Gutsy Dogs, Dueling Birds, and Other Award-Winning Animal Photos

When in doubt, run away.

In this collection from the 2022 Nature inFocus Photography Awards, you’ll see animals in their natural habitats—like a tiger lounging on a bed of flowers—and ones in decidedly unnatural environments, like a caterpillar in its nest of plastic or a fox in a snow-covered city. The contest received tens of thousands of submissions; here are some of this year’s winners. 

“Ka Pow!”

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Bird-loving photographer Karthikeyan Ponnambalamoorthy captured these grey-headed swamphen engaged in combat. When these species breed, they try to scare off any other bird that intrudes into their territory. If that doesn’t work, they engage in feet-first combat.


Searching around for a new home.

Kapil Sharma captured this majestic barn owl in flight. These night birds often live in and around abandoned buildings. This owl was flying into an abandoned police van in Mumbai, India.



Photographer Alankritha Kalingarayar snapped this photo of a beautiful red panda curled up on a tree branch. Though this specific panda is safe and happily resting, red pandas are endangered and at risk due to habitat loss.

“A Thorny Issue”

When in doubt, run away.

Kapil Sharma captured the moment in which two feral dogs try to take on a an Indian crested porcupine. A colony of homeless dogs have become a growing concern in the Little Rann of Kutch region, and this image shows how the roaming canines are affecting wildlife in the area.

“Cloaked in Lilac”

Laying amongst the flowers.

This tiger stands out among a field of purple water hyacinth flowers in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in India. It reminds me of the iconic flower meadow from the film Howl’s Moving Castle.

“She’s Like the Wind”

Little bird.

This little purple sunbird is getting ready to launch from a coconut frond. Setting up to take-off created this beautiful image, where we see its yellowish feathers that almost match the plant it’s hanging on.


Watery predator.

Are sharks scary? Absolutely. But do they also look amazing while doing their thing under water? Heck yes. Photographer Magnus Lundgren snapped this Caribbean reef shark just off the coast of The Bahamas.

“Chaos Theory”

Tiger in the paddy field.

Photographer Nejib Ahmed captured villagers running away from a tiger in Borsola near the Orang Tiger Reserve in India. The feline wandered into a dry paddy field, scaring the workers.

“Where the Giants Roam”

Wandering elephant.

Footprints along this riverbed show that a herd of elephants has just walked through. These tusked giants tend to hang out near paddy fields throughout Sri Lanka’s north-central province. Here, a lone elephant casts a long shadow.

“Termite Control”

Snacking on some bugs.

Hyenas hunting in packs can take down large animals like antelope, but this lone spotted hyena has decided to take it easy and munch on some termites. No coordination or chasing involved—just walking up to the hill and chomping down on the critters that climb out of the hill.

“Plastic Home”

Plastic waste house.

The bagworm moth caterpillar tends to build a protective home with natural items like twigs and leaves. But because the world is now littered with plastic pollution, this critter had to make do and create a micro-plastic home.

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“Wings of Life and Death”

“Wings of Life and Death”

A kaleidoscope of colors and wings.

During the monsoon season, termites emerge and flap around in swarms to breed. They’re drawn to bright lights, and black drongo birds take the opportunity to scoop up the bugs for a meal.

“Burnt Violet”

Feather closeup.

Photographer Ashane Marasinghe snapped this amazing close-up of a Sri Lankan junglefowl’s feathers, complete with a stowaway.

“Refuge in Sponge”

Hitching a sponge-y ride.

This cute black-spotted porcupine fish has decided to hop aboard a giant barrel sponge to get away from the current. Nature knows how to work smarter, not harder.

“Let It Snow”

A winter wonderland.

This lone sika deer wanders among a snowy forest in this dreamy image.

“A Croc’s World”

Shiny shiny teeth.

This American crocodile is happily swimming just off the coast of Cuba. These reptiles are often found near the mangroves around the southern part of the Caribbean archipelago. From above the water, they’re hardly more than a pair of eyes; dip below, and you’ll see their true power.

“Heat Tasting”

Taste testing.

This anamalai pit viper is casually checking its environment with its tongue. These impressive reptiles are can pick up scents in the air by sticking their tongue out.

“A Full Meal”

Just a little snack.

Stripped sea snakes make the most of their catches. Their venomous bite takes out prey, which allows the snake to hunt effectively. This snake has hit the jackpot.


Dance battle.

When male stream ruby damselflies fight for their territory, they look like they’re engaged in a dance battle. It’s a tactic to get rid of their opponent by tiring them out. When one of the insects accepts that they’ve lost, they flap away into the night.

“Out for a Duck”

Eat in or takeout?

Monitor lizards roam throughout Africa and Asia, and they’re not picky eaters. If it’s available, these reptiles will devour it, even if the meal seems a bit oversized.

“Aarey’s Cats”

A feline lurking around.

Photographer Kapil Sharma photographed how some leopards and humans have managed to coexist in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony. The large spotted cats takes refuge from the rain inside of an abandoned home.

“Fox in the City”

Fox in the snow.

A red fox explores the suburbs of London, standing out in the snowy landscape. Cities may be full of people, but wildlife still roam parks, backyards, and rooftops in all sorts of urban environments.