The World Nature Photography Awards announced its 2022 winners earlier this month, with the top honor going to Jens Cullmann of Germany for his arresting image of a crocodile camouflaged in caked mud, only one of its bright yellow eyes looking directly at the camera. 

Getting the shot was no easy feat: “I had to be very careful not to disturb the crocodile, even though it was buried in dry mud,” Cullmann, who took the photo at Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, explained in a press release. “They will launch themselves with tremendous speed and power at any animal foolish enough to come too close.” 

©Jens Cullmann, World Nature Photography Awards

Based in London, the awards were founded in 2020 “in the belief that we can all make small efforts to shape the future of our planet in a positive way, and that photography can influence people to see the world from a different perspective and change their own habits for the good of the planet,” per the release. To that end, the competition has partnered with Ecologi to plant a tree for every entry received. In 2022, photographers in 45 countries across six continents submitted their work for consideration. (Click here to enter the 2023 awards.)

In addition to earning him the title of World Nature Photographer of the Year, Cullmann’s striking shot took gold in the animal portraits category. Scroll to see the winning images in the remaining 13 categories, and visit the website to check out the runners-up.

Animals in their habitat

A beautiful snow leopard triggers my camera trap high up in the Indian Himalayas.
A snow leopard in the Indian Himalayas ©Sascha Fonseca

Behavior — Amphibians and reptiles

A Japanese stream toad in the Owase Mountains, Mie, Japan ©Norihiro Ikuma, World Photography Awards

Behavior — Birds

A hooded merganser flies toward the camera in Alexandria, Virginia ©Charles Schmidt, World Nature Photography Awards

Behavior – Invertebrates

A red crab surrounded by a thing curtain of water on La Gomera Island, Spain. ©Javier Herranz Casellas

Behavior — Mammals

Japanese macaques in Awaji Island, Japan ©Hidetoshi Ogata, World Nature Photography Awards

Black and white

A Lesser Antillean Iguana in Grenada Island, West Indies ©Alain Enoult, World Nature Photography Awards

Nature art

Spawning coral in the Red Sea ©Tom Shlesinger

People and nature

Inside a glacier in Solheimajokull, South Iceland ©Virgil Reglioni

Planet Earth’s landscapes and environments

The Milky Way over Grand Teton Peak in Wyoming ©Jake Mosher

Plants and fungi

A eucalyptus tree in Mount Barker, Western Australia ©Julie Kenny


©Adriano Morettin

Nature photojournalism