The stunning winning images of the 2020 World Nature Photography Awards have been announced. This year’s honored photographers hung out in jungle canopies, tracked animals on safari, and explored the micro worlds of ponds—all to get that one amazing shot. Across 13 categories, a panel of judges scored images submitted by wildlife and nature photographers around the world. Based on the image’s artistic merit, originality, subject, and style, the category winners were decided. This year’s Grand Prize—the World Nature Photographer of the Year 2020—has gone to the winner of the “Animals in their Habitat” category. The prize image of a Bornean orangutan was taken by Canadian photographer Thomas Vijayan.
The year 2020 was an extraordinary one with unique challenges for many adventurous photographers who are avid travelers. Traveling was largely impossible, so many photographers were forced to take their artistic practice closer to home. Each year, the World Nature Photography Awards emphasizes their mission—”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.” In 2020, the competition reassured all aspiring photographers that “that great shot might not be waiting on the other side of the world but in your very own garden or in the park at the end of the street.” The winning images prove that patience, composition, and perseverance make the perfect shot—no matter where you are.
The Grand Prize image by Thomas Vijayan is the perfect example of dedication to one’s craft paying off. In Borneo, the Canadian photographer knew he wanted to capture the charming orangutans. “I had this frame in my mind,” he explains. “So to get this shot, I firstly selected a tree that was in the water so that I can get a good reflection of the sky which can make the image look upside down, then I climbed up on the tree and waited for hours. This is a regular path for the orangutans to cross to another small island so I was sure to get this frame if I wait patiently. Hence I waited and waited for long and finally, I got this beautiful frame.”
For Belgian photographer Gunther de Bruyne (Gold Medal winner of the “Nature Photojournalism” category), wildlife photography is a passion that requires patience and also demands investment in sustainability. The dedicated photographer captured his winning image while spending time at the Thanda Safari Game Reserve in South Africa. There he photographed a sad conservation ritual, the horn of a white rhino being sawed off. While the image may at first glance appear to be the work of poachers, it is in fact conservationists and rangers who perform this procedure. The endangered white rhinos are targeted by poachers for their horns, which are sold on the black market. As de Bruyne notes, removing the horn preemptively is “a highly effective strategy as well as a conservation measure of last resort.”