orangutan faces the camera upside down
An orangutan poses for the camera at Tanjung Puting National Park, Borneo. 'The World is Going Upside Down' by Thomas Vijayan. All photos courtesy of the World Nature Photography Awards.

The Best Photos From the World Nature Photography Awards

While we stayed indoors through 2020, these animals went about their business—chilling, fornicating, hunting, and being majestic.
Dhvani Solani
Mumbai, IN

To win the top spot at the 2020 edition of the World Nature Photography Awards (WNPA), Canadian nature and wildlife photographer Thomas Vijayan had to climb a tree and wait for several hours. He was deep inside the Tanjung Puting National Park in Indonesian Borneo, hoping to get a glimpse of the world’s largest tree-climbing mammal: the critically endangered orangutan. 


Vijayan had an idea of what he wanted his photo to look like, but the great ape is notoriously difficult to spot. “I selected a tree that was in the water so that I could get a good reflection of the sky which could make the image look upside down,” he wrote of his experience. “This is a regular path for the orangutans to cross to another small island, so I was sure to get this frame if I waited patiently.” Eventually, patience paid off and he was able to not just get his shot but also a gold in the “Animals in Their Habitat” category of the WNPA and the top spot as the World Nature Photographer of the Year—an accolade that comes with a cash prize of $1,000. 

“It's an image that forces you to look twice and, in doing so, fix your gaze on this most fascinating creature,” said Adrian Dinsdale, co-founder of the WNPA that combines sustainability experts, photography sponsorship consultants, and the team behind the long-established design competition, the Visual Identity Awards, to select photos that are not just works of art, but also prompt you to think about the state of nature as it stands today. “Our photographers really are shining a spotlight on the wonders of the natural world in a way that reminds us to do everything we can to protect the future of our planet.” 

Profits from the entry fees for the WNPA, which saw over a thousand entries for its 2020 edition, go towards supporting various climate change charities. You can see the other category prize winners below.

A fox climbs walks over a snow-coated log

A red fox walks over a snow-coated log in Bohemian Forest, Czech Republic. 'Fox' by Vladmir Cech won Silver in the 'Animals in their habitat' category

BRONZE © Femke van Willigen_The Inside Joke.jpg

A Eurasian red squirrel spotted by Femke Van Willigen in Espelo, Netherlands. Winner of the Bronze in 'Animal Portraits' category.

A great horned owl perched up in a tree

A great horned owl perches upon a tree forming a saucer's shape in Alberta, Canada. She has thrust her wings forward to gain momentum. As the wings connect in front of her, it appears as though she has formed a perfect flying saucer. The 'Flying Saucer' by Dale Paul won the Gold in the 'Behaviour Birds' category.

A Clark's grebe snuggles with her newborn chic

A Clark's grebe snuggles with her newborn chick in San Luis Obispo County, California, USA. Lisa Roeder's 'You are my sunshine' won the Bronze medal in the 'Behaviour Birds' category

picture of three tigers playing in the water

Sub-adult tigers play in Dhikala Corbett Tiger Reserve, India. Nabarun Majumdar's 'The Play Fight' won the Bronze Medal in the 'Behaviour Mammals' category

Black and white picture of a rhinoceros in the mud

A White Rhino Bull in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. 'Muddy Rhino' by Darren Donovan won the Silver medal in the 'Behaviour Mammals' category

Two smooth-coated otter pups

Smooth-coated otter pups lie down. 'Quiet kids' by Jocelyn Chng won the Silver in the 'Urban Wildlife' category

GOLD © Christa Funk_Andre Fajardo.jpg

"Andre Fajardo and I went to dive early one morning," says Christa Funk who won the Gold in the 'People and Nature' category. "Sometimes you'll see a ton of life in this area and other times you won't. This particular day we came upon a few bait balls and the fish let us swim around them. The photo was taken in the Pacific Ocean."

Mount Cavallazza, Paneveggio-Pale San Martino Natural Park, Italy coated in the snow.

Mount Cavallazza, Paneveggio-Pale San Martino Natural Park, Italy coated in the snow. Alessandro Gruzza's 'Spirit of the ice' won the Gold in 'Planet Earth's landscape and environment' category

A coati reaches for a dustbin in National Park of Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

A coati reaches for a dustbin in National Park of Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. 'Addicted coati by Adriana Rivas won the Bronze prize in the Urban wildlife category

Two European common brown frogs in Aveto Regional Natural Park, Italy.

Two European common brown frogs during mating season in Aveto Regional Natural Park, Italy. 'The Kiss' by Vittorio Ricci won the Gold in 'Behaviour - Amphibians and reptiles' category.

tigeress in the water facing a source of light

A Bengal tigress in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, India. Nick Dale's 'Bengal Tiger With Catchlight In Water' won the Gold medal in the Animal Portraits category

GOLD © Dr Tze Siong Tan_Heart wheel.jpg

"Dragonfly and damselfly sex is a very conspicuous event, easily recognised by the heart-shaped "wheel" formation of mating pairs," says Dr Tze Siong Tan, Gold winner in 'Behaviour - Invertebrates' category. "I was lucky to encounter several pairs during a morning walk at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. I approached quietly to avoid scaring the pair away; and positioned my equipment carefully to get both damselflies in the same plane."

GOLD © Dipanjan Pal_Glacial veins.jpg

A glacial river flowing through the black sand to the Atlantic. This photo by Dipanjan Pal won the Gold in the 'Nature Art' category.

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