21 Images That Capture the Raw Beauty of Nature

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'Stallions Playing'. (Photo: Camille Briottet/The Nature Conservancy)

From sprawling landscapes to a tiny gnat on a mushroom, these images from The Nature Conservancy's annual photography competition capture the awe-inspiring wonder of nature. The competition offers an array of categories including wildlife, people & nature and water.

The Nature Conservancy is a "global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together."

This year the organization received a record number of entries, more than 57,000 submissions from 135 countries.

"The quality of entries this year is stunning. It was very difficult to select the winner," said Bill Marr, director of photography for the conservancy and one of the contest judges. "TNC’s Photo Contest is a wonderful intersection for those who love nature and those who love photography. We have wonderful entries from all over the world, from beautiful Western landscapes to squirrels in a backyard in Austria. Photography is a common language for all."

This year's grand prize winner was French photographer Camille Briottet for her image of two horses playing in Camargue, France. For her beautiful entry, she offered a simple caption, "The power of the animal kingdom."

'The End is Near'. (Photo: Andre Mercier/The Nature Conservancy)

Second place overall went to Andre Mercier for his image of a chunk of iceberg floating towards a shoreline. "This ice could be thousands of years old, and only recently broke off the Vatnajokull Glacier at Jokulsarlon Bay in Iceland, and will soon melt into the sea,” Mercier said in his submission.

'Frog Hug'. (Photo: Terra Fondriest/The Nature Conservancy)

Third place overall was Terra Fondriest's photo of her daughter holding a frog. "Down at the mud puddles on our road, we found several young bullfrogs hopping around. Up on our hilltop, wet spots are few and far between, so our mud puddles are home to a constant flow of tadpoles, frogs and toads. My daughter loves all critters, her goal is to create a wildlife rehab center someday. She constantly inspires me with her care towards every living thing."

Nature Conservancy also selected three winners for the individual categories. The photographers describe the images in their own words, which you can read below each photo.


'Polar Bear'. (Photo: Florian Ledoux/The Nature Conservancy)

"The polar bear wandering on pack ice look at the ice melting. Photo was taken in Nunavut during summer 2017."

'Watching You Watching Me'. (Photo: Megan Lorenz/The Nature Conservancy)

"Red Fox in Bonavista in Newfoundland." Lorenz was also the winner of the People's Choice Award, which was selected through online voting.

'O Caçador (The Hunter)'. (Photo: Roberto Moccini Formiga/The Nature Conservancy)

"A large white shark hunts in the waters of Guadalupe Island, Mexico."


'Floating in the Dead Sea'. (Photo: Aline Fortuna/The Nature Conservancy)

"One of the most unique experiences of the world in the lowest point on earth. We belong to nature and not the reverse. Without the nature we do not live, but without us it lives."

'Energía Pura y Fuego (Pure Energy and Fire)'. (Photo: Hernando Alonso Rivera Cervantes/The Nature Conservancy)

"Colima volcano erupting during the night showing its strength, was taken in the Yerbabuena, Comala, Colima. Volcanic eruptions in small quantities help reduce global warming."

'Namibian Curves'. (Photo: Paul Zizka/The Nature Conservancy)

"We were on our Chronicles of Namibia workshop, wrapping up a wonderful evening of shooting in the Sossusvlei area. On the drive back to camp, this most simple composition caught my eye. I couldn’t resist and stopped the group to get this shot. Sossusvlei, Namibia."

People & Nature

'Vama Veche Sunrise'. (Photo: George Bufan/The Nature Conservancy)

"Sunrise in Vama Veche Romania."

'Waterfall Wonders'. (Photo: Harry Randell/The Nature Conservancy)

"Victoria Falls is the 7th wonder of the world. Carved into the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, what better place for two nationalities to meet, and be awed by the never ending thunder of the water 100 meters below."

'Slender Slots'. (Photo: Tanner Latham/The Nature Conservancy)

"Squeezing through one of the incredibly narrow slot canyons in Escalante National Monument. Taken on a week-long expedition through the deserts of southern Utah."

Cities & Nature

'Reclamation'. (Photo: Jesse Yang/The Nature Conservancy)

"The eeriness of exploring this ghost town in United Arab Emirates went away after an hour or so of exploring. But, I still felt uneasy about entering some of these 'homes.' It felt like I was trespassing, so I tried being oddly respectful. The Arabian Desert obviously didn’t feel the same way, reminding me that nature will always reclaim what we abandon."

'My Home My City'. (Photo: Kwok Kui Andus Tse/The Nature Conservancy)

"Lion Rock is a symbol of Hong Kong, including me, many Hong Kong people are also growing under the mountain, it also represents the spirit of Hong Kong people."

'Autumn in the Big Apple'. (Photo: Yonca Ables/The Nature Conservancy)

"World Trade Center, New York."


'Her Majesty'. (Photo: Aristo Risi/The Nature Conservancy)

"A plastic bag in its natural habitat, the ocean. Shot in Shellharbour in 2017. Plastic was once worshiped, now it destroys everything we love. Nature connects us all, we have a duty to protect her."

'Reunião de Jacarés (Meeting of Alligators)'. (Photo: Jorge Andre Diehl/The Nature Conservancy)

"Lagoon with many alligators in the Northern Pantanal, Poconé region. Late afternoon left the scene a bluish color."

'Serenity'. (Photo: Jeremy Stevens/The Nature Conservancy)

"Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall in Iceland, January 2018. The places that are hardest to get to are often the best and most peaceful."

Judges Special Recognition

'Welcome to my Humble Abode'. (Photo: Duncan McNaught/The Nature Conservancy)

"A tiny fungi knat [sic] sheltering inside the canopy of a toadstool, South Scotland 2017."

'Lava Explosion'. (Photo: Elyse Butler/The Nature Conservancy)

"On the Kīlauea Lava Flow in Kalapana, lava hits the ocean creating an explosion of molten basalt rocks and acidic steam plumes skyward. When hot lava vaporizes cool sea water it blasts lava rock fragments every direction and creates a billowing cloud of laze 'lava haze' made up of a mixture of acidic seawater steam, hydrochloric acid, and tiny shards of volcanic glass."

'La Pacha Mama'. (Photo: Ruben Dario Mejia/The Nature Conservancy)

"A model holding the ribs of a dry leaf. Juan de Acosta, Atlantic January 08 2017. Nature is a generous Mother."