Frolicking leopards, a fierce lion and a croc coming up for breath: Jaw-dropping winning images in a prestigious photography competition reveal life’s stunning diversity

  • Prestigious contest, run by the National Wildlife Federation, drew over 29,700 entries from around the globe
  • The overall grand prize winner was Alex Rose for her stunning photograph of an American crocodile in Cuba
  • Category winners included a snap of playful baboons and a shot of the Milky Way over the Yellowstone River  

Rejoice in the glorious diversity of life on Earth – with the winners of the National Wildlife Photo Contest.

The prestigious competition, run by the Virginia-based National Wildlife Federation (NWF), drew more than 29,700 entries from around the globe, with winning images for 2020 including snaps of a pair of playful baboons in Zambia, the stunning Milky Way over the Yellowstone River and a hapless gladiator tree frog being devoured by a parrot snake in Costa Rica.

The overall grand prize winner was Alex Rose from Woodridge, Illinois, with her amazing shot of an American crocodile gulping for breath in Cuba’s Jardines de la Reina archipelago.

Lisa Moore, editorial director and editor-in-chief of National Wildlife magazine, said: ‘Every photographer who enters our contest is someone we think of as a “Nature’s Witness”, using their passion for the natural world to create beautiful images that can inspire conservation.

‘Whether they’re alone in the dark shooting the Milky Way or quietly strolling through a neighborhood to capture the beauty of a butterfly, they witness the majesty — and fragility — of nature and the world we’re all committed to protecting.’

Scroll down to see the stunning winning and runner-up images from each of the contest’s eight categories, as well as the grand prize-winning picture…

Photographer Alex Rose, from Illinois, was the grand prize winner with this stunning shot of an American crocodile gulping for breath in Cuba’s Jardines de la Reina – an archipelago off its southern coast. According to NWF, this network of islands, lagoons and mangrove swamps is one of the largest protected areas in Cuba, with fish, coral and crocs thriving there. Alex, who was there as part of a shark conservation project, said: ‘These wild animals are so powerful and impressive’

The winner in the ‘baby animals’ category was Rian van Schalkwyk, from Namibia, for this snap of two playful young yellow baboons in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. According to NWF, Rian had been camping in the park with his four-year-old daughter Nina and rose early one morning when he spotted the animals playing on the gnarled remains of a camelthorn tree and fighting over a seed pod. He said they reminded him of human children playing

Mark Kelley, from Alaska, earned the runner-up spot in the baby animals category with this mesmerizing image of a harbour seal mother and her pup. He captured the scene just as his guide boat was pulling away after a long day in Alaska’s remote Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, NWF said

Greek photographer Panos Laskarakis scooped the top award in the mammals category thanks to this powerful portrait of a fierce lion in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. According to NWF, Panos had watched a pride of lions kill a Cape buffalo and feast on it until a pack of hyenas moved in to fight for the scraps. The next day he caught the moment when a large male lion returned to the carcass and peered through the bones. ‘I felt the power of the king in my heart,’ said Laskarakis







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Runner-up in the mammals category was Patricia Hennessey’s charming snap of two leopards in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve. NWF explained that Patricia, from New York, took the shot on the first day of her trip to Africa. It added: ‘She and her guide spotted two leopard brothers frolicking in the brush. Suddenly, they leapt onto a rock, and for just a few seconds, their bodies arched against the African sky, forming a circle of life in motion’

The top award in the birds category went to Ron Magill for this mesmerizing shot of a male Argus pheasant curling his feathers into a cone to impress a would-be mate. Ron, from Florida, captured the scene at Zoo Miami. He told NWF: ‘The male ran around the female in circles, then stopped right in front of her and snapped his wings into this painful-looking inverted position for a second or two to see if she was paying attention’

Florida-based photographer Meg Puente claimed the runner-up spot in the birds category with this dramatic shot she snapped in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. NWF said Meg heard a commotion in the water and saw the torpedo body of an anhinga fishing underwater for breakfast before it broke to the surface with a skewered tilapia. She said: ‘I’ve never seen a fish with such expression. It looked so surprised!’

The winner of the ‘landscapes and plants’ category was astral photographer Jake Mosher from Montana with this stunning image of the Milky Way over the Yellowstone River. NWF revealed that to get this shot, Jake spent two pre-dawn hours in the bitter cold with just the calls of owls and geese for company. Jake said: ‘To me, the Milky Way is one of the most beautiful things in the sky. And if I can frame it over something as beautiful as the Yellowstone River with fog, people will gain a whole new idea of a place they may know during the day but have never seen at night’

This dramatic image of a storm across the Great Plains earned self-described adrenaline junkie Laura Hedien second place in the landscapes and plants category. NWF said that Laura, a retired firefighter, has been chasing storms for 15 years and had followed this one from Colorado into Kansas where lightning shot through a swirling ‘spaceship’ of clouds. Laura said: ‘These storms feel alive, morphing as they move. It’s so exciting’

Leighton Lum, who hails from Hawaii, took the top prize in the ‘other wildlife’ category for this jaw-dropping image of green sea turtles in Maui. NWF explained that Leighton had heard about a tiny cave in Maui and wanted to reach it so began to trek through the water. When he reached the cave, he thought the tide had washed in a ‘bunch of rocks’ but then as they started to move, he realized they were turtles. He waited for the sun to start setting before snapping this image

This incredible shot of a hapless gladiator tree frog being devoured by a parrot snake came second in the ‘other wildlife’ category. It was taken by Rona Neri, a frog lover from Wisconsin, in Costa Rica. She told NWF: ‘It was both fascinating and horrifying to watch. I felt for the frog, but the snake has to live, too’


On the left is the winning image in the mobile category. It was taken by David Terbrush from Colorado and shows a porcupine climbing down a tree. NWF said David first spotted the ‘amazing creature’ while riding a chairlift at a Colorado ski resort. He skied down to the site where the porcupine was climbing and grabbed his iPhone to quickly capture a few frames. He said: ‘We keep pushing animals into smaller spaces. These poor little guys are just trying to survive.’ On the right is a beautiful image by Zan Davies, from New Jersey, who was the runner-up in the mobile category. She had been on a morning walk early one February with her 81-year-old aunt in San Diego when she captured this agave plant that seemed to ‘glow in perfect light’, NWF explained. Zan said: ‘Nature is so stunning. There’s so much beauty, pattern and color – if you just stop to look’

The winning image in the ‘people in nature’ category was this tender shot of ranger Salome Lemalasia caring for an orphaned black rhino called Loijipu in Kenya’s Sera Rhino Sanctuary. According to NWF, the rhino was abandoned at birth. The image was snapped by Californian photographer Davis Huber, who said: ‘For me, this image conveys hope’

This incredible shot of Pulpit Rock in Norway was snapped by Mary Hall, from Wisconsin, who came second in the people in nature category. NWF explained that Mary and her family hiked for several hours to reach this table of stone nearly 2,000 feet above the winding waters of Lysefjord. Mary said: ‘What I love about this shot is how all those people are having fun just enjoying the gorgeous scenery’

Winner of the youth category was Edwin Wilke from Florida with this beautiful shot of a white peacock butterfly. He snapped the stunning photograph when he was 17. He had originally been hoping to photograph barred owls but NWF said that while walking back to his car, he decided to ‘focus on the little things’ and ended up with this stunning picture

Josiah Launstein, from Alberta, was named runner-up in the youth category with this incredible image he snapped when he was just 11. It shows a small northern pygmy owl perched on a cedar sapling in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley before it darted away to hunt for voles. According to NWF, Josiah has been learning about photography from his father and started taking pictures aged just five

  • All nature photographers, both amateur and professional, are now being invited to enter the 50th annual National Wildlife Photo Contest, which opens on January 13, 2021. 

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