A chilling portrait of a crocodile holding a watchful yellow eye from a pool of mud is the big winner of the World Nature Photography Awards 2022 (WNPA), which honored the most evocative shots from thousands of entries in various categories. The photo was taken in Zimbabwe by Germany’s Jens Cullmann, who won the World Nature Photographer of the Year award and won the top prize for animal portraits.
“This photo is the result of the casting of the largest pool in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe, at a time when a prolonged drought had reduced the pool to fast-drying mud,” Cullmann told the WNPA (opens in new tab). “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 force at any animal foolish enough to get too close.”
From underwater wonders to stunning landscapes, here are the 2022 winners in each category.
Related: The best wildlife cameras 2023
Behavior – Amphibians and Reptiles
Norihiro Ikuma of Japan captured this eerie scene with two Japanese stream toads (Bufo torrenticola), also known as Honshū toads, looking over long strings of toad eggs as one toad rides on another’s back. These animals are endemic to Japan and come down from the Owase Mountains in Mie to the river only when it is breeding time.
Behavior – Birds
This hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) headed straight for the camera, where photographer Charles Schmidt patiently waited for the bird to take off in Huntley Meadows Park, Virginia. “Ducks often start swimming faster when they’re getting ready to fly,” Schmidt told WNPA. “I saw them start to swim faster so I was ready to catch them taking off. I was lucky they headed straight for me!”
Behavior – Invertebrates
This red crab (Grapsus adscensionis) was photographed by Javier Herranz Casellas in La Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain, just as a wave hit the rock where it was perched. The crab was searching for small crustaceans and plants to feed on when a thin veil of water swept over its back, giving it a distinctive Spider-Man appearance.
Behavior – Mammals
Hidetoshi Ogata photographed a rare behavior of six Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) relax into a chat during lactation on Japan’s Awaji Island. It only takes one hug between a mother and her baby to entice other women and men monkeys engage in a chat, which can sometimes involve more than 30 people and is thought to encourage grooming and cuddling behaviour.
Animals in their habitat
Sascha Fonseca, from the United Arab Emirates, set a camera trap in the snowy peaks of the Indian Himalayas to capture this rare photo of a snow leopard (Panthera uncia). “I took this image during a 3-year DSLR [digital-single-lens reflex] camera trap project in the Ladakh region of northern India,” Fonseca told WNPA. “The mystery surrounding the snow leopard has always fascinated me. They are some of the most difficult big cats to photograph in the wild. Not only because of their incredible secrecy, but also because of the remote environment in which they live.”
Black and white
Ernoult Alain of France photographed this Lesser Antilles iguana (Iguana delicatessima), who looks like he’s rubbing his belly after a big meal, on the Caribbean island of Grenada. The image captures, in stunning detail, the scales and folds of this endemic lizardof the skin as the animal stretches its neck.
Art of nature
Coral spawning underwater is a difficult event to capture as it only happens for a few minutes at a specific time one night of the year. Tom Shlesinger of Israel captured the rare moment when thousands of corals threw their bundles of eggs and sperm into the open water, resulting in an artistic composition that looks like a night sky filled with balloons. The bundles are carried by the ocean currents and mixed so that the sperm fertilizes the eggs in the water.
Photojournalism of nature
Nicolas Remy captured this heartbreaking photo of an Australian seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) with bad injuries caused by a boat propeller in Port Kembla, Australia. Marine mammals such as whales, seals and sea lions are frequently struck by boats of all sizes, often resulting in injury and sometimes death.
People and Nature
To take this photo, Virgil Reglioni of Norway plunged into the depths of a glacier at night. “That’s what it feels like to be in the bowels of the glacier,” he told WNPA. “Not many people would dare to go in there, where it’s deep, cold, strong and wet. And that’s what this photography is all about; pushing your limits to capture what few people will ever experience at night. incredible, as the further we got into this dark monster, the more the fear rose. The setup was just amazing and it felt amazing just hanging on that moulin with about 30 meters [100 feet] of dark void beneath my feet and my suspended tripod in the air.’
Landscapes and environments of planet Earth
This panoramic shot of it Galaxy crowning the Grand Teton was American photographer Jake Mosher’s reward for climbing to the top of Wyoming’s Table Mountain on a clear spring night. At 13,775 feet (4,199 m), Grand Teton is the highest peak in the Teton Range.
“On June 17, 2021, I hiked, walked through the snow, and climbed to 11,000 feet [3,400 m] top of Wyoming’s Table Mountain to photograph the Milky Way over the Grand Teton peak,” Moser told WNPA. “While these iconic mountains have been photographed tens of thousands of times, I wanted to show a completely unique view of them. I was treated to one of the most impressive displays of airglow I have ever seen — similar to dawn and created by photocharged particles, but they extend over much of the horizon.”
Plants and fungi
Australia’s Julie Kenny captured sheep tracks surrounding a fallen tree in this evocative shot. “The tree is seen as a sacred symbol, which carries important meanings in both religious and spiritual philosophy,” Kenny told WNPA. “From above, the surrounding sheep tracks combined with the fallen tree reminded me of the Tree of Life. While the aerial perspective focuses on the land, you can see the silted water in the sheep tracks reflecting hints of blue from the sky. It represents many different things, for me it communicates the interconnectedness of all things, the beginning and the end, the circle of life.”
Positioning the camera to focus on a blue starfish (Linckia laevigata), Adriano Morettin of Italy photographed some color-matched harlequin shrimp (Hymenocera picta) in the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia. Female harlequin shrimp grow longer than males — up to 2 inches (5 cm) long.
Vladislav Tasev from the UK spotted this male Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) climbing on the doorstep of his new house with a street lamp in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.
“I took the photo at sunset to see the rust, the lamps and the bird in natural light,” Tasev told WNPA. “The photo was taken in the town of Stara Zagora near the Thracian University, in an abandoned parking lot near a small forest.”