These jaw-dropping images drive home what a beautiful, brutal and bizarre world we live in.
They are all winning and commended shots in the German Association for Nature Photography (GDT) Nature Photographer of the Year 2021 competition, which saw more than 3,000 entries flood in from 13 countries.
Photography duo Karsten Mosebach and Bernhard Volmer, from Germany, were voted as the overall winners thanks to a stunning long exposure shot of a barn swallow in flight. The image, which the judges said ‘was not an easy task’ to capture, also took the gold medal in the Birds category.
Last year’s winner, Peter Lindel, also from Germany, was crowned winner in the Mammals category with his photograph of a lion cub bounding along next to its dad.
The other categories in the contest were Other Animals, Plants and Fungi, Landscapes, Nature’s Studio and We Are Family. And other pictures that caught the judges’ eyes included one of an airborne mudskipper, a startling image of a wasp taking a paralysed spider back to its nest as food for larvae and an astonishing photo of a lightning storm illuminating mountains in Italy.
Scroll down to see MailOnline Travel’s pick of the winners and shortlisted entries – and immerse yourself in the wonders of the natural world.
Celia Kujala from the U.S was awarded third place in the Mammals category with this photo of a playful seal titled The Magician, which she snapped while diving around the Coronado Islands, off the coast of Mexico
Corinna Leonbacher came out on top in the Landscapes category with this image of lightning crackling over a mountain in the Italian Dolomites. She titled the image Volcano?, the question mark placed deliberately as at a glance, the peak looks distinctly volcanic, as if the bolts are erupting
Australian photographer Scott Portelli’s joyous image of an airborne mudskipper came first in the Other Animals category
Lars von Ritter Zahony, from Germany, took this incredible shot of a Bryde’s whale gliding through the water off the coast of South Africa. The judges were impressed enough to award it silver in the Mammals category
German photographer Christian Engel came 10th in the We Are Family category with ‘Meal in the Ice’, a candid shot of a female polar bear with her cub
Bernhard Schubert from Austria took this beautifully lit image of a cat gecko looking over the edge of a leaf while in Borneo. It was awarded second place in the Other Animals category
Sarah Boehm took this striking shot of a duck, titled Conductor, and was rewarded with sixth place in the Birds category
Radomir Jakubowski from Germany took this shot of Ibex huddled together on a verdant hillside in the Alps and took home the accolade of ninth place in the We Are Family category
This rather macabre photo, taken by German photographer Dr Ferry Bohme, claimed fourth place in the Mammals category. Dr Bohme simply titled it Huge Breakfast
Photography duo Karsten Mosebach and Bernhard Volmer from Germany were voted as the overall winners with their stunning long exposure shot of a barn swallow in flight. The image, which the judges said ‘was not an easy task’ to capture, also came first in the Birds category
This shot, called Battle of the Giants, by Thomas Hinsche from Germany, came fourth in the Other Animals category. The image shows a wasp taking a spider it has paralysed back to its nest as food for its larvae
What’s In There? is the name of this cute image by German photographer Karsten Mosebach. It came seventh in the We Are Family category
This candid capture of a raccoon family landed German photographer Dominik Janoschka third prize in the We Are Family category
This beautiful shot of a golden-hued forest, titled Autumn Is Coming, came third in the Landscapes category. It was taken by Alexandra Wunsch from Germany
Last year’s winner, Peter Lindel from Germany, was crowned winner in the Mammals category with this photograph of a lion cub bounding along next to its dad
This striking black-and-white shot, titled Sibling Love, taken by Klaus Tamm from Germany, was awarded fourth in the We Are Family category
This captivating image put Robert Marc Lehmann from Germany on the silver-medal podium position in the We Are Family category. He took the shot while visiting an orangutan orphanage in Borneo – and called it School Bus
Fourth prize in the Birds category went to Alexandra Wunsch for this ethereal photo of a blackbird in a light-filled wood
Jenny Loreen Zierold from Germany took this photo of a baby caiman with its limbs stretched wide in Brazil and titled it Airplane. The snap came eighth in the Other Animals category
This shot by German photographer Phillip Schulze, taken in California’s Yosemite National Park, scooped second place in the Landscapes category. Schulze called it ‘In The Shadow’