Hope in a Burned Plantation
Iconic Australia is captured in this particular moment as a resilient kangaroo pauses in a burned eucalyptus plantation. Nearly three billion animals perished or were displaced in the cataclysmic Australian bushfires of 2019 and 2020. This eastern grey kangaroo and her joey represent the lucky survivors, escaping from an area that had been transformed by humans for farming and then devastated by fire.
The photographer swam with this battery of barracuda in the Blue Corner for four days, looking for the perfect angle. At the end of a 50-minute dive on his fifth day, the fish allowed him to swim among them as part of the school and he captured this fisheye view. On the sixth day, he joined the fish without his camera.
This spirit bear, one of only a few hundred white bears in this subspecies of black bears in the coastal rainforests of British Columbia, is known by the name “Boss.” After lowering his head into the river in search of salmon roe, he pulled his head up and shook, droplets spiraling around his head, looked at the photographer for a split second, and then plunged back into the water for his meal.
Michelle Valberg has traveled to every continent in search of adventure and photographic opportunities for more than 30 years, and is especially passionate about Canada and the Arctic. She is a Nikon Ambassador, philanthropist, and community leader, has published four books, and is the first Canadian Geographic Photographer-in-Residence.
terrestrial wildlife winner
Beak to Beak
After preening each other's feathers, the ravens took turns inspecting every nook and cranny in each other's beaks—talking to one another throughout the process. In three winters of observing the gift-sharing, grooming, and singing courtship behaviors of ravens on the mountain, the photographer had never witnessed anything like this.
What looked to be mountains from the ground turned out to be extinct volcanoes as captured by this drone shot taken on a cloudy day in June, at the time of the midnight sun. The unusual perspective of an inhospitable landscape stained by traces of iron oxide creates an otherworldly atmosphere.
Fran Rubia is an electrician who has studied photography via the Centro Andaluz de la Fotografía since 1997. His work has won numerous awards and he has contributed to many publications, exhibitions, and conferences. His most extraordinary photographic experience was his first view of the deep green sky of the Northern Lights on a frigid night in the Arctic.
Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora winner
The Goblet of Fire
This mushroom, illuminated by a simple flashlight, was one of many fungi growing around the photographer’s house in the countryside. During the monsoon season, the mushrooms released thick, yellow-brown spores throughout the day for almost a month—a common but often ignored phenomenon.
Sarang Naik is a nature and wildlife photographer who specializes in creative and abstract photography. In recent years, he has been documenting the urban wildlife of Mumbai. He also works with Marine Life of Mumbai, a community-driven initiative that documents and raises awareness about Mumbai's marine biodiversity through shore walks and social media.
art of nature winner
The Goblet of Fire
Sign of the Tides
In this perfectly composed photograph, a discarded face mask in the shape of a sea turtle attracts a notoriously curious California sea lion. Shot in November 2020, this was the first time the photographer saw a mask underwater, but unfortunately he has seen many since. The effects of the pandemic will likely linger on our oceans for years to come.
Ralph Pace holds a graduate degree from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he used surf economics and photography to stop construction that would have ruined a lagoon, a critical sea turtle nesting habitat, and a world-class surf break. His work is used by NGOs for educational, promotional, advocacy, identification, and enforcement purposes.
Sign of the Tides
Klukshu Ice Bears
Each winter, grizzly bears go fishing near Klukshu and other First Nations villages of the Yukon, delaying their hibernation to catch some of the late spawning salmon runs. Fishing in subzero temperatures, when the creek water freezes to their fur, the bears are covered in icicles that dangle as they walk, tinkling like chandeliers. But with winter arriving later each year, and rivers—which carry the salmon—disappearing due to receding glaciers, this extraordinary ice bear phenomenon may melt away.
Peter Mather is a photojournalist who focuses on long form stories about the wildlife, conservation, and people of the North. He is a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers, works with GEO Magazine, and is represented by Minden Images and National Geographic Image Collection. Peter has often been seen in BigPicture—his project on the caribou migration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was the 2019 winner of the “Pushing the Limits” Photo Story.