Oct
27

The best of “Nature’s Best”

The annual Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards pay tribute to our glorious planet and its inhabitants with some of the most spectacular photography in the world. The Natural History Museum’s new exhibition, “Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards Presents: The Best of the Best” features more than 100 large-format prints selected from nearly 500,000 images submitted over 20 years by photographers from around the globe. Photos in the exhibition include dramatic landscapes, exciting wildlife and surprising glimpses of Earth’s icy peaks to mysterious ocean depths. Below are a few glimpses of the wonders of our world and a reminder of the importance of cherishing it.

Atlantic Puffin with Wild Iris, Megan Lorenz

“Perched precariously on the edge of a cliff trying desperately to overcome my fear of heights, I watched this Atlantic Puffin pull a Wild Iris from the ground and walk along the cliff toward me. He stopped for a moment and I had enough time to capture him with the blue sky in the background before he dropped the Iris over the side where his mate was waiting at the burrow entrance.”

Atlantic Puffin with Wild Iris, Elliston, Newfoundland, Canada By Megan Lorenz, Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada

2015 GRAND PRIZE
Atlantic Puffin with Wild Iris, Elliston, Newfoundland, Canada
By Megan Lorenz, Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada
www.mlorenzphotography.com
© Megan Lorenz / Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

 

Elephant in the Mist, Stuart Potter

“We encountered a blanket of haze and through this misty curtain we could make out two bulls feeding. I focused on one that had the rising sunlight behind him. A pair of cattle egrets perched on him as he fed. Without warning, the elephant began to lie down, startling the birds and causing one to take flight. It was thrilling to witness such an event.”

© Stuart Porter / Nature's Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

© Stuart Porter / Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

 

Dall’s Sheep, Cheryl Opperman

“Photographing mountain sheep can be a daunting task typically starting with a long hike straight up a steep, rocky slope. This pair was found high above a valley during autumn. Rams may be best known for their horn clashing, signaling the rut. But on this day, they seemed more interested in companionship than establishing order. It is endearing moments like these that make the arduous hikes worthwhile.”

Dall's Sheep, Denali National Park, Alaska, USA By Cheryl Opperman, Littleton, Colorado, USA www.cherylopperman.com © Cheryl Opperman / Nature's Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Dall’s Sheep, Denali National Park, Alaska, USA
By Cheryl Opperman, Littleton, Colorado, USA
www.cherylopperman.com
© Cheryl Opperman / Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

 

Mountain gorilla, John Reiter

“My guide and I had climbed for hours up a 10,000-foot-high volcanic mountain through bamboo rainforest until we found ourselves within about 20 feet of a family of endangered gorillas in their natural habitat. Observing this nearly 500-pound, chest-beating silverback was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.”

Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda By John Reiter, Mahwah, New Jersey, USA © John Reiter / Nature's Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
By John Reiter, Mahwah, New Jersey, USA
© John Reiter / Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

 

Emperor Penguin Family, Marcello Libra

“While I had visited Antarctica before, this time I visited a colony of 4,000 pairs of Emperors. Being in such a magnificent environment to witness the family life of these penguins has been a very rewarding experience. As this pair of penguins was caring for its young, I laid on the ice to bring the perspective of another penguin to the image.”

© Marcello Libra / Nature's Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Emperor Penguin Family, Weddell Sea, Antarctica
By Marcello Libra, Vercelli, Italy
© Marcello Libra / Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

 

Mandarin Duck, Russ Burden

“The stunning beauty of the Mandarin has made it among the most popular of all ducks. Unlike other duck species, Mandarins are believed to be lifelong couples, and as such have been a source of inspiration portrayed in countless art forms and literary works by the peoples of Asia for centuries.”

Mandarin Duck, Sterne Park, Littleton, Colorado, USA By Russ Burden, Highlands Ranch, Colorado, USA © Russ Burden / Nature's Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Mandarin Duck, Sterne Park, Littleton, Colorado, USA
By Russ Burden, Highlands Ranch, Colorado, USA
© Russ Burden / Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

 

African lion and cub, Lee Slabber

“I had been following this pride in the Kalahari for a number of days, focusing on one youngster who was always causing trouble. In this image, his father had been trying to sleep. The cub kept climbing over the adult’s head until the lion growled to warn it to back off. In a moment of brave defiance, the youngster just glared back at his dad. I loved the display of intimacy.”

African Lion and Cub, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Kalahari Desert, South Africa By Lee Slabber, Cape Town, South Africa © Lee Slabber / Nature's Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

African Lion and Cub, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Kalahari Desert, South Africa
By Lee Slabber, Cape Town, South Africa
© Lee Slabber / Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

 

Blue shark, Nuno Sá

“Diving into the blue, ten miles off the coast of Faial Island, I watched a torpedo-shaped shadow rapidly approaching from deep, dark waters. As it came closer, its long pectoral fins gave it a form that reminded me of a jet plane; it was a six-foot-long blue shark.”

Blue Shark Off Faial Island, Azores, Portugal By Nuno Sá, Azores, Portugal © Nuno Sá / Nature's Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Blue Shark Off Faial Island, Azores, Portugal
By Nuno Sá, Azores, Portugal
© Nuno Sá / Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

 

Polar bear cub, Florian Schulz

“During an expedition to document Arctic wildlife, I observed a polar bear family from a small, ice-going vessel. The mother and her cubs were living on pack ice far from land. Incredibly intelligent animals, young polar bears learn quickly through their inquisitive nature. This cub was intrigued by its reflection and was studying it with great interest.”

Polar Bear Cub, Barents Sea, Norway By Florian Schulz, Wilhelmsdorf, Germany © Florian Schulz / Nature's Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Polar Bear Cub, Barents Sea, Norway
By Florian Schulz, Wilhelmsdorf, Germany
© Florian Schulz / Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

 

Stalking leopard, Stephen Belcher

“I was photographing this leopard as it lay in a tree. When it jumped down and started walking toward my vehicle, I lay on the ground and started using my smaller 300mm lens before quickly getting back into the car. I have always wanted to capture a leopard’s piercing eyes looking straight ahead at ground level—the view its prey must have.”

Leopard Stalking, Otjozondjupa Region, Namibia By Stephen Belcher, Christchurch, New Zealand © Stephen Belcher / Nature's Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Leopard Stalking, Otjozondjupa Region, Namibia
By Stephen Belcher, Christchurch, New Zealand
© Stephen Belcher / Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.


Posted: 27 October 2015
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni has been editing The Torch since August 2006. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she worked as a writer and editor for the National Geographic Society, Plexus Scientific, The Nature Conservancy, The National Foreign Language Center and St. Martin’s Press, among others. She has the best job in the world.