A close up of a grizzly bear's face captures the moment as it shakes water off its fur.
Third Place, Mammals A wild grizzly bear in British Columbia slings water off its fur. © Luisa Pericoli

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Wild Exposure

More than 180,000 entries from around the world gave a voice to nature in the 2023 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest. These are some of the winners.

Issue 1, 2024

An orange and yellow hot air balloon settles to the ground as blue wildebeests look on.
First Place, People and Nature Blue wildebeests watch a hot-air balloon as it deflates on Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. The balloon carried tourists who were observing the animals’ annual migration. © Michael Hegyi

Quote: Photographer Michael Hegyi

“Photography allows us to capture a moment, unabashedly linger on it, and explore the subjects on it. What are they doing? Why are they there? What came before? What happens next?”

a newt appears to be floating on the frog eggs it's consuming in a photo taken from below.
Grand Prize Winner At night, an alpine newt feasts on frog eggs in a German wetland. This photo was made by sinking a camera housing under water and remotely triggering the shutter. © Tibor Litauszki
A bird appears against a half light, half dark background as it catches an insect.
Celebrity Judge Choice, Birds A hoopoe bird in Dubai catches its breakfast in flight. For days, the photographer observed how the bird predictably returned to the same tree after snatching insects out of the air. © Hermis Haridas
a gray heron stands in a pond and is framed between the legs of humans walking by in the foreground.
Second Place, People and Nature A gray heron standing in a pond in Budapest, Hungary, goes barely noticed by people passing by. © Mano Aliczki

Quote: Photographer Mano Aliczki

“The bird went unnoticed by most of the passersby, just as we often do not generally notice the creatures living around us in the city. However, we do not need to leave the city to meet wildlife. If we slow down, we can see how many living creatures we share our habitat with.”

Second Place, Underwater Life The Taal Volcano eruption in the Philippines in early 2020 stirred up ocean sediments throughout the region. In Batangas Bay, this female paper nautilus hitchhikes on debris floating through the water column. The particles around it reflect the photographer’s flashlight, resembling falling snowflakes. © Jialing Cai
a forest with tall green pines and shorter, fall-colored trees in the foreground is seen through dense falling snow.
First Place, Lands The first snow of the season combines with the last remnants of fall color to create a vibrant tableau in Denali National Park. © Alessandro Carboni
Second Place, Reptiles and Amphibians Outdoor lights create a series of background halos for a Costa Rican hourglass treefrog that sits on a flower near a hotel pond. © Petr Bambousek
a prairie chicken seems to hover a few inches off the ground of a grassy prairie with its wings fully forward, obscuring its face.
Second Place, Birds A male lesser prairie-chicken in western Kansas performs his mating “dance.” These birds congregate on prairies in the spring to compete for the attention of females. In 2022, the species was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to populations declining from habitat loss. © Mike Krehbiel

Quote: Photographer Mike Krehbiel

“While my images from this photo shoot did not portray the threats the lesser prairie-chickens face, it did provide me with the opportunity to discuss those threats with multiple people. We must all seize these opportunities and turn them into actions that better the world!”

A woman on a sofa puts a hand to her heart as through the window lightning can be seen striking in the distance.
Third Place, People and Nature A woman at a motel along the northern shore of Lake Superior is startled by a severe lightning storm. © Randy Hudson
an extreme closeup of a female wolf spider shows it's tiny babies clinging together on her back.
First Place, Insects and Arachnids This highly technical macro photo shows how a female wolf spider can carry more than 100 babies on her back at a time. The photographer encountered this animal in the middle of a pathway on a summer morning. © Ben Salb
a black and white photo of pacific sea nettles.
First Place, Underwater Pacific sea nettles swarm in the murky waters off Monterey, California. © Russell Laman
a river cuts through a snowy forest.
Third Place, Aerials A camera drone captures a snowstorm at a creek in Salisbury Mills, New York. © Derek Robertson
A clump of mushrooms glows green in the darkness.
Third Place, Plants and Fungi A clump of bioluminescent ghost mushrooms glows in a coastal woodland area in Gerroa, New South Wales, Australia. The light is produced by a compound in the mushrooms called luciferin, which allows them to glow for up to a couple days after being picked. © Ashley Sykes
an antlions movements against a black background show it's curving path.
Honorable Mention, Insects and Arachnids An antlion flies in the summer night in the Kiskunság steppe in Hungary. © Tibor Litauszki