11 Photographs That Capture Beauty and Danger in Our World

he grand prize for this year’s prestigious BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition went to British photographer Andy Parkinson for his gorgeous photo of a Scottish mountain hair in a winter storm. The competition, which awarded winners in the categories of Aquatic Life; Terrestrial Wildlife; Winged Life; Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora; “Art of Nature”; Human Nature; and “Photo Story,” attracts photographers from around the world, and is judged by a panel of conservation photography experts.

From the grand-prize winner to the finalists, each photograph is an awe-inspiring view of nature in its beauty, power, and endless variety, while also drawing attention to the many environmental threats the planet is currently facing. Each of the subjects of these photos is threatened by circumstances related to climate change, pollution, or other human interventions.

‘Hold on Tight’ by Mathieu Foulquié (Aquatic Life Finalist)

A male common toad in France’s Lez River fertilizes a female’s eggs as she lays them.

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Photo: Mathieu Foulquié

‘Berg Buffet’ by Greg Lecouer (Aquatic Life Winner)

Crabeater seals beneath the antarctic ice feast on the krill that is attracted to phytoplankton caused by melting icebergs.

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Photo: Greg Lecouer

‘A River Gone Awry’ by Juan Jesús González Ahumada (Art of Nature Winner)

Layers of multicolored sediment caused by toxic runoff from mining combine with blood red water along the Río Tinto in western Spain.

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Photo: Juan Jesús González Ahumada

‘Snack Attack’ by Gunther De Bruyne (Human/Nature Finalist)

An African savanna elephant attempts to steal a snack from an open-air kitchen in Malawi’s Kasungu National Park. According to photographer Gunther De Bruyne, she went on to destroy the kitchen’s roof.

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Photo: Gunther De Bruyne

‘A Sticky Situation’ by Edwin Giesbers (Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora Winner)

A carnivorous sundew uses beads of nectar to attract insects, which it will trap with its leaves and digest.

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Photo: Edwin Giesbers

‘Mushroom Magic’ by Agorastos Papatsanis (Landscapes, Waterscapes, & Flora Finalist)

Edible macrolepiota procera mushrooms gleam in the dusk light of a forest in Deskati, Greece.

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Photo: Agorastos Papatsanis

‘Hippo Huddle’ by Talib Almarri (Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist)

Hippopotamuses seeking refuge in Botswana’s Okavango River became trapped in the mud, requiring wildlife officials to pump water into the river to help them escape.

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Photo: Talib Almarri

‘Speed and Strategy’ by Yi Liu (Terrestrial Wildlife Winner)

A cheetah trips an impala as he attempts to outrun her in the African savanna.

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Photo: Yi Liu

‘Shelter in Place’ by Andy Parkinson (Grand Prize Winner)

To get this shot, Andy Parkinson spent weeks fighting back extreme cold and wind so severe that it drove shards of ice into his face. The hares ride out these storms by gathering together, finding burrows, or in this case, tucking into a ball to stay warm.

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Photo: Andy Parkinson

‘Pond Skim’ by Piotr Naskrecki (Winged Life Winner)

A Mozambique long-fingered bat drinks from a lake in Gorongosa National Park in Africa’s Great Rift Valley.

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Photo: Piotr Naskrecki

‘Guardians of the Giraffes’ by Ami Vitale (Photo Story Winner)

Ami Vitale has spent a decade using photography to capture the relationship between Samburu people and wildlife in northern Kenya. This photograph was taken at a sanctuary for orphaned elephants and other threatened species, such as this reticulated giraffe.

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