Now in its third year, the Close-Up Photographer of the Year competition has quickly become an impressive showcase for macro photography. Highlights in 2021 include a number of surreal shots of fungi, a stunning snap of a hornet being attacked by a swarm of ants, and a rare glimpse at fighting toad-headed agama lizards.
Unlike Nikon’s iconic Small World photography contest, which tends to focus on the science of microscopic photography, the Close-Up Photographer of the Year is a more general celebration of the art of the close-up. This year includes nine categories, two more than last time, covering Animals, Insects, Plants and Fungi, Intimate Landscapes, and new ones – Underwater, and Butterflies and Dragonflies.
The contest’s definition of close-up photography is broad. Essentially the contest welcomes any image that zooms in on a subject in greater detail than would be seen with the naked eye. This covers everything from macro shots of small flora and fauna to full microscopic photography.
The top prize this year went to Norwegian photography Pal Hermansen for an incredible shot of insects that seems like a composite but actually isn’t. The collection of insects came out of a defective lamp in Hermansen’s house.
“I emptied the lamp and spread the contents onto a large light-table I had left over from my slide days,” says Hermansen. “I wanted to express the chaos and diversity of this discovery, but also to find some kind of composition. To me, it’s a visual reminder of the important and extreme diversity of animals around us that we take for granted.”
Another highlight came in Czech wildlife photographer Petr Bambousek’s striking look at a group of ants working together to take down a large hornet.
“Liometopum ants live in large colonies on huge trees and feed on many different types of food,” explains Bambousek. “In the picture you can see how the group of ants work together in hunting the hornet.”
Other notable shots in the spectacular assortment of winners include a gorgeous close-up of cup fungi, a psychedelic swirl of soap bubbles, and a mind-bending shot of glass bottles composed to look like waves crashing on a beach.
“The standard was incredible,” says contest co-founder Tracy Calder. “Yet again, entrants have shown that close-up photography can help us see the world anew and discover beauty in subjects that are often overlooked.”
Take a look through our gallery at more highlights from this year’s contest.