See 11 Stunning Images From the 4th Annual Close-Up Photographer of the Year Competition

'Nature's Pitfall' by Samantha Stephens.
'Nature's Pitfall' by Samantha Stephens. / © Samantha Stephens |

Sweeping aerial views of Earth’s natural wonders and spectacular shots of outer space are all well and good. But beauty captured on a much smaller scale can be just as breathtaking.

To prove the point, look no further than the Close-up Photographer of the Year competition. It was launched in 2018 by UK-based couple Tracy and Daniel Calder, who both have years of experience in the photography industry. The fourth annual iteration drew more than 9000 submissions across 54 countries, and a winner was chosen in each of 11 categories.

Most of those categories celebrate nature. Insects, plants, fungi, animals, and intimate landscapes each have their own; and there’s even a separate one for butterflies and dragonflies. But photographers who see the art in peeling paint or something in the urban landscape aren’t excluded: There’s also a “manmade” group.

Feast your eyes on this year’s first-place photos below, and check out all the finalists here.

1. Animals // Nature's Pitfall by Samantha Stephens

'nature's pitfall' photo by samantha stephens
'Nature's Pitfall' / © Samantha Stephens |

No, not aliens—two dead spotted salamanders floating in the fluid of a carnivorous northern pitcher plant at Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada.

2. Insects // Intruder by Anirban Dutta

'intruder' photo by anirban dutta
'Intruder' / © Anirban Dutta |

A black drongo feasts on termites swarming around a light in Cooch Behar, India.

3. Plants // Next To My Tree by Sébastien Blomme

'Next To My Tree' photo by Sébastien Blomme
'Next To My Tree' / © Sébastien Blomme |

A solitary snake’s head fritillary in Toulouse, France.

4. Fungi // Ice Encrusted Comatricha by Barry Webb

'Ice Encrusted Comatricha' by Barry Webb
'Ice Encrusted Comatricha' / © Barry Webb |

Ice encircling slime mold in the UK during a bout of cold weather and freezing fog. This is less frightening when you find out the tallest specimen tops out at 3 millimeters.

5. Underwater // Little Predator by Viktor Lyagushkin

'Little Predator' by Viktor Lyagushkin
'Little Predator' / © Viktor Lyagushkin |

A stalked jellyfish (the white thing) awaits passing prey beneath the icy surface of Russia’s White Sea.

6. Butterflies & Dragonflies // Veiled by Wim Vooijs

Veiled by Wim Vooijs
'Veiled' / © Wim Vooijs |

A dew-speckled banded demoiselle in the Dutch town of Ede, in the Netherlands.

7. Invertebrate Portrait // Mayan Derriere by Jamie Hall

Mayan Derriere by Jamie Hall
'Mayan Derriere' / © Jamie Hall |

A triangular spider shows off its Mayan-like markings while it waits for its next meal in a conservation park in Brisbane, Australia.

8. Intimate Landscape // Frequency by Mike Curry

'Frequency' by Mike Curry
'Frequency' / © Mike Curry |

A building at London’s Canary Wharf casts a reflection over the water; it took photographer Mike Curry a good two hours to capture the prize-winning shot.

9. Manmade // Oil & Water 44 by Matt Vacca

'Oil & Water 44' by Matt Vacca
'Oil & Water 44' / © Matt Vacca |

A snapshot of the moment when two drops of oil begin to connect, while water droplets steadfastly remain aloof.

10. Micro // Batrachospermum Red Algae by Marek Miś

'Batrachospermum Red Algae' by Marek Miś
'Batrachospermum Red Algae' / © Marek Miś |

This panoramic image was created by combining multiple shots of red algae—collected from a river in Poland’s Wigry National Park—as seen through a microscope.

11. Young // Hemitrichia Calyculata by Nathan Benstead

'Hemitrichia Calyculata' by Nathan Benstead
'Hemitrichia Calyculata' / © Nathan Benstead |

The “young” category is reserved for submissions from photographers who are under the age of 18. This year’s winner shows the fruiting bodies of slime mold (sporangia) thriving atop a rotten log in the UK.