The ongoing pandemic meant that we had to skip the Nature inFocus Festival yet again. Instead, the results of the much-anticipated Nature inFocus Photography Contest 2021 were announced at a live virtual event on November 22, 2021.

As is the case every year, we find that our participants continue to push the envelope further and further by sharing truly outstanding moments from the wild. This year, the images highlighted key issues like plastic pollution and deforestation while also shining a light on some lesser-known species and animal behaviours. 

We thank our impeccable jury—Andy Rouse, Bahar Dutt, Dhritiman Mukherjee, Navaneeth Unnikrishnan and Rathika Ramasamy—for sifting through thousands of entries and coming up with this truly unique set of images.

Mohammad Murad won the Animal Portraits category, Priyanka Rahut Mitra won the Animal Behaviour category, Prathamesh Ghadekar won the Creative Nature Photography category, Lakshitha Karunarathna won the Wildscape & Animals in Habitat category and the Conservation Issues category was won by Mahisin Khan. Anagha Mohan, who is 15 years old, won the Young Photographer title.

Every year, the jury awards one of the category winners the grand title of 'Photograph of the Year'. But this year, for the first time in the history of the competition, there is no overall winner as the jury found it extremely difficult to give one single image more merit over the rest of the winning images and decided not to award the top prize.

Scroll down to see all the winning images from the latest edition of the Nature inFocus Photography Contest.


City Lights—Mohammad Murad

Winner—Animal Portraits

The photographer spent more than two months observing and documenting the behaviour of Arabian Red Fox families near their dens in the Kuwait region. Although scared at first, the foxes became more comfortable around his presence after frequent visits. They even began to emerge from their dens when they heard the sound of his car and came close enough to inspect his camera gear.

Kuwait

     v    Mohammad Murad at i     | Nature Infocus
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The King’s Feast—Panos Laskarakis

Runner-up—Animal Portraits

During his visit to the Okavango Delta, the photographer chanced upon a pride of lions hunting buffalos. The next night, a pack of 30 hyenas tried to steal the kill from the lions. The place reverberated with roars and howls as a ferocious battle ensued. This image was made the following day when a lone lion was feeding on one of the carcasses.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

     v    Panos Laskarakis              | Nature Infocus
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Pay Through The Nose—Lakshitha Karunarathna

Second Runner-up—Animal Portraits

Can being nosy also be beneficial? The Yellow-billed Oxpecker says, yes! The bird can be seen perched on the nose of African Water Buffalos, from where it gains an endless buffet of insects and parasites. The giant bovids, in return, gain protection from ticks. Talk about win-win!

Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

     v    Lakshitha Karunarathna natureinfocus buffaloandoxpecker | Nature Infocus
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Something In The Rain—Viraj Ghaisas

Special Mention—Animal Portraits

The Indrella ampulla snail resides in wet woodlands and is known for the striking range of colours it displays. Pictured here is the eye of a snail against the bark of a tree amidst heavy rainfall.

Coorg, Karnataka

     v    Viraj Ghaisas dsc      | Nature Infocus
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Hamster Wheel Of Life—Kai Kolodziej

Special Mention—Animal Portraits

European Hamsters were once so widespread that they were considered pests. As one of the most colourful mammals in Europe, these small rodents are hunted for their fur. Today, they are quite rare. Vienna is home to a small wild population of these hamsters.

Vienna, Austria

     v    Kai Kolodziej dsc      | Nature Infocus
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A Bush Elephant—Staffan Widstrand

Special Mention—Animal Portraits

Where the bush ends is where the elephant begins? Or is it the other way round? The African Bush Elephant, also known as the African Savanna Elephant, prefers open savannas, forests and deserts as habitats. This endangered pachyderm is the largest living terrestrial animal, and is found in 23 countries, with the southern and eastern parts of Africa housing the largest populations globally.

Marakele National Park, South Africa

     v    Staffan Widstrand swd                   crop | Nature Infocus
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The Resting Monarch—Lakshitha Karunarathna

Winner—Wildscape & Animals in Habitat

A gigantic kaleidoscope of Monarch butterflies sits huddled together on Oyamel Fir trees in the overwintering grounds in the mountains of central Mexico. The tall tree canopy in the cool mountain climate provides a blanket effect, ensuring that temperatures don't go too high or low, protecting the monarchs.

El Rosario Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

     v    Lakshitha Karunarathna natureinfocus monarch | Nature Infocus
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Bear In The Woods—Divya Dwaraknath

Runner-up—Wildscape & Animals in Habitat

The photographer was scanning the dry, dense vegetation from the boundary of the tourist and core zone of the reserve, when what looked like a black rock suddenly came into view. For a brief second, through the camera lens, she saw a giant ball of fur looking back at her. One quick snap, and the Sloth Bear was gone!

Nagarahole National Park, Karnataka

     v    Divya Dwarak img              | Nature Infocus
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Catwalk—Shivang Mehta

Second Runner-up—Wildscape & Animals in Habitat

An Indian Leopard holds a spooked expression as he triggers a camera trap placed amidst the picturesque sal forests in the Terai region of Corbett Tiger Reserve.

Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand

     v    Shivang Mehta mg      | Nature Infocus
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A Heritage Sight—Uditchandra Pal

Special Mention—Wildscape & Animals in Habitat

Abandoned buildings often end up being taken over by creatures of the wild. This forgotten part of the fort is now occupied by bats, which has, in turn, attracted pythons, civets, and this Shikra and its family. Bats, rats, squirrels and garden lizards are all fair game for the Shikra.

Ramathra Fort, Rajasthan

     v    Uditchandra Pal dscf                         | Nature Infocus
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Wool In The Snow—Indranil Basu Mallick

Special Mention—Wildscape & Animals in Habitat

A high-altitude leporid native to the Tibetan Plateau, the Woolly Hare is diurnal and can often be found hiding and resting in low-lying areas, expertly camouflaged against its immediate surroundings.

Kibber, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh

     v    Indranil Basu Mallick inner peace wooly hare | Nature Infocus
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A Hiss In The Canopy—Pratik Pradhan

Special Mention—Wildscape & Animals in Habitat

Bamboo Pit Vipers are slow-moving, arboreal snakes that are active at night. Slow they might be, but these vipers can defend themselves with fast strikes when threatened or injured. The photographer spotted this individual in a thick forest patch during peak monsoon. The entire forest was clad in thick fog, creating a serene atmosphere. Though the photographer wanted to capture the ethereal mood on camera, it was nighttime and was raining heavily, making it impossible to do so even after using flashes. He returned the morning after to try his luck and found the snake sitting at the same spot where he had found it the previous night and was able to create this magical image of the reptile against the foggy backdrop of the evergreen rainforest.

Matheran, Maharashtra

     v    Pratik Pradhan dsc     | Nature Infocus
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Northern Lights—Prathamesh Ghadekar

Winner—Creative Nature Photography

The spores of a bracket fungus (Polypores) create a vast spectrum of colours when lit from an angle. The photographer came across fungi growing on a dead tree log and was amazed by the colours his flashlight picked up. Over two nights, with the wind and the speed of spore release occasionally combining in his favour, he was able to create the image he had previsualized. The photographer flipped the image horizontally to create a wide frame that looked like a landscape shot of Stonehenge-like structures against a gorgeous night sky decorated by the Northern Lights.

Ajoba Parvat, Maharashtra

     v    Prathamesh Ghadekar northern lights | Nature Infocus
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Rush Hour—Magnus Lundgren

Runner-up—Creative Nature Photography

An underwater shot of a pack of Chum Salmons running up a cold Alaskan creek as they force their way to the sacred reproduction grounds in Prince William Sound. During their perilous journey from the ocean to the stream (where they hatched) to spawn, sometimes, these salmon go through passages with water levels so low they can't even breathe, but they keep going! Once at their spawning ground, these fearless females lay thousands of eggs inside a pit they dig with their powerful tails. The eggs are often fertilised by different males. As her last duty servicing the circle of life, she guards her egg until she dies.

Prince William Sound, Alaska

     v    Magnus Lundgren pack of salmons wanderlust     px   | Nature Infocus
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The Illusionist—Magnus Lundgren

Second Runner-up—Creative Nature Photography

A pelagic juvenile Wunderpus (Wunderpus photogenicus n. sp.) hunting in midwater is a dream image for an underwater photographer. This species is a spectacular, long-armed octopus from the Indo-Malayan archipelago. Their juvenile transparent body decorated with bands of brown on their tentacles gives way as they change colour and size once they settle on the seafloor to live their adult lives. Banded white markings form on their tentacles, and akin to the similar-looking Mimic Octopus, they can mimic other animals.

Balayan Bay, Anilao, Luzon, Philippines

     v    Magnus Lundgren mlu                   s v      px adobergb | Nature Infocus
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Pixie Dust—Mandar Ghumare

Special Mention—Creative Nature Photography

The milky apparition that appears to be a pixie or a spirit is, in fact, a moth fluttering above a troop of mushrooms. The ghostly image evokes memories of the enchanted woodland creatures that populated the fairytales one grew up reading.

Badlapur, Maharashtra

     v    Mandar Ghumare dsc                | Nature Infocus
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Blue Symphony—Kallol Mukherjee

Special Mention—Creative Nature Photography

Under an azure sky, a flock of Grandalas cascade down the snow powdered peaks of upper Lachen in Sikkim in notes of blue and grey. Mesmerised by thousands of these rare birds flying over the Lachen River from one tree to another, the photographer captured this multi-exposure image, utilising the light coming in through the alpine forests of the region.

North Sikkim

     v    Kallol Mukherjee dsc      | Nature Infocus
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Neon Night—Ian Wade

Special Mention—Creative Nature Photography

On a night of heavy rainfall, after it had settled down a bit, the photographer headed out looking for snails to photograph. He spotted this individual near a puddle by some shops. The neon signboards reflect off the water, revealing the urban nature of the setting.

Bristol, United Kingdom

     v    Ian Wade             a fc ee bf o | Nature Infocus
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Hop Into The Limelight—Anagha Mohan

Winner—Young Photographer

Anagha is a staunch believer that one doesn't have to travel far to photograph wildlife. She loves to spend time shooting insects in and around her locality. This surreal image of a grasshopper resting on a flowering plant was shot in a park on the city outskirts.

Bangalore, Karnataka

     v    Anagha Mohan dsc     | Nature Infocus
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Spider Dreams—Anirudh Kamakeri

Runner-up—Young Photographer

Most orb-weaver spiders weave a new web every day and tend to be active during the evening hours. Having observed the spider every evening on the terrace of his house, the photographer visualised this in-camera multi-exposure image, creating a beautiful bokeh from the street lights and signboards and framing the silhouette of the spider within.

Dharwad, Karnataka

     v    Anirudh Kamakeri dsc       | Nature Infocus
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Deep Cleaning Services—Shashwat Mohapatra

Second Runner-up—Young Photographer

Rufous Treepies sustain an interesting relationship with their ungulate friends. One can often find them perched on deer and antelopes, on the lookout for fleas and other ectoparasites to fill their bellies. The ungulates are welcoming of their avian friends and allow treepies to examine specific parts of their bodies. A particularly delicate area in this case, and humorously framed by the photographer.

Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan

     v    Shashwat Mohapatra treepie | Nature Infocus
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Toxic-city—Satya Manidhar Vegi

Special Mention—Young Photographer

Framed against its reflection on a rainwater puddle, the image of a factory releasing toxic fumes into the atmosphere depicts the reality of how it is equally pollutive to the atmosphere and the water bodies around it.

Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh

     v    Satya Manidhar Vegi dsc      compress   | Nature Infocus
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Entrapment—Adityakrishna S Menon

Special Mention—Young Photographer

The photographer noticed a dragonfly come into his room and hover near a spider's web on the ceiling. The odonate eventually got trapped in the web, and he made this image of the spider closing in on its kill. The photograph was converted to a negative via post-processing, evoking constellations in the night sky.

Ernakulam, Kerala

     v    Adityakrishna S Menon dsc      | Nature Infocus
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Love Is Orange—Jeet Agrawal

Special Mention—Young Photographer

A male Rock Agama flaunting a splendid coat of orange and black mounts a female that he appears to have successfully courted as another agama looks on. Rock Agamas create the colours for their extravagant displays by extracting pigments from their diet.

Nagpur, Maharashtra

     v    Jeet Agrawal i a       | Nature Infocus
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Evicted—Mahisin Khan

Winner—Conservation Issues

A lone Gharial is portrayed against the backdrop of construction work, highlighting their changing habitats. Endemic to the Indian subcontinent, Gharials were once present in all major rivers in the country. They are now found in only two per cent of their original range. Habitat degradation, hunting for skin and traditional medicines are some of the biggest threats to this critically endangered species.

Bihar

     v    Mahisin Khan mkp                | Nature Infocus
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This Divided Land—Gnaneswar CH

Runner-up—Conservation Issues

Did you know that about 58,000 people die due to snakebites every year in India? Here is one of the 'big four'—a Russell's Viper—making its way through a paddy field as women continue to do their work. The 'big four' refers to the four venomous reptile species that contribute to the maximum number of snakebite incidents. In rural areas, these venomous snakes live in close proximity to humans, and awareness becomes imperative to reduce the occurrence of such incidents.

Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu

     v    Gnaneswar Ch dji         | Nature Infocus
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Going Astray—Karamjeet Singh

Second Runner-up—Conservation Issues

A growing concern with wildlife conservation in Ladakh is the increasing number of feral and free-ranging dogs. Their ability to multiply fast is considered a threat to the other animals thriving in the same habitat. However, the image shows how the locals have turned this problem into an innovative solution for their woes. The dogs seen here were feral, but the locals domesticated them to later employ them to deter Himalayan Brown Bears from entering their villages. The system seems to work efficiently for the villagers, as the dogs keep the wild animals at bay and alert the people about them.

Drass, Ladakh

     v    Karamjeet Singh    a     | Nature Infocus
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Plastic Island—Devendra Chauhan

Special Mention—Conservation Issues

Crocodiles routinely bask in the sun to maintain their body temperatures. This littered basking site of a Marsh Crocodile shows the extent of damage that indiscriminate dumping of plastic and other waste can do. They not only harm the animals but also cause hindrance in their daily activities.

Girnar, Gujarat

     v    Devendra Chauhan basking in the glory | Nature Infocus
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Collateral Damage—Deven Mehta

Special Mention—Conservation Issues

An abandoned kite string claims the lives of a River Tern adult and chick. Despite a ban on kite strings made of abrasive materials such as glass powder and metal, kite flying events lead to several birds getting trapped, injured or killed.

Bhavnagar, Gujarat

     v  Deven Mehta DSCN     | Nature Infocus
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Fishing For Rubbish—Srikanth Mannepuri

Special Mention—Conservation Issues

A large fishing net seems to have picked up more plastic and debris than the catch. The haul included everything from chocolate wrappers to milk packets, showing the extent of garbage that gets discarded into natural water bodies. Apart from polluting oceans and causing harm to aquatic species, the image portrays how plastic pollution affects the livelihood of fishing communities.

Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh

     v    Srikanth Mannepuri dji      | Nature Infocus
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A Shark For A Fin—Staffan Widstrand

Special Mention—Conservation Issues

A fisherman displays his fresh harvest of shark fins. Sharks are captured live and their fins are cut off before throwing them back into the sea, where they eventually die. Shark fins are a key ingredient in shark-fin soup, and an increase in demand for the fins is causing great harm to the populations of the apex predators.

Triton Bay, Western Papua

     v    Staffan Widstrand swd                      | Nature Infocus
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The Old Man And The Forest—Thomas Vijayan

Special Mention—Conservation Issues

Our changing world is a significant threat to many living beings around us, one of them being the orangutan. The apes are now dependent on feeding stations as deforestation has massively altered their habitats and food sources. According to FAO, between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was about 10 million hectares per year.

Borneo, Indonesia

     v    Thomas Vijayan the man of the jungle   | Nature Infocus
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Tag, You Are It!—Priyanka Rahut Mitra

Winner—Animal Behaviour

The leopardess was deep in slumber high up on a tree branch when awakened by the alarm calls of a Malabar Giant Squirrel. On spotting the rodent, she launched an attack, chasing the squirrel around the tree trunk and eventually capturing the animal. Masterful at manoeuvring their habitats, leopards can jump from one tree to another with absolute ease. They can also haul prey twice their size up a tree to feed on the animal in peace. Slim chances for the squirrel, won’t you say?

Bandipur National Park, Karnataka

     v    Priyanka Rahut Mitra   u     | Nature Infocus
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After ‘While Crocodile!—Rajat Subhra Pramanick

Runner-up—Animal Behaviour

Tigers are not the ones to share space, and the crocodile is learning that the hard way as it gets ousted from felid territory. The big cats are known to patrol their territory routinely, checking for intruders. Tigers are also adept swimmers and can cross large water bodies with ease. The reptile better run for life!

Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan

     v    Rajat Subhra Pramanick  t a      | Nature Infocus
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Nose-to-Tail Diet—Shuvam Sadhukhan

Second Runner-up—Animal Behaviour

Yikes, talk about getting your head bitten off! While the photographer initially meant to photograph a mantis on its leafy perch, little did he know that another one was lurking in the background. The guest ate the subject, leading to an interesting capture on mantis behaviour. Mantises are generalist and ambush predators and feed on a host of arthropod species, including some of their own.

Kolkata, West Bengal

     v    Shuvam Sadhukhan dsc          | Nature Infocus
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Swarm the Sun—Jackson Johnson

Special Mention—Animal Behaviour

These dragonflies don't take their monikers lightly. Globe Skimmers, also called Wandering Gliders, take on long, arduous journeys from India to Africa, and are spotted in large swarms at various places during the trip.

Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

     v    Jackson Johnson swarm of dragonflies new | Nature Infocus
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Cut To The Chase—Kushal Guttedar

Special Mention—Animal Behaviour

Among lions, females are the primary hunters, with males only aiding them in bringing down larger prey. Lions hunt a range of animals, including zebras, wildebeest and warthogs. The image shows a piglet running for its life as a lioness closes in.

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

     v    Kushal Guttedar behaviour | Nature Infocus
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Who Let The Bees Out!—Shantanu Ambulgekar

Special Mention—Animal Behaviour

Looks like an image of a bird fleeing the scene after being attacked by bees? Look closer! The photographer observed a Blue-bearded Bee-eater making trips to a beehive under a bridge and carrying the catch back to its perch nearby. Suddenly, a swarm of bees launched an attack on the bird—a masterstroke by the bee-eater. Blue-bearded Bee-eaters provoke the release of bees from a hive on purpose so that they can feed on the insects mid-air.

Dandeli, Karnataka

     v    Shantanu Ambulgekar chasing the bea eater cl a     | Nature Infocus
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