Our Burning Planet


Nature Conservancy 2021 Photo Contest: Capturing an incredible world

A Western lowland gorilla female 'Malui' walking through a cloud of butterflies.(Photo: Anup Shah / TNC)

The Nature Conservancy on Wednesday unveiled the winners of its 2021 photo contest. The images captured inspire both wonder and exploration of the amazing and incredible world we live in.

This year’s winning images were selected by a panel of judges that included renowned US singer-songwriter Ben Folds, who is himself an avid  photographer and a member of the prestigious Sony Artisans of Imagery. 

From more than 100,000 entries, a photo of a western lowland gorilla walking through a cloud of butterflies in the Central African Republic, taken by UK photographer Anup Shah, won the grand prize. 

Folds said of the winning image: “I like photos that keep dragging you in. The [gorilla’s] face. Tolerance or bliss. It’s really hard to tell and the insects draw you there.”  

Below is a selection of some of the winning images in the various categories. DM/OBP

The Way Home: In Yunnan, China. May 2021. (Photo: Minqiang Lu / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Searching: Orangutans are accustomed to live on trees and feed on wild fruits like lychees, mangosteens and figs, and slurp water from holes in trees. (Photo: Thomas Vijayan / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Wildebeest herd on the move: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. During the frenzy of crossing the Mara River, the wildebeests were leaping, kicking, scampering and bucking. (Photo: Anup Shah / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Fishing: Pike catches a large perch. How did it end up? I don’t know. The situation hasn’t changed much in an hour. I had to emerge because I was running out of air. (Photo: Viktor Vrbovsky / TNC Photo Contest)
Waiting: Galapagos sea lion calf (Zalophus wollebaeki) waiting for its mother in the sand on the beach, San Cristóbal Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. (Photo: Kristhian Castro / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Glacial bubbles: As temperatures rise and glacial ice melts, air is released and caught inside. This air bubbles were caught by a frozen layer on top. (Photo: Jorge Andrés Miraglia / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Summer on the Lotus pond: The lotus ponds across Vietnam are entering the growing season, flourishing. (Photo: Manh Cuong Vu / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Winter: Iceland, 2019. (Photo: Man Wai Wong / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Water: Water and people. (Photo: Kazi Arifujjaman / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Hong Kong: At Hung Hom, the rising of the full moon could be found every month, thanks to its facing the east. (Photo: Kim-pan Dennis Wong / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Space of HK: Hong Kong. (Photo: Wax Leung / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Sand Storm: A guide in the Sahara Desert enduring a sand storm. (Photo: Tom Overall / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Covid-19 Waste: New danger to underwater life as medical waste used during the pandemic reaches the seas. (Photo: Sebnem Coskun / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
DROUGHT: Carcass of a Pantanal alligator (Caiman yacare) in the dry soil on the banks of the Transpantaneira highway, municipality of Poconé (Mato Grosso). (Photo: Daniel De Granville Manço/TNC Photo Contest 2021)


Serra Do Mar: In a helicopter flight through the sea mountain range, I came across this white cloud cover, which resulted in this magnificent image that resembles the head of a dinosaur. (Photo: Denis Ferreira Netto / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Salt Ponds: If you have flown into San Francisco International Airport, you may have seen these colourful salt ponds over the bay. This aerial image was taken while flying my plane. (Photo: Jassen Todorov / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Life Colour: Lush green mangroves line the mud flats accentuated by the tidal waters and months of rain filling the artesian basin. Gulf of Carpentaria in tropical north Queensland. (Photo: Scott Portelli / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Saving Orangutans: The whole SOCP team works together to prepare Brenda, an estimated three-month-old female orangutan (she has no teeth yet) for surgery. (Photo: Alain Schroeder / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Swimming: Three levels of leisure: swimmers, freedivers and divers enjoy their respective sport/recreational activities in a fresh water mass known locally as the Cenotes. (Photo: Joram Mennes / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
Sunflowers: This year, due to a high water level, a giant field of sunflowers could not been mown. In winter, it attracted thousands of different species of birds. (Photo: Mateusz Piesiak / TNC Photo Contest 2021)
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