39 winning images from the World Nature Photography Awards 2021

US photographer Amos Nachoum took the top prize for his image titled 'Facing Reality'

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An ice cave on Russia's frozen Lake Baikal, long-tailed macaques cuddled up against one another and a Pacific Tree Frog resting on a flower are some of the winners of the 2021 World Nature Photography Awards.

However, it was Amos Nachoum, a wildlife photographer from the US, who was awarded the grand prize and title of World Nature Photographer of the Year for his stunning underwater photo Facing Reality, which captured a tense moment between a leopard seal and a Gentoo penguin.

“For hours, I waited for the low tide to arrive along a shallow lagoon on a remote island off the Antarctic Peninsula. Like clockwork, the leopard seal arrived in the lagoon just before low tide. It put its head in the water and looked just like a rock sitting in the receding water,” he says.

“The young Gentoo penguins only dare to enter the water when it is shallow and when they got close enough to the seal, it turned its head at lightning speed, catching one of the penguins by its feet and taking it to deep water.

“Once the seal reached open water, I followed it and swam parallel to it, observing its actions. To my surprise, it let go of the penguin twice. Each time, the seal chased after the penguin again, as if it was enjoying the game. The terrified penguin tried to escape as the game continued. But soon, the end came.”

The year, contest organisers honoured photographers in 14 categories including people in Nature, Behaviour — Mammals, Plants and Fungi, and Urban Wildlife. The contest is open to anyone over the age of 18, from anywhere in the world. Amateur and professional photographers can apply and there is a $32 entry fee for submission.

“Whilst we know that the challenges around climate change are enormous, amazing things can be achieved if we all come together to affect change. That’s the philosophy behind the World Nature Photography Awards,” the group says on its website.

“We believe that we can all make small efforts to shape the future of our planet in a positive way and photography can go a long way in influencing people to see the world from a different perspective and change their own habits for the good of the planet."

Updated: March 12, 2022, 11:32 AM