It’s all about the beauty in the details with the Wiki Loves Earth 2021 photo contest
You can almost sense the stillness on a beach in Portugal, feel the fog rolling past the hills in Turkey’s Pontic Mountains, and experience the thrill as a snake stares back at you in Brazil.
These are just three of the fifteen winners of the 2021 Wiki Loves Earth (WLE) photography competition, an annual contest that produces some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring photos of Earth, its nature, animals, and more. The most recent group of winning photos are all about the details — the kind of shots that require moments of thoughtfulness, when the longer you look, the more you discover.
Organized by volunteers in the Wikimedia community, WLE is an international photographic contest held every May through June to help highlight the conservation and protected areas of its participating countries.
In 2021, 34 countries and territories joined in, including the United Arab Emirates and Wales for the first time.
Contest participants upload the photos of their local natural heritage and scenic landscapes to the media repository Wikimedia Commons, placing them under a free license so the photos can be reused not just on Wikipedia, but by everyone, everywhere.
With more than 64,000 submissions and over 4,300 uploaders, last year’s contest had several milestones. It had the third-highest number of participating regions since the competition started in 2013. In another first, 2021 winners represent two separate categories: Landscapes (such as trees and beaches) and Macro/Close-up (of animals, plants, fungi, and more).
In total, there were 390 winning photos on the local level. The international jury team, consisting of six Wikimedians, photographers, and experts, then worked on selecting up to 20 international winners for both categories. After a difficult selection period, they narrowed down the winners to 15 (five of which are landscapes, and 10 are macro/close-up shots).
Let’s dive in to see the winners!
Second Place: The trees in Parco Agricolo Sud Milano near Rosate, Italy, are still shrouded in morning mist a few minutes after sunrise, while a stranger walks their dog through the unpaved path. The judges describe this photo as a “fantasy” — one that carries a feeling of nostalgia with it. Photo by Dario.brollo, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Third Place: A morning ride through Lake Stymphalia in Greece, an important habitat and stopping point for migratory birds. The jury describes this image as “poetic,” one telling of a story of voyage. Photo by Nojos88, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Fourth Place: The fog rolls over the Pontic Mountains in Turkey revealing a medieval castle, Zilkale, sitting on top of a hill, ominously looking down at the trees and mountains it rests above. Judges describe the scene as “a dream above the clouds, the colors and the perspective are all excellent”. Photo by Engin Tavlı, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Fifth Place: Mount Merapi, located in Indonesia, stands at 2,930 meters above sea level and has been erupting for over a year now. Incandescent lava discharge can be as frequent as dozens of times a day and its farthest sliding distance has reached 2,200 meters. Photo by Adyagustian, CC BY-SA 4.0.
First Place: An Arianta arbustorum, a medium-size land snail, carefully balances itself on a dandelion flower in the Ropsha Forest, located in Russia. One of the international jurors praises this photo as “wonderful, very sharp, with a wonderful color palette.” Photo by Мария Обидина, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Second Place: A brown-throated sunbird latches onto the stem of a flower, its colorful feathers creating a contrast against the reds, yellows, and greens of its meal. The jury notes how the sharp colors capture any observer to look twice. Photo by Domzjuniorwildlife, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Third Place: Dipsas, a small to medium-sized, non-venomous snake, stares back with its captivating and beady eyes. Taken in Brazil’s Serra do Mar State Park, one of the international jurors explains this photo perfectly: “the snake’s eyes snatches the eye so you can’t look away”. Photo by RafaelMenegucci, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Fourth Place: Carrhotus xanthogramma, informally known as the species of jumping spiders, takes shelter in between the leaves of a plant. Taken in the Acquerino Cantagallo Natural Reserve in the province of Prato, Italy, these spiders enjoy sunny and warm environments, their preferred habitat found in bushes, tree trunks, and shrubbery. Photo by Andrea Fabiani Ph, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Fifth Place: A leaf beetle peeks through the hole it has made in its food to say hello. The details of the photo stand out clearly to the observer. The delicate precipitation on the leaf, the bright green of the plant, and the sharp yellow of the beetle create a sharp contrast of colors. Photo by Mildeep, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Sixth Place: Three female Sika deer discover they are being watched in their snowy terrain, located in the Kremenets Mountains National Nature Park in Western Ukraine. The photo depicts a calm environment, one that seems almost separate from humans entirely. Photo by Byrdyak, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Seventh Place: Baya weavers, known for their elaborate woven nests, hover around their homes. The photo seems to be captured amid the action — two of the birds’ wings are still flapping, another’s beak is latching open, perhaps to let out a bellow or fix its nest? Nevertheless, the author has captured a stunning moment in time. Photo by Mildeep, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Eighth Place: A feral pigeon emerges from the trees in Chitwan National Park in Nepal. The photographer captures the perfect, mid-flight moment as the rain showers around them and their subject. Photo by Mildeep, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Ninth Place: A common frog simultaneously blends in and stands out amongst the auburn leaves on the ground. It stares out with deep orange eyes in Germany’s Palatinate Forest. One of the jurors comments that “the focus of the photographer to capture the moment is extraordinary.” Photo by Stephan Sprinz, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Tenth Place: Last but certainly not the least, the United Arab Emirates took part in the contest for the first time this year and also placed on the winner’s list with this special shot. A flamingo is caught in mid-flight in Ras Al Kohr wildlife sanctuary, its lean body poised while searching for a spot to land. Photo by Srivath, CC BY-SA 4.0.
By Barbara Kandek, Communications Associate at the Wikimedia Foundation
- Please make sure to follow each image’s copyright tag. All of the images above, for instance, are available under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 license, meaning that you are free to share them for any reason so long as you give credit to the photographer and release any derivative images under the same copyright license.
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