natural beauty

16 stunning images reveal the beauty of nature

These images will take your breath away.

Originally Published: 

Alwin Hardenbol

Earth is home to millions of breathtaking (and bizarre) creatures. And the British Ecological Society has dedicated itself to the study of the natural world for more than a century.

Sebastien Hoefer

To celebrate all that nature has to offer, the Society holds an annual photo competition. This is the competition's 16th year.

Jessica Dittmer

Most of what we know about these creatures is based on observation. Scientists and photographers around the world can spend hours or even days waiting to capture a single moment of natural beauty. These are images the competition celebrates.

In addition to overall winners, the competition’s categories include:

Up Close and Personal

Dynamic Ecosystems

Individuals and Populations

People and Nature

Ecology in Action

The Art of Ecology

Boris Horvat

The competition's 16 winners, as well as 16 additional highly recommended photos, were awarded on November 27.

Take a look...

Overall competition winner:


The Art of Flight

by Alwin Hardenbol

Alwin Hardenbol, University of Eastern Finland

dalmatian pelican

Hardenbol's image depicts a Dalmatian Pelican as it begins to take flight. These birds are the largest kind of pelican in the world, weighing in at 21 lbs. They can fly up to 40 mph.

Hardenbol was most struck by the bird's dynamic wings, they said in a statement.

"I gave this image the title The art of flight because of how impressive this bird's wings appear in the picture, you can almost see the bird flying in front of you despite it being a still image."

Alwin Hardenbol

Over all runners up:



by Pichaya Lertvilai


Ant tale

by Upamanyu Chakraborty

Pichaya Lertvilai, University of California San Diego

Lertvilai's photo captures the hatching of young, California two-spot octopuses. These tiny octopuses are native to California's oceans and will eventually grow to three-feet long. Their favorite haunt is the sandy ocean floor.

Upamanyu Chakraborty

Chakraborty's photo depicts one of nature's greatest engineers: the Weaver ant. These ants are a famous example of social behavior and cooperation in nature.

Overall student winner:


Waterfall Swift

by Pablo Javier Merlo

Pablo Javier Merlo, Nacional University of Córdoba, Argentina

Pablo Javier Merlo

Merlo's photo depicts a type of tiny, fast-flying bird called a "waterfall swift." This swift calls the rocky cliffs of Latin America home and can be found diving around and through waterfalls.

Up Close & Personal Overall Winner:


Breath. Adapt. Relax.

by Michal Smielak

Michal Smielak, University of New England, Australia

Up Close & Personal Student Winner:


Look into my eye

by Lauren Henly

Lauren Henly, University of Exeter

Dynamic Ecosystems Overall Winner:


Dances with Rattlers

by Peter Hudson

Peter Hudson, Penn State University

Dynamic Ecosystems Student Winner:


Into the Lion's Den

by Sam J England

Sam J England, University of Bristol

Individuals & Populations Overall Winner:


Last meal of the day

by David López-Idiáquez

David López-Idiáquez, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive and the University of the Basque Country

Individuals & Populations Student Winner:


I see you

by Elena Racevska

Elena Racevska, Oxford Brookes University

People & Nature Overall Winner:


Housing for the threatened

by Alwin Hardenbol

Alwin Hardenbol

People & Nature Student Winner:


This is our playground

by Elena Racevska

Elena Racevska, Oxford Brookes University

Ecology in Action Overall Winner:


Wolf Fascination

by Peter Hudson

Peter Hudson, Penn State University

Ecology in Action Student Winner:


Constant Flow

by James Orr

This photograph is a panorama made up of multiple long-exposure photographs of the Milky Way above an experimental stream system made up of 128 mesocosms. As part of my PhD, I helped to run a multiple-stressor experiment testing the individual and combined effects of different climate-change stressors on freshwater food webs. Each of the 128 mesocosms, or medium worlds, had a diverse ecosystem from bacteria to fish. Pumps constantly pushed water from the nearby river up to eight main water tanks and then down through our mesocosms for five weeks straight, day and night.

James Orr, Trinity College Dublin

The Art of Ecology Overall Winner:



by Roberto García Roa

Roberto García Roa, University of Valencia

The Art of Ecology Student Winner:


Common nettle, foe or friend?

by Sanne Govaert

Sanne Govaert, Ghent University

Read more about ecology here.
picture alliance/picture alliance/Getty Images

Thanks for reading,
head home for more!