Winners of Close-Up Photographer of the Year – The Atlantic

The second year of the Close-Up Photographer of the Year competition has just come to a close, and the winners have been announced. The contest “celebrates close-up, macro, and micro photography,” among seven separate categories. More than 6,500 entries were received from 52 countries this year. Organizers have been kind enough to share some of the winners and finalists with us below.
Little Ball. The Young Close-Up Photographer of the Year, Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz, placed first in the Young category for this image of a yellow globular springtail near his hometown of Csongrád-Bokros, Hungary. “One frosty winter’s morning I headed out to take some extreme macro shots at the surface of some frozen water that had pooled in tracks left by a tractor. Crouching down, I spotted some yellow globular springtails (Sminthurus maculatus), which feed in the sunrays reflected from the ice. I used LED flashlights to illuminate one of them, and came away with this picture.”
Little Winter Wonderland. Finalist, Plants and Fungi: “This picture of a small group of mushrooms with icy caps was taken on a very cold winter’s day, just one day before the end of the year on a 2.5-hour macro tour. I found the mushrooms in a wooded area near my home at Herbstein, Germany.”
Frost Lantern. Finalist, Intimate Landscape: “What if you could make a freezing soap bubble into its own light source? By combining invisible ink that fluoresces blue with dish soap and white corn syrup (glucose syrup), you can create a bubble that freezes beautifully. Add in a custom-built ultraviolet flash and you’ll see it illuminate from within, glowing like a lantern of frost. Photographed in Barrie, Ontario, Canada on a cold winter night as a crazy ‘what if?’ experiment.”
Preparing for Liftoff. Finalist, Insects: “Once this dragonfly felt the warmth of the rising sun it wanted to take off, but its wing muscles hadn’t reached the right temperature yet. Usually dragonflies either stay still or fly away, so this in-between moment provided a unique opportunity. With trial and error, I managed to find a compromise and capture the wonderful movement of this insect preparing for liftoff.”
Stick Insects and Volcano. Finalist, Insects: “High up in the frigid paramo tundra around Cotopaxi volcano was the last place I expected to find a stick insect. Yet, here among the frost-encrusted vegetation was one of the most fascinating species I had ever encountered. Occurring up to 5,000 meters high on these mountain slopes, Monticomorpha flavolimbata is able to withstand freezing temperatures that would be deadly to most other insects.”
The Bullet. 2nd Place, Intimate Landscape: An image of a frozen air bubble inside an icicle, taken near the photographer’s home in Sweden
Lepisma Saccharina. Finalist, Micro: “This portrait of a silverfish is one of my largest focus stacks, composed of around 350 images. I cleaned the specimen as much as possible before photographing, so as to minimize the work in post-production.”
Recrystallized Callus Remover 3. Second Place, Micro: “Callus remover is one of my favorite substances for crystallization. On this occasion the crystals had formed into structures that reminded me of a Native American village with tents pitched all over the hills. Using polarized light offered me an unlimited variety of colors and shapes, which changed when I rotated the polarizer.”
Ant Works 1. Finalist, Insects: “Upon arriving at one of my favorite places for macro photography, I found some black ants carrying the colony’s eggs along a twig. I spent a lot of time following the ants trying to get a picture like this and only managed to capture this golden moment when the ant paused for a split second.”
Snow Covered. Finalist, Plants and Fungi: “Like many early-flowering plants, pasque flowers seem to be well-adapted to sudden snowfalls. While other individual plants were already in full bloom, this specimen outwaited adverse circumstances under the snow cover. The sun’s rays give the plant some warmth while the delicate hairs protect it against frostbite.”
Stag Beetle. Finalist, Insects: “Only a few places in the Netherlands and Belgium are home to a very special insect: the stag beetle (Lucanus cervus). It is one of the largest beetle species in Europe and has a somewhat prehistoric appearance. The males can grow to over nine inches and are real giants in the insect world. Once a male has discovered a female on a tree, he will protect this place from other males. Frantic fighting takes place if another male appears on the scene. The large jaws are used to lift the rival into the air. This is not easy, as the legs are barbed to help the beetles find a firm grip on the bark. These are the most beautiful moments to photograph, especially in silhouette against the blue evening sky or orange evening sun. You need to act quickly, because if one male manages to lift the other above his head, he will triumphantly throw his rival out of the tree and the titanic battle is over!”
Glass Worm. Winner, Micro: “Glass worms can vary in length from about half an inch to two inches. On the right side of this particular image you can see the large tracheal bubbles that serve as hydrostatic organs (or swim bladders). These bubbles allow the larvae to keep its horizontal position in the water column, while also helping to regulate the depth of its immersion.”
Balance. Finalist, Insects: “During spring and summer, part of my early morning ritual involves heading out for a spot of macro photography. Searching for amazing insects is pure heaven for me, so I felt great when I came across these two eastern festoon butterflies. I was so excited it was tempting to take a picture as quickly as possible, but I knew I had to be careful and patient so as not to scare them. The butterflies were still as they hadn’t reached a high enough temperature to fly yet, but it was already quite warm so I knew I didn’t have much time.”
Slime Molds on Parade. 2nd Place, Plants and Fungi: “This image is a stack of 34 focus-bracketed images. It was taken in February 2020 in a mixed woodland in Buckinghamshire, UK. It shows a line of 2.5 millimeter-high fruiting bodies of the slime mold Metatrichia floriformis growing on a decaying beech trunk.”
Beaks. Finalist, Animals: “In many parts of the world humans have persecuted animals relentlessly, making some species very wary. The fishermen on Lake Kerkini in Greece, however, are an exception. The fish they can’t sell are offered as a treat to the pelicans who, as a result, have become exceptionally confident. Having witnessed this firsthand, I was inspired to design a floating device that would allow me to take extreme close-ups of the birds. A year later, I went back with a homemade water purification system, which filtered clear water into a pool we constructed in the middle of the lake. After 22 hours, there were 15 cubic meters of clean water in which I could shoot for 15 minutes before the pelicans muddied the waters again.”
Like a Stick. Finalist, Insects: “Spending a lot of time in nature you learn to spot even the smallest details of an animal or its slightest movement. However, there is an animal that made me less certain of myself: the stick insect; and in particular, a phasmid I met in the Isalo National Park, Madagascar. This creature was impossible to spot without the help of guides. Extraordinary is the only word that comes to mind to describe the most invisible animal I’ve ever seen.”
Bubble. Finalist, Insects: “Having planned to take pictures of birds at dawn, I quickly shifted focus when I arrived on location to find mayflies swarming on the water. Fortunately, I had my macro lens with me, so I was able to be flexible. I saw a bubble on the surface of the water and thought it would be nice to try and capture this and one of the insects in the same picture.”
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