Check out some of the past year’s best close-up photography

The 5th annual Close-up Photographer of the Year competition celebrated detailed glimpses of the natural world. Here are a few of the finalists and winners.
A female fairy shrimp displays the colorful eggs inside her. © René Krekels |

There’s always a reason to stop and appreciate the smaller stuff in life. Since 2018, Tracy and Dan Calder have drawn attention to documenting daily minutiae with the Close-up Photographer of the Year competition, highlighting the past 12 months’ best images capturing nature, animal, underwater, and human subjects.

The 5th annual edition is no exception, with amazing glimpses of everything from slumbering frogs, to magnetic waves, to microscopic life, to rarely seen deep sea creatures. Across a wide range of categories, photographers around the world managed to snap some extremely striking images, making even some of the creepiest of crawlies look pretty cute for a change. Check out a few of our favorite finalists and winners of 2023 below, and remember to keep an eye out for the little things this year. They’re always there and worth seeing, even if you don’t have a camera in hand.

Close up of damselfly
Invertebrate Portrait Finalist: “Look Into My Eyes,” portrait of a damselfly covered in dew taken in May in Shropshire, UK © Pete Burford |
Ice chunk with twig frozen in it
Intimate Landscape 2nd Place Winner: “Ice Fossiel,” ‘In winter, many of the flooded wetlands in the Netherlands can be skated upon. The ice is often damaged, with pieces being chipped off. On one such occasion, I discovered a small chunk of ice stuck to a frozen twig that made me think of a prehistoric find.’ © Piet Haaksma |
Light captured in bottles to look like electric storm
Human Made Finalist: “Electric Storm in a Bottle,” Light captured in a pair of bottles to look like an electrical storm taken on November 6th in Hemel Hempstead, UK. © Rachel McNulty |
Dark brown globular springtail
Invertebrate Portrait Finalist: “Allacma Fucsca,” A dark brown globular springtail (Allacma fusca) taken on September 24th in Solingen, Germany. © Jacek Hensoldt |
Light through glass door creating electric effect
Human Made Finalist: “Magnetic Waves,” Light through the glass of a front door creates an ‘electric’ effect taken on
June 23rd in Stourbridge, UK. © Chris Mills |
Small slime mould with ice crown atop it
Fungi 1st Place Winner: “The Ice Crown,” ‘This 1mm tall slime mould (Didymium squamulosum) was found in leaf litter on a Buckinghamshire woodland floor in January. Attracted by the way the frost had formed a crown shape on top of the fruiting body, I had to be very careful not to breathe on it. During a previous attempt with another slime mould, my breath had melted the ice when I inadvertently got too close.’ © Barry Webb |
Two four-spotted skimmer dragonflies mating
Butterflies & Dragonflies 2nd Place Winner: “Letting Go,” ‘‘Capturing a Four-spotted skimmer dragonfly (Libellula quadrimaculata) mating is particularly difficult because they connect and mate in-flight without any warning and for only a few seconds. The moment captured in this photo is just after the male has finished depositing his sperm on the female’s eggs and they are disconnecting. She will then attempt to deposit the eggs in the water and he will hover near her to ward off other males who would like to also mate with her.’ © Steve Russell |
Elephant trunk gripping flowers from water
Animals Finalist: “Picking Flowers,” ‘An Elephant enjoys a nutritional meal of water lily flowers as it makes its way across the Chobe River, Botswana. As flood water reaches the Chobe river (all the way from its starting point in Angola) the waterways are transformed with a wave of flowers.’ © William Steel |
Two huntsman spiders
Animals Finalist: “Pandercetes Sp. Squared,” ‘I was observing a large huntsman spider (Pandercetes sp.) on a tree when it suddenly leapt and caught a moving subject next to it. Upon closer inspection, I realised that a smaller huntsman spider had caught its own prey and while feeding on it, it had attracted the attention of the larger spider. If you look closely, you can see the pools of venom secreting from its fangs. Cannibalism among spiders is quite common, but finding such beautiful spiders showing this behaviour was a highlight from my trip to Malaysia.’ © Peter Grob |
Two frogs and a toad
Animals Finalist: “Frogs and Toad Mating,” ‘‘As I was walking around my local lake looking for amphibians on a warm spring evening I began to hear the calls of frogs and toads coming from a small area around the roots of an Alder tree at the edge of the water. I watched the mass of amphibians until the light disappeared and noticed two frogs next to the water on the edge of the footpath. When I went to have a better look and take some images, I noticed that this pair had a common toad attempting to join!’ © Nathan Benstead |

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