Celebrating its fifth edition, Close-Up Photographer of the Year received a staggering 12,000 entries from photographers spanning 67 countries, all delving into the captivating realm of macro photography in the natural world. From a charming roly-poly isopod in Austria to the sun-drenched lily pads of a mystical Mexican cenote, this year’s submissions showcase an expansive array of detailed flora and fauna. With eleven categories encompassing animals, insects, underwater scenes, and intimate landscapes, the competition captures a diverse tapestry of nature’s marvels.

Csaba Daróczi claimed the coveted overall winner title with a breathtaking black-and-white shot of a bird in flight, taken from within a hollow tree stump, offering a distinctive glimpse into forest life. Additional category triumphs featured Barry Webb‘s mesmerizing portrayal of slime mold, Mirko Scortichini‘s cluster of blue butterflies, and Laura Storm‘s ethereal image of a ghost goby suspended over a translucent bed of pink coral. Dive into the captivating collection of the top 100 photos on the competition’s website.

Yuan Minghui, “Like a Flower.” Insects Finalist. “After a rainstorm, a shield bug (Pentatomidae) fell onto some decayed leaves in the mud. The gradual decay of the leaves reminded me of printed flowers, and I loved the bright contrast of the insect against it. This shield bug is like a flower that falls to the ground, bringing some bright emotions to the dark rainforest.” All images © the photographers, courtesy of CUPOTY, shared with permission

Manfred Auer, “Orange Isopod.” Invertebrate Portrait 2nd Place. “I captured this shot during my early days as a macro photographer back in April. Just three months after getting my Olympus camera, I stumbled upon this incredible isopod in the woods behind my house in the beautiful south of Austria. This image is a result of merging 91 individual shots with varying focus points.”

Csaba Daróczi, “The Bird of the Forest.” Animals 1st Place and Overall Winner. “In the winter of 2023, I took a lot of photographs in a forest close to my home in Hungary. I found something new to photograph almost every week, and I spent several days exploring ideas and perfecting techniques. Staying curious and open-minded led me to this hollowed out tree stump, which measured around half a metre in diameter. I carefully positioned my GoPro 11 camera inside the trunk and took a few shots. I was amazed by the results. After a few days, however, I decided the composition might be improved if I included an animal in the frame. So, I returned to the spot and placed a sunflower near the hole, which the mice and birds soon found.”

Arne Bivrin, “Kiss of Death.” Animals Finalist. “I was sitting in a hide watching a heron stalking fish in the shallow water. I had my eyes on this heron and was ready when it caught the small fish. Most bird photographers like to capture the entire bird, whereas I enjoy tight portraits and details.”

René Krekels, “Wood Ants Firing Acid Secretion.” Insects 1st Place. “I had been studying the lifestyle of wood ants in the Netherlands for work when I noticed the defending ants of a very large ant’s nest seemed eager to scare me off by spraying acid towards me. Luckily, it wasn’t that destructive, and it provided me with a great opportunity to photograph them defending the nest.”

Simon Theuma, “Dreamtime.” Underwater 1st Place. “Like an intricate tapestry of the marine ecosystem, this image captures the relationship between a commensal shrimp and a mosaic sea star. Dreamtime Aboriginal art reminds us of the delicate balance that exists in the grand tapestry of our natural world—this ancient wisdom serves as an important reminder to preserve what we have. To capture this image, I needed to use a snooted strobe, which was set at an acute angle to the subject. This setup accentuated the depth and beautiful texture of the two organisms. Additionally, I enhanced magnification by using a +15 wet lens dioptre.”

Liang Fu, “Heart of the Sea.” Underwater 2nd Place. “This photograph was taken during a blackwater dive in Romblon, Philippines. Blackwater diving is a type of scuba diving that takes place at night in the open ocean, with thousands of metres of water below the boat. Divers descend a rope with underwater lights as their only orientation system. When the tide and moon phase are right, creatures from the deep migrate to shallower waters. This vertical migration is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena. During the dive, I saw something shining under my searchlight at 28 metres deep. As I swam closer to investigate, I found a lava moray eel curled into a heart shape. I was extremely fortunate to capture this moment with my camera. The eel remained at that depth for less than 10 seconds before swimming down and disappearing into the darkness.”

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