An orange shield insect photographed on a leaf.

Yuan Minghui, “Like a Flower.” Insects Finalist. “After a rainstorm, a shield bug (Pentatomidae) fell onto some decayed leaves in the mud. The gradual decay of the leaves reminded me of printed flowers, and I loved the bright contrast of the insect against it. This shield bug is like a flower that falls to the ground, bringing some bright emotions to the dark rainforest.” All images © the photographers, courtesy of CUPOTY, shared with permission

Now in its fifth year, Close-up Photographer of the Year drew nearly 12,000 remarkable entries from photographers in 67 countries who explore macro marvels of the natural world. From a roly-poly isopod in Austria to sunlit lily pads in an atmospheric Mexican cenote, this year’s images portray a vast array of flora and fauna in incredible detail. Eleven categories ranging from animals and insects to underwater and intimate landscapes welcomed submissions that focus on a breadth of amazing scenes.

The competition’s overall winner is Csaba Daróczi, whose spectacular black-and-white capture of a bird in flight, taken from inside a hollow tree stump, presents a unique perspective of forest life. Other category winners included Barry Webb’s extraordinary view of slime mold, Mirko Scortichini’s cluster of blue butterflies, and a ghost goby hovering over a diaphanous bed of pink coral by Laura Storm. You can explore the top 100 photos on the contest’s website.


A curled-up isopod shot close-up.

Manfred Auer, “Orange Isopod.” Invertebrate Portrait 2nd Place. “I captured this shot during my early days as a macro photographer back in April. Just three months after getting my Olympus camera, I stumbled upon this incredible isopod in the woods behind my house in the beautiful south of Austria. This image is a result of merging 91 individual shots with varying focus points.”

A black-and-white photograph taken from inside a hollowed out tree of a bird flying and trees rising up on all sides.

Csaba Daróczi, “The Bird of the Forest.” Animals 1st Place and Overall Winner. “In the winter of 2023, I took a lot of photographs in a forest close to my home in Hungary. I found something new to photograph almost every week, and I spent several days exploring ideas and perfecting techniques. Staying curious and open-minded led me to this hollowed out tree stump, which measured around half a metre in diameter. I carefully positioned my GoPro 11 camera inside the trunk and took a few shots. I was amazed by the results. After a few days, however, I decided the composition might be improved if I included an animal in the frame. So, I returned to the spot and placed a sunflower near the hole, which the mice and birds soon found.”

A heron and a small fish touch noses.

Arne Bivrin, “Kiss of Death.” Animals Finalist. “I was sitting in a hide watching a heron stalking fish in the shallow water. I had my eyes on this heron and was ready when it caught the small fish. Most bird photographers like to capture the entire bird, whereas I enjoy tight portraits and details.”

Dozens of wood ants spray droplets of acid.

René Krekels, “Wood Ants Firing Acid Secretion.” Insects 1st Place. “I had been studying the lifestyle of wood ants in the Netherlands for work when I noticed the defending ants of a very large ant’s nest seemed eager to scare me off by spraying acid towards me. Luckily, it wasn’t that destructive, and it provided me with a great opportunity to photograph them defending the nest.”

A cluster of blue butterflies in the grass.

Mirko Scortichini, “Butterflies Storm.” Butterflies and Dragonflies Finalist. A group of Lycaenidae butterflies gather to feast upon a cowpat in Serrapetrona, Italy, in June

A ghost goby sits on top of a spongey pink coral.

Laura Storm, “Cloud Nine.” Underwater Finalist. A ghost goby hides out among the undulating textures and swirls of its pink sponge daybed

A white fish swims over a tapestry-like colorful seabed of coral.

Simon Theuma, “Dreamtime.” Underwater 1st Place. “Like an intricate tapestry of the marine ecosystem, this image captures the relationship between a commensal shrimp and a mosaic sea star. Dreamtime Aboriginal art reminds us of the delicate balance that exists in the grand tapestry of our natural world—this ancient wisdom serves as an important reminder to preserve what we have. To capture this image, I needed to use a snooted strobe, which was set at an acute angle to the subject. This setup accentuated the depth and beautiful texture of the two organisms. Additionally, I enhanced magnification by using a +15 wet lens dioptre.”

A macro photo of slime mold with water droplets on the stems.

Barry Webb, “Comatricha with Droplets.” Fungi and Slime Molds Finalist. Beautiful Comatricha nigra slime moulds gleam with water droplets on a rotting fence post in November in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, U.K.

Two green, glistening butterfly eggs.

Ye Fei Zhang, “Butterfly Eggs.” Micro Finalist

A microscopic sea creature curled up into the shape of a heart.

Liang Fu, “Heart of the Sea.” Underwater 2nd Place. “This photograph was taken during a blackwater dive in Romblon, Philippines. Blackwater diving is a type of scuba diving that takes place at night in the open ocean, with thousands of metres of water below the boat. Divers descend a rope with underwater lights as their only orientation system. When the tide and moon phase are right, creatures from the deep migrate to shallower waters. This vertical migration is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena. During the dive, I saw something shining under my searchlight at 28 metres deep. As I swam closer to investigate, I found a lava moray eel curled into a heart shape. I was extremely fortunate to capture this moment with my camera. The eel remained at that depth for less than 10 seconds before swimming down and disappearing into the darkness.”

Pink lily pads viewed from underwater.

Chris Gug, “Spirit of the Yucatan.” Plants Finalist. Looking through the drifting stems of lily pads in a Mexican freshwater cenote to the sky above

Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member today and support independent arts publishing for as little as $5 per month. The article Close-Up Photographer of the Year Showcases Mindboggling Macro Images of the Natural World appeared first on Colossal.


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