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50 stunning wildlife photos that will make you see animals in a whole new light

Talia Lakritz , Business Insider US
 Jan 19, 2020, 07:59 AM

  • Photography competitions, such as the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards and the Underwater Photographer of the Year, collect the best photos of animals from around the world.
  • These images give us new insight into the natural world, from friendly sharks and laughing mice, to clumsy owls and even a dancing octopus.
  • Visit Business Insider South Africa's homepage for more stories.


Wildlife photography requires patience and excellent timing.

Competitions like the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, the Siena International Photo Awards, Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and Underwater Photographer of the Year collect the best photos of animals in their environment from around the world.

Here are 50 award-winning wildlife photos that will make you want to explore the world.

The overall winner of the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards was a photo of an expressive squirrel.

The photo was also the winner of the Alex Walker's Serian Creatures of the Land Award and the Affinity Photo People's Choice Award. Photographer Mary McGowan won a safari in Kenya, a handmade trophy from Wonder Workshop in Tanzania, and a camera bag from Think Tank.


The Under the Sea Award winner was photographer Tanya Houppermans with a photo of a friendly shark.

Courtesy of Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards

The shark appeared to be smiling as it swam towards the photographer, earning her an award in the 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.


Check out the eyes on that owl.

Courtesy of Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards

The photo, entitled "Pee-a-boo" by Shane Keena, won the Spectrum Photo Creatures of the Air Award in the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.


Three bear cubs gain some altitude in a photo captured by Valtteri Mulkahainen for the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

The photo won the contest's Amazing Internet Portfolio Award.


Who says nature photographers have to be human?

"Wildlife PhotograBear" by Roie Galitz was a Highly Commended photo in the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.


These bears appear to be excellent dancers.

The photo, entitled "Tango," was Highly Commended in the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.


So do these lizards.

The 2018 Wildlife Comedy Photography Awards recognized the photo as Highly Commended.


This bear doesn't seem to be feeling up to a tango.

Another Highly Commended photo from the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards shows a brown bear appearing to clutch its head.


Photographer Barney Koszalka captured a battle of wits between moose.

Another Highly Commended photo from the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards shows one animal sticking out its tongue.


This bear is just really passionate about road safety.

The photo was Highly Commended in the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.


These primates were up to some monkey business.

Highly Commended by the 2018 Wildlife Comedy Photography Awards, the photo shows two monkeys fighting, playing, or something in between.


Kallol Mukherjee snapped a photo of a well-positioned peacock behind a rhino for the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

The photo was Highly Commended in 2018.


Squirrels can be incredibly flexible.

"Split" by Geert Weggen earned the title of Highly Commended in the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards in 2018.


The overall winner of the 2017 Wildlife Comedy Photography Awards shows an owl struggling to keep his grip as his owl friends look the other way.

Tibor Kercz/CWPA/Barcroft Images

The photo was taken in Opusztaszer, Hungary.


A baby dormouse appears to laugh on a yarrow flower in this award-winning photo from the 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

Andrea Zampatti/CWPA/Barcroft Images

Alex Walker's photo, taken in Monticelli Brusati, Italy, won the Serian on the Land award.


The 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Award's Kenya Airways in the Air Winner shows widgeons flying through the air.

John Threlfall/CWPA/Barcroft Images

The birds were photographed in Preston, England.


A green turtle pushed a a Napoleon maori wrasse out of the way in Queensland, Australia.

Troy Mayne/CWPA/Barcroft Images

The photo won the Padi Under the Sea award in the 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.


This photo is cheekily named "Outsourcing Seatbelt Checks."

Graeme Guy/CWPA/Barcroft Images

The photo, taken in Masai Mara, Kenya, was a Finalist in the 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.


A seal in San Diego, California, appears to be getting a good laugh.

Brian Valente/CWPA/Barcroft Images

The 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards named the photo as a Finalist.


Photographer Tanakit-Suwanyangyaun titled this photo "Say Cheese!"

Tanakit-Suwanyangyaun/CWPA/Barcroft Images

The photo was a finalist in the 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, taken in Sipadan, Malaysia.


A Calumma nasutum, the nose-horned chameleon danced on the end of a branch in Andasibe, Madagascar.

Jasmine Vink/CWPA/Barcroft Images

The photo was a finalist in the 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.


"Hitching A Ride" by Daisy Gilardini was Highly Commended in the 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

Daisy Gilardini/CWPA/Barcroft Images

A polar bear mother with a cub hitches a ride in Wapusk National Park in Manitoba, Canada.


Reuters chose this photo of birds on the back of a zebra as one of the best animal photos of 2018.

Baz Ratner/Reuters

The photo was taken in Nairobi National Park near Nairobi, Kenya.


Another photo recognized by Reuters in 2018 shows a murmuration of migrating starlings flying in a cloud.

Amir Cohen/Reuters/TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The birds appeared near the village of Beit Kama in southern Israel.


A red deer in the early morning mist made for a dramatic silhouette.

Henry Nicholls/Reuters

The photo, taken by Henry Nicholls, was one of Reuters' best animal photos of 2018.


Elephants and zebras walk through Amboseli National Park in Kenya.

Baz Ratner/Reuters

Whirlwinds swirl in the background of this photo, recognised by Reuters as one of the best animal photos of 2018.


The first place winner of the "Animals in their Environment" category went to Amos Nachoum for his photo of a penguin that is about to be eaten by a seal.

"A leopard seal got into a lagoon just before low tide," Nachoum wrote. "The seal was hiding, waiting to ambush young penguins as they got closer. When a penguin got close enough, the seal moved extremely fast and caught the penguin by its feet dragging it to the open water. I was following parallel to the action. The seal released the penguin twice and the terrified penguin succeeded in escaping, but the seal continued chasing after it, and on the third attempt, drowned the penguin and devoured it."


Shivang Mehta's photo of a young tiger cub hunting a deer won second place in the "Animals in their Environment" category of the 2018 Siena International Photo Awards.

"A young and inexperienced tiger cub attempts to hunt a chital (spotted deer) in Ranthambore National Park, India; but the chital turned out to be too big for this young cub," Mehta captioned the photo. "I captured the moment when the tiger cub was struggling to get the prey down, as his siblings and mother were watching from a distance."


"This scene was part of a large, multi-day aggregation comprising hundreds, perhaps thousands of whales," said photographer Tony Wu.

Wu's photo won third place in the Animals in their Environment category of the Siena International Photo Awards.


Mariusz Potock photographed chinstrap penguins chilling on an iceberg in Bransfield Strait, Antarctica.

The photo took third place in the Beauty of Nature category in the 2018 Siena International Photo Awards.

"Some of these floating islands are great resting places for hunting penguins who can travel many kilometers, before jumping back into the icy water," Potock wrote.


The 2017 Photo of the Year in the Siena International Photo Awards was "Sand Hill Cranes" by Randy Olson.

"This photograph harkens back to a time when the USA had braided streams and plenty of space for the Sand Hill Crane migration," Olson wrote. "Now, only a small area of the Platte River in Nebraska can accommodate all of them. Volunteers at the Crane Trust counted 413,000 Sandhill Cranes on this evening … more than they've ever counted before. These cranes are running out of habitat in most of their migration that goes from Siberia to South America."


A brightly-colored kingfisher bird was photographed in Croatia by Petar Sabol.

The photo won Siena International Photo Contest's "Remarkable Award" in 2017.


This "Dancing Octopus" won awards in two nature photography competitions.

Gabriel Barathieu's photo of an octopus in the lagoon of the Mayotte won first place in the 2017 Underwater Photography Awards and won the Remarkable Award in the Siena International Photo Awards that same year.


Arshdeep Singh won the 10-and-under category of The Natural History Museum in London's Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards with this shot of two owls.

Singh, who started taking pictures when he was six, spotted these two owls in a waste pipe from the car window. He asked his father to stop the car so he could kneel on the seat and get this shot, resting his camera on the half-open window.


The grand title winner of the 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year was Marsel van Oosten's "The Golden Couple."

Van Oosten had a tough time keeping up with the monkeys as they hopped from tree to tree, but after some slips and stumbles, he captured this shot of a pair resting.


Cristobal Serrano won the "Animals in their Environment" category of the Nature Photographer of the Year contest with this image of crabeater seals.

Photographer Cristobal Serrano used a drone to spy these seals in one of their favourite resting spots in the Errera Channel of Antarctica.


Ricardo Núñez Montero captured this heart-wrenching photo of a gorilla mother mourning her baby.

Like people, animals mourn their dead relatives. This gorilla mother carried, cuddled, and groomed her infant's corpse.

Kuhirwa, a mountain gorilla, lives in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. After a few weeks of sadness, she gave in and started eating the baby's remains.

This shot depicting Kuhirwa's grief won the mammal behaviours category in the 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards.


The grand-prize winner of the museum's Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest spotted an extremely elusive animal: an African leopard.

© Skye Meaker – Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Grand title winner

South African photographer Skye Meaker, who's been snapping photos since he was seven, spent hours tracking leopards through the Mashatu Game Reserve of Botswana before he nabbed this shot - and the grand title of Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2018.


Carlos Perez Naval won the 11 to 14-year-olds category of the 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards with this morning shot of a long tailed duck.

Norway's Barents Sea is home to one of the largest seabird communities in the world.

Naval, who has been taking pictures since he was five years old, slipped out of his boat and into a floating hide to get this shot.


This photo of a treehopper guarding her young won the 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year's Portfolio Award.

The spiny projection on the treehopper's back is called a helmet. It's used to deter predators. Gonza´lez de Rueda captured the photo in La Maná, Ecuador.


The winner of the "Birds" category in the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest was a photo of a male brush turkey.

Photographer Gerry Pearce captured this turkey tending to his nest in Garigal National Park in Sydney, Australia.


It would have been nearly impossible for this turtle to escape from a plastic net it got caught in without the help of underwater photographers who happened upon it.

© Eduardo Acevedo/UPY2019

Eduardo Acevedo was named Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year in the 2019 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition for his work.

"The Caretta Caretta turtles spend much of their life in the open ocean," he wrote. "They come to the Canary Island after crossing the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean beaches. In this trip of many years, they often have to avoid many dangerous traps like plastics, ropes, fishing nets etc."


The Wide Angle winner of the 2019 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition was François Baelen with a photo of a humpback whale.

© François Baelen/UPY2019

"At the very end of the day, this humpback whale was resting 15 meters down and allowed me to free dive centimeters away from her tail," he wrote. "I told my friend I wanted him to be part of the shot, but didn't need to ask the playful calf: he was very curious."


Fabio FabioIardino snapped a photo of a fast-moving cuttlefish for the 2019 Underwater Photography Awards.

© Fabio FabioIardino/UPY2019

The photo was the winner of the competition's Macro category.


Nicholas Samaras snapped a photo of this friendly ray in Stratoni, Greece.

© Nicholas Samaras/UPY2019

It was the Portrait winner of the 2019 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition.

"I visited Stratoni three times in August 2018 for a photo project dedicated to the seahorse colony that managed to survive there," he wrote. "On my third and last visit I was planning to create a specific group photo of seahorses before sunset using natural light. Just in time for the big finale, a small ray came onto the scene!"


Black and white nature photos heighten the drama.

© Henley Spiers/UPY2019

Henley Spiers' photo was the Black and White category winner in the 2019 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition, captioned "This image captures the hostile, black silhouette of the cormorant as it dives down onto its prey, who, for a brief moment, remain unaware of the danger above."


Enrico Somogyi titled this photo taken in Indonesia "Hairy in the Sunrise."

© Enrico Somogyi/UPY2019

It was the winner of the Compact category in the 2019 Underwater Photographer of the Year contest.


"This adorable seal pirouetted and arabesqued around me before sliding in and flicking sand over itself in a final attempt to get me to play — and it nearly worked!" wrote photographer Martin Edser of this photo.

© Martin Edser/UPY2019

Edser was the winner of the British Waters Compact category of the 2018 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition.


Taeyup Kim's photo for the 2018 Underwater Photographer of the Year contest revealed the beauty beneath the surface of the water in French Polynesia.

© Taeyup Kim/UPY2019

The photo earned Kim the title of Up and Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year.


The winner of the 2018 Underwater Photographer of the Year contest was "The Gauntlet" by Richard Barnden.

© Richard Barnden/UPY2019

"As the sun sets on Fakarava South Pass, the estimated 700 sharks that are patrolling the mouth of the channel by day begin to hunt at night," Barnden wrote.

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