Bees, Birds, and Predators Win Photo Awards

Nature rules in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Contest.

bees in a ball

Karine Aigner / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A ball of bees, preening birds, and the moment when predators snatch prey—these are some of the winning images in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. 

The overall winner, above, was "The big buzz" by Karine Aigner of the U.S. The photo, which depicts a group of bees competing to mate, also was the winner of the Behavior: Invertebrates category.

Aigner used a macro lens to snap the ball of cactus bees flying over the sand in south Texas. After a few minutes, a male clinging to the only female in the group flew away with his new partner.

"Wings-whirring, incoming males home in on the ball of buzzing bees that's rolling straight into the picture," says chair of the jury, writer and editor Rosamund "Roz" Kidman Cox. "The sense of movement and intensity is shown at bee-level magnification and transforms what are little cactus bees into big competitors for a single female."

Aigner is the fifth woman in the competition's 58-year history to be awarded the grand title award.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. This year's winners were selected from 38,575 entries from 93 countries.

"Wildlife photographers offer us unforgettable glimpses into the lives of wild species, sharing unseen details, fascinating behaviours and front-line reporting on the climate and biodiversity crises," says Doug  Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum. "These images demonstrate their awe of and appreciation for the natural world and the urgent need to take action to protect it."

Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year

baleen whale

Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"The beauty of baleen" by Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn, Thailand

The 16-year-old photographer took this image of a Bryde's whale and all its colors and textures.

"Out of the jaws of a Bryde's whale comes this dazzling creation. The pin-sharp detail of the tiny anchovies is set against an abstraction of colour with the weave of brown baleen hair rimmed by a cascade of water drops," says Cox.

Animals in the Environment

spectacled bear

Daniel Mideros / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"Spectacled bear's slim outlook" by Daniel Mideros, Ecuador

Mideros set up camera traps along a wildlife corridor in Peñas Blancas, Quito, Ecuador. He wanted to show the disappearing landscape, as well as the wildlife. Here, he captured a spectacled bear surveying the landscape.

 Animal Portraits

Canary Islands houbara

Jose Juan Hernandez Martinez / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"Puff perfect" by José Juan Hernández Martinez, Spain

This winning image shows the courtship display of a Canary Islands houbara in La Oliva, Spain. The photographer dug a hideout at night so he could catch the bird during his performance.

Behaviour: Birds 

wren with leaves

Nick Kanakis / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"The listening bird" by Nick Kanakis, United States

Kanakis waited in the leaf litter at Tatamá National Park, Risaralda, Colombia, as he watched a gray-breasted wood wren foraging. He snapped the photo as the bird neared with its ear to the ground, listening for insects.

Behaviour: Mammals

snow leopard chasing prey

Anand Nambiar / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"The great cliff chase" by Anand Nambiar, India  

Nambiar photographed a snow leopard chasing a herd of Himalayan ibex to a steep cliff in Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles

snake snatching bat

Fernando Constantino Martínez Belmar / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"The bat-snatcher" by Fernando Constantino Martínez Belmar, Mexico

The photographer captured the moment a Yucatan rat snake grabbed a bat in the Cave of the Hanging Snakes in Kantemo, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Natural Artistry

flamingos in the clouds

Junji Takasago / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"Heavenly flamingos" by Junji Takasago, Japan

High in the Andes, Takasago fought through altitude sickness to photograph this group of Chilean flamingos in a swirl of clouds.

Oceans: The Bigger Picture

whales underwater

Richard Robinson / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"New life for the tohorā" by Richard Robinson, New Zealand   

Robinson photographed these southern right whales mating underwater around the Auckland Islands, New Zealand.

Plants and Fungi

magical forest scene

Agorastos Papatsanis / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"The magical morels" by Agorastos Papatsanis, Greece

Papatsanis created a world of fungi and magic in this fairy tale scene of morels with trees and water in Mount Olympus, Greece. 


giant sea star

Tony Wu / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"Shooting star" by Tony Wu, United States/Japan

Stuck in a small bay with only a macro lens to photograph tiny subjects, Wu backed up in order to capture his dancing sea star in Kinko Bay, Japan.

Urban Wildlife

polar bears in abandoned house

Dmitry Kokh / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"House of bears" by Dmitry Kokh, Russia   

Kokh captures this image of polar bears in a long-deserted settlement on Kolyuchin Island in Russia. He used a drone to take a photo from a nearby yacht.

Wetlands—The Bigger Picture

wetlands from the sky

Daniel Nunez / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"The dying lake" by Daniel Núñez, Guatemala

Using a drone, Núñez photographed the contrast between the forest and the algal growth on Lake Amatitlán in Villa Canales, Guatemala. "It was a sunny day with perfect conditions," he said, "but it is a sad and shocking moment." Algal blooms thrive in areas of pollution like sewage and fertilizer.


keeper hugging mountain gorilla

Brent Stirton / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"Ndakasi’s passing" by Brent Stirton, South Africa

Stirton originally photographed mountain gorilla Ndakasi when she was rescued as her mother was killed. Here, he photographed her in her last days in the arms of her rescuer and caregiver, Andre Bauma, at Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Photojournalist Story Award

bullfinch hanging in cage on road

Karine Aigner / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"The Cuban connection" by Karine Aigner, USA

Aigner focuses on the relationship between songbirds and Cuban culture. In "Why the caged bird sings," she shows a bullfinch that is hanging in a cage along the road in order to get used to noise. The hope is that it will be less distracted during singing competitions.

Rising Star Portfolio Award

peregrine falcon startles birds

Mateusz Piesiak / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

 "A theatre of birds" by Mateusz Piesiak, Poland 

This winning portfolio focuses on portraits of bird behavior. In "Dunlin panorama," Piesiak captures a moment when a peregrine falcon stirred up nearby dunlins.

Portfolio Award

diver and sea creatures under Antarctic ice

Laurent Ballesta / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"Under Antarctic ice" by Laurent Ballesta, France  

In Ballesta's portfolio, the underwater photographer and biologist captured images while diving beneath the ice in Antarctica. This image, "Pyramid of life," shows a sponge covered with giant ribbon worms and sea stars.

Living towers of marine invertebrates punctuate the seabed off Adélie Land, 32 meters (105 feet) under east Antarctic ice. Here, at the center, a tree-shaped sponge is draped with life, from giant ribbon worms to sea stars.

Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, 10 and Under

two ibex sparring

Ekaterina Bee / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"Battle stations" by Ekaterina Bee, Italy 

On a spring outing with her family in Pian della Mussa, Piedmont, Italy, Ekaterina Bee spotted a fight between two Alpine ibex. They sparred with their horns while standing on their hind legs. 

Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, 11-14 Years

trees in the fog

Ismael Domínguez Gutiérrez / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"Out of the fog" by Ismael Domínguez Gutiérrez, Spain

The young photographer at first was disappointed when he visited a wetland in Embalse de Los Hurones, Cádiz, Spain, and saw the fog. But when the fog started to dissipate he took this haunting image.

View Article Sources
  1. Wildlife Photographer of the Year media release