Gorilla Surrounded by Butterflies Wins Grand Prize in International Nature Photo Contest

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s especially true when it comes to photos of nature. Wildlife photography is a skill and an art, and a great photo can make us feel closer to nature by showing us things we never would’ve seen before.

Recently, a prestigious nature photography contest announced their latest grand prize winner, and it’s truly a stunning photo.

The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental nonprofit, holds an international photography contest every year. While they took a hiatus last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the contest came back this year stronger than ever with 100,190 submissions from 158 countries, according to a press release.

And this week they announced their winners. The Grand Prize went to a striking photograph of a western lowland gorilla surrounded by butterflies:

The photo was taken by Anup Shah, a photographer from the UK, in the Central African Republic.

It seems that the gorilla is smiling peacefully, as if enjoying the beautiful nature around him — however, we can’t know for sure how the gorilla is actually feeling. That ambiguity is what won over judges — including American musician Ben Folds, the contest’s celebrity judge.

“I like photos that keep dragging you in,” Folds said. “The face. Tolerance or bliss. It’s really hard to tell and the insects draw you there.”

While Shah’s gorilla photo took the top honor, it was far from the only winner. The conservancy named first-, second- and third-place winners, as well as honorable mentions, in several categories including “Landscape,” “Water” and “Wildlife.”

They also gave out a “People’s Choice” award, bestowed to Indian photographer Prathamesh Ghadekar for a photo of fireflies congregating onto a tree before a monsoon.

prathamesh.ghadekar/Instagram

The photos are available on the conservancy’s website, and are all worth checking out. They each tell a different story and provide a unique, eye-opening vision of the natural world around us.

“These images are a gorgeous and unforgettable reminder of the vibrancy and awe-inspiring power of nature,” said Meg Goldthwaite, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for The Nature Conservancy.

“Year after year, we are amazed, delighted, and moved by these scenes from around the world. They remind us how connected we all are on this planet, and they energize us as we continue the important work of conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends.”

What stunning photos! Congrats to all the winners of this year’s contest — and thank you for bringing us closer to nature.

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