For the third year in a row, the Close-Up Photographer of the Year contest shows us the natural world from a brand new, incredibly intimate perspective. With over 9,000 entries from 56 countries across the globe, this year’s contest showcases a diverse assemblage of terrific photographs with incredible backstories.
The winning shot of 2021 is by the Norwegian photographer Pal Hermansen for his captivating photo of a kaleidoscope of insects spread out on a white table. Below, we’ve outlined 15 of our favorite winning images from this year’s competition. You can view the full list of winners and 100 finalists on the contest’s website here: 2021 Close-Up Photographer of the Year Winners.
Overall Winner: “Insect Diversity” by Pal Hermansen
Author's Comment: "In the autumn of 2020, I discovered that one of the lamps on my house in Norway had a defect and had acted as a light trap for insects. I emptied the lamp and spread the contents onto a large light table I had leftover from my slide days. I used a weak flashlight to light the details from above. I wanted to express the chaos and diversity of this discovery, but also to find some kind of composition. To me, it’s a visual reminder of the important and extreme diversity of animals around us that we take for granted."
Author's Comment: "Last year (2020), near my home in Badlapur, India, my friends and I were walking through the pools of water formed by the monsoon and found this dead damselfly floating on the surface. I had never seen this arrangement of its four wings before with the beautiful droplets on them."
“Cup fungi Lachnum niveum” by Andy Sands - 2nd place in Plants & Fungi
Author's Comment: "A soap bubble lasts mere seconds before it bursts and returns to its original form. This image seeks not only to portray the ephemeral life of an apparent common physical phenomenon but to also show the most diverse colours and mesmerizing patterns. The psychedelic effect contained in the movement of water and soap captured against the light continually feeds my imagination."
“Circular Octopus” by Alessandro Grasso - Winner in Underwater
Author's Comment: “Last December, while cutting the hedge in my garden, I spotted what I thought were slime moulds, growing on this dead holly leaf. On closer inspection, I noticed amazing spikes coming out of the cap of these small, rare, Holly Parachute fungi, Marasmius hudsonii.”
“Mating Underwater” by Ripan Biswas - Winner in Butterflies & Dragonflies
Author's Comment: “For some species of damselfly, egg-laying is a difficult task. They lay eggs on submerged vegetation so their eggs don’t get exposed to the air. The female climbs down deep in the water while the male clasps the neck of the female with a special organ on the tip of its tail. This is a difficult time for the pair as they become vulnerable to predators.”
Author's Comment: "Agricultural areas like this do not seem very lively. The hare, which I almost ran past, is very well camouflaged here. Due to his natural instinct, he will lie down as soon as danger arises. So I discovered him, quite unexpectedly, five metres away from me. Lying on the floor, I was able to catch the hare in its agricultural environment and show how animals can survive in manmade habitats."
Author's Comment: "I noticed this rat peering out of an abandoned car wheel in a farmyard near my home in Cornwall, England. It was framed so pleasingly by the concentric circles of the tyre that I came back the next morning with my camera in the hope of capturing the moment."
“Fight” by Svetlana Ivanenko - 2nd Place in Animals
Author's Comment: "During spring these Secret toad head agamas battle over territory. It is difficult to capture these short and intense conflicts. The temperature in Kalmykia, Russia doesn’t help either, as it often rises above 30 °C."
“Painted Lady in the Garden” by Andrew Fusek Peters - 2nd Place in Butterflies & Dragonflies
Author's Comment: "This opilione (harvestman or daddy longlegs) moves along a dry branch in a small hollow created by a landslip on the hillside of Sierra Blanca, Andalusia. These creatures are blind and use their front legs to guide themselves in the dark."
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