to seize moments that stir feelings, motivate, and create enduring impressions. The Big Picture Photography Contest honors the skill and ingenuity of global photographers, displaying awe-inspiring visuals that narrate captivating tales.

We’ve collected some awe-inspiring photographs that were chosen as winners and finalists in this year’s Big Picture Photography Contest. Prepare to be captivated by the beauty, diversity, and emotional depth captured in these remarkable images.

Grand Prize Winner: “Backyard Friend” (From “Cities Gone Wild”) By Corey Arnold

Asheville, North Carolina, United States.

“With a wildlife corridor passing through their property, a retired couple living on the outskirts of Asheville, North Carolina frequently find four-legged visitors at their back porch, including this beautiful American black bear (Ursus americanus). In fact, residents of Asheville are known for their close relationship with wild black bears in the area. This photographer theorizes that through this coexistence, these bears may be growing more intelligent and increasingly bold—resulting in close contact like that featured here.”

Human/Nature Category Winner -“Nose To Nose” By Douglas Gimesy

Joey and Bat Sanctuary, Beveridge, Victoria, Australia.

“Lit by natural light, a veterinary student cradles and nuzzles a newly rescued, four-month-old common wombat (Vombatus ursinus) named Maude. Baby wombats, with their highly sensitive noses, especially appreciate such close contact. Despite their name, the number of wombats like Maude are on the decline, making this tender photo an even starker reminder of our greater role in their species’ survival.”

Winged Life Category Winner -“Pass By” By Lin Xiaoping

Xiamen, China.

“Xiamen City is home to thousands of egrets, earning it the nickname ‘the island of the egrets.’ At first blush, this image captured there appears to be a simple photo of an egret getting a surprise jump from its prospective meal. Then, a moment of delight—the meal is chasing a meal of its own!”

Landscapes, Waterscapes, And Flora Category Winner – “Regeneration” By Miquel Angel Artús Illana

Tossa De Mar, Spain.

“Miquel Angel Artús Illana is a photographer from and trained in Barcelona, currently residing in Tossa De Mar. He has always been fascinated by landscapes, traveling weekly since he was very young to the native forests and mountains of his home.”

Terrestrial Wildlife Category Winner – “For Survival” By Donglin Zhou

Shiqu, Sichuan Province, China.

“A difficult scene shows a snow leopard (Panthera uncia) and a Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul) both engaged in a struggle for survival—one to feed and the other to stay alive. It is remarkable to see them together at all but especially in this light, as they are typically not active during the daytime. Unfortunately for this Pallas’s cat, she picked an inopportune time to go hunting for pikas for her kittens, and even more unfortunate, these squat felids cannot outrun a leopard due to their stocky bodies. This photographer, with help from forest rangers and permission from the local government, fed her orphaned kittens with road-killed pikas from the area until the cats were able to fend for themselves.”

Art Of Nature Category Winner -“Field Of Dreams” By J Fritz Rumpf

White Mountains, Arizona, United States.

“This year’s Art of Nature winner serves as a photographic Rorschach test! The photographer mentions a range of reactions and theories as to what the mesmerizing lines might be part of. A coastal scene with waves crashing on the cliff or sand rippled with waves in the deep desert? We’ll keep you in suspense no longer: It’s the underside of a mushroom, likely a member of the Lactarius family. The photographer notes that he was drawn back to the unusually vibrant colors displayed on the gills, the blue color in particular, which might indicate the presence of psilocybin or psilocin. Trippy indeed!”

Aquatic Life Category Winner – “Of Blades & Spines” By Kate Vylet

Carmel Bay, United States.

“Urchins are often vilified in media coverage of changing kelp forests—they’re the most visible cause of kelp forest loss, devouring algae and replacing lush forests with spine-studded barrens. But in this remarkable photo, we see how urchins belong to kelp forests as much as the kelp itself does; more importantly, they play a crucial role as detritivores—eating dead algae and feeding marine life higher up the food chain. Ultimately, urchins are trying to survive in changing seas just like kelp; the loss of their kelp forest homes is a consequence of climate change from which they also suffer.”

Human/Nature Finalist – “Lake In Pain” By Daniel Núñez

Amatitlán Lake, Guatemala.

“We’ve been conditioned to think that when it comes to nature, green is good; unfortunately, in the case of Amatitlán Lake this couldn’t be further from the truth. Each year, enormous quantities of untreated sewage and sediment are carried into this lake from Guatemala City. The result is this disarmingly neon green and undoubtedly toxic lakefront view, visible from the air.”

Landscapes, Waterscapes, And Flora Finalist – “Fern Reunion” By César Llaneza Rodríguez

Oldervik, Tromsø, Norway.

“In an intimate photo of an extensive forest, a kaleidoscope of autumn; birch and fern intertwine, demonstrating how each colorfully cycles through life.”

Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist – “Brotherly Hug” By Daniel Valverde

Sabah, Malaysia.

“Exhibiting a behavior that’s all-too human, a proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) hugs another after preventing it from falling out of a tree. Endemic to the jungles of Borneo, these highly social animals are on the brink of extinction, making their embrace all the more heart-wrenching.”

Landscapes, Waterscapes, And Flora Finalist – “In The Place Of My Dreams” By Paulo Olivier Hanshing

Región de Atacama, Copiapó, Chile.

“Even the driest non polar desert in the world is teeming with life if you look closely enough. After various trips to the area, this photographer camped out for three days in order to capture this breathtaking image that shows how the mist and fog roll over the seemingly barren desert of Atacama.”

Winged Life Finalist – “Little Winged Warrior” By Robert Dodson

British Columbia, Canada.

“What they lack in size they make up for in feistiness! Rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) are notorious for their relentless attacks on both flowers and other hummingbirds, but here we get to see a moment of pause during flight. This unusual perspective allows us to see a softer side of this finger-lengthed, yet mighty, species.”

Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist – “Cloud Walker” By Torie Hilley

Lake Clark National Park, Alaska, United States.

“Looking for a change in scenery while traveling for the first time since the pandemic began, this photographer wasn’t disappointed by Alaska or this Alaskan Peninsula brown bear (Ursus arctos gyas). However, she did have to practice patience, as most days were dominated by cloudy conditions. Finally, the sky gradually started to change color, making the ground appear as though this majestic animal was walking on clouds and allowing the photographer to capture this breathtaking, ethereal image.”

Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist – “Dripping” By Benjamin Olson

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, United States.

“An intimate portrait five years in the making: A majestic moose (Alces alces) reveling in the water where it spends most of its time during the summer months. The moose population in this area has grown sharply in the last few years due to a decline in gray wolves—their only predator. This single-prey, single-predator relationship in Isle Royale National Park has been closely studied by scientists for over 50 years.”

Human/Nature Finalist – “Tucked In” By Marcus Westberg

Lwiro Primate Sanctuary, Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Congo, Africa.

“A Congolese care worker swaddles two rescued chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) as she might her own children. This photographer spent several weeks working in and around Kahuzi-Biega National Park, including at the associated Lwiro Primate Sanctuary, where over 100 rescued chimpanzees have been given a second chance at life. The result of this time is a remarkable photo that not only tugs at the heartstrings, but reminds us that we are more alike than different.”

Aquatic Life Finalist – “Crowd Control” By Andy Schmid

Skjverøy, Norway.

“This photograph is a perfect demonstration of evolution and ecology: carousel feeding by Norwegian orcas. A behavior first coined with respect to bottlenose dolphins, carousel feeding is a hunting tactic wherein a pod of marine mammals work together to herd prey into a tight ball, or, as it appears in this photo, a donut-like shape. As the ball is herded tightly by one or more individuals, the rest of the pod will whip their tails into the school in order to stun, and then feed on, the fish within.”

Photo Story: A Matter Of Time Finalist – “Cities Gone Wild” By Corey Arnold

San Francisco, California, United States.

“A gaze of raccoons perk up as a car peels by in Golden Gate Park—where you might catch at least twenty of these critters on any given night. It’s not uncommon to observe this many together in the wild, but it used to be unusual to see this many at once in a city—no doubt a direct result of the large amounts of unsecured garbage available in urban areas.”

Aquatic Life Finalist – “Snapper Sunset” By Renee Capozzola

Rangiroa, French Polynesia.

“A serene moment of paddletail snappers (Lutjanus gibbus) swimming in the largest atoll in the Tuamotu Islands, this masterful image captures the many layers of a healthy, thriving ecosystem—above and below the surface—in a single frame. Not only is this photo a testament to the beauty of the ocean, but it’s also a powerful example of what it looks like when our watery world is protected.”

Winged Life Finalist – “Puffin Present” By Shane Kalyn

Borgarfjörður Eystri, Iceland.

“As this surreal photo demonstrates, Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) are well known for being some of the most photogenic birds on the planet. They’re also highly social and mate for life, and while their primary mating ritual is a behavior called ‘billing,’ where they rub their beaks together, puffins also give gifts to their partners, such as a choice feather as seen here.”

Aquatic Life Finalist – “Strength In Numbers” By Renee Capozzola

Maui, Hawaii, United States.

“An astonishing image: four green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) serenely swim through the waters of Maui. While it’s not unusual to see them in Hawaiian waters, where they thrive thanks to strict protections, it is extraordinarily rare to spot more than two swimming together. Green sea turtles are primarily solitary creatures once they reach adulthood, coupling only briefly for courtship and to breed.”

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