25 Incredible Winning Images From The Close-Up Photographer Of The Year 2023

Published 6 months ago

The artistry of capturing the intricate details of our world through the lens has once again taken center stage with the announcement of the winners and finalists of the 2023 Close-Up Photographer of the Year (CUPOTY) Awards.

This prestigious competition celebrates the beauty of close-up photography, highlighting the mesmerizing details often overlooked in our everyday surroundings. Let’s embark on a visual journey as we showcase some of the best images that emerged from this year’s competition.

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#1 1st Place In The Category Of Plants: “Reflexion” By Ria Bloemendaal

Image source: © Ria Bloemendaal | cupoty.com

“At Trompenburg Botanical Garden in Rotterdam, I saw this beautiful reflection in the water and it immediately inspired me to make an ‘impressionist painting.”

#2 1st Place In The Category Of Butterflies And Dragonflies: “The Wedding Guest” By Csaba Daróczi

Image source: © Csaba Daróczi | cupoty.com

“I was photographing a wedding in a forest clearing in the beautiful surroundings of Uzsa, Hungary. The hall lights attracted a lot of insects to rest on the windows. At one point, I saw some guests taking pictures with their phones next to one of the red lights. As I moved closer, I noticed an oak peacock moth (Antheraea yamamai) had taken up residence on the window. I waited until everyone had finished their pictures, and then it was my turn.”

#3 1st Place In The Category Of Fungi And Slime Moulds: “The Ice Crown” By Barry Webb

Image source: © Barry Webb | cupoty.com

“This 1mm tall slime mould (Didymium squamulosum) was found in leaf litter on a Buckinghamshire woodland floor in January. Attracted by the way the frost had formed a crown shape on top of the fruiting body, I had to be very careful not to breathe on it. During a previous attempt with another slime mould, my breath had melted the ice when I inadvertently got too close.”

#4 1st Place In The Category Of Insects: “Wood Ants Firing Acid Secretion” By René Krekels

Image source: © René Krekels | cupoty.com

“I had been studying the lifestyle of wood ants in the Netherlands for work when I noticed the defending ants of a very large ant’s nest seemed eager to scare me off by spraying acid towards me. Luckily it wasn’t that destructive, and it provided me with a great opportunity to photograph them defending the nest.”

#5 2nd Place In The Category Of Butterflies And Dragonflies: “Letting Go” By Steve Russell

Image source: © Steve Russell | cupoty.com

“Capturing a Four-spotted skimmer dragonfly (Libellula quadrimaculata) mating is particularly difficult because they connect and mate in-flight without any warning and for only a few seconds. The moment captured in this photo is just after the male has finished depositing his sperm on the female’s eggs and they are disconnecting. She will then attempt to deposit the eggs in the water and he will hover near her to ward off other males who would like to also mate with her.”

#6 2nd Place In The Category Of Underwater: “Heart Of The Sea” By Liang Fu

Image source: © Liang Fu | cupoty.com

“This photograph was taken during a blackwater dive in Romblon, Philippines. Blackwater diving is a type of scuba diving that takes place at night in the open ocean, with thousands of meters of water below the boat. Divers descend a rope with underwater lights as their only orientation system. When the tide and moon phases are right, creatures from the deep migrate to shallower waters. This vertical migration is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena. During the dive, I saw something shining under my searchlight at 28 meters deep. As I swam closer to investigate, I found a lava moray eel curled into a heart shape. I was extremely fortunate to capture this moment with my camera. The eel remained at that depth for less than 10 seconds before swimming down and disappearing into the darkness.”

#7 2nd Place In The Category Of Young: “Comatricha Nigra” By Alexis Tinker-Tsavalas

Image source: © Alexis Tinker-Tsavalas | cupoty.com

“After finding a big patch of slime mould fruiting bodies under a log, I checked on them regularly for a few days until they were at just the right stage for me to photograph them. After trying out various angles and compositions I chose this perfectly arranged little group, and took a focus stack to get all of them in focus.”

#8 2nd Place In The Category Of Animals: “Dune Wrestling” By Victor Tyakht

Image source: © Victor Tyakht | cupoty.com

“I visited this small dune in the Kalmyk semi-desert in different months for several years. Each visit added new information about the most interesting local residents, the secret toadhead agamas. I observed their mating behavior, building new burrows, hunting insects, and territorial conflicts. It was these fights while defending their territory that were the most exciting spectacle. A whole ritual with initial “negotiations” with the help of various movements of the tail, demonstration of intimidating poses, and a preliminary warlike dance culminated in a tough fight. This is one of the moments of such a fight in which small lizards look like grappling wrestlers on a sports mat.”

#9 2nd Place In The Category Of Intimate Landscape: “Ice Fossiel” By Piet Haaksma

Image source: © Piet Haaksma | cupoty.com

“In winter, many of the flooded wetlands in the Netherlands can be skated upon. The ice is often damaged, with pieces being chipped off. On one such occasion, I discovered a small chunk of ice stuck to a frozen twig that made me think of a prehistoric find.”

#10 3rd Place In The Category Of Animals “Natural Architecture” By David Joseph

Image source: © David Joseph | cupoty.com

“It was probably my first experience with a sac spider, photography-wise. The spider had become alert, as my diffuser had touched some nearby grass. I was mad at myself for not taking the shot before the spider was aware of my presence. It was only my second month with an actual camera, so I was still learning a lot. The three to five seconds I had with it (after it got alert) made my heart beat fast because I would’ve been so annoyed if I’d missed the shot.”

#11 Close-Up Photographer Of The Year 2023 And 1st Place In The Category Of Animals: “The Bird Of The Forest” By Csaba Daróczi

Image source: © Csaba Daróczi | cupoty.com

“In the winter of 2023, I took many photos in a nearby forest. I found a new topic almost every week that I perfected over several days. That’s how I found this place surrounded by trees. I discovered a hollowed-out tree stump, measuring around half a meter in diameter, and put my Gopro 11 camera inside it. The results were amazing. After a few days, however, I figured out that an animal would improve the composition. I placed a sunflower near the hole, which the mice and the birds found.”

#12 3rd Place In The Category Of Fungi And Slime Moulds: “Fungi And Fairy Dust” By Sophia Spurgin

Image source: © Sophia Spurgin | cupoty.com

“Every autumn I visit my local forest (Hatfield Forest in Hertfordshire, UK) to photograph the fungi. These fungi were in perfect condition so I decided to take several photos and stack them later, to get as much detail as possible. Using f/2.8 to ensure the background was soft, I lit the fungi from behind so I could see the structure of the gills. I felt the picture needed a more interesting background, so I used a garden spray bottle to create a fine mist of water droplets, photographed them with flash, and added it to the original picture in post-processing.”

#13 2nd Place In The Category Of Insects: “Mosquito Egg Raft” By Barry Webb

Image source: © Barry Webb | cupoty.com

“I spotted dozens of these tiny mosquito egg rafts on the surface of a water butt while I was working as a gardener. The rafts would not stay still long enough for me to photograph them. So I carefully fished one of the egg rafts out, using a teaspoon, and placed it in an inverted bottle top filled with water. A pebble was positioned in the middle of the bottle top, and the raft was then carefully moved onto the pebble to keep it stationary. After taking the pictures, the egg raft was returned to the water butt.”

#14 1st Place In The Category Of Invertebrate Portrait: “Jumping Stick” By Tibor Molnar

Image source: © Tibor Molnar | cupoty.com

“When we traveled to Ecuador, I knew there would be an opportunity to see jumping sticks (Stiphra) in the Amazon region. When we found the first of several creatures, I was beyond excited. I had imagined this shot in my mind for a long time and it was incredible to actually have this opportunity to make it happen. The best way to describe these invertebrates is part walking stick, part grasshopper! When they jump, they are not particularly graceful, and they tend to tumble around completely off-balance.”

#15 3rd Place In The Category Of Invertebrate Portrait: “Dancing Sands, Violin Crab” By Lior Berman

Image source: © Lior Berman | cupoty.com

“Along the pristine shores of Guanacaste, where the vast expanse of coastline welcomes an array of wildlife, from majestic coastal birds to minuscule marine invertebrates, a hidden drama unfolds. At Playa Ventanas, a beach frequented by the enormous leatherback sea turtles for nesting, it’s not just the giants that find their refuge in the white sands and rugged coasts. Here, the lesser-known inhabitants carve their niche, and among them is the captivating Fiddler crab.

This intriguing creature, with its astonishingly disproportionate claw, takes center stage in a mesmerizing ballet of movements. The gigantic pincer serves a dual purpose – seducing potential mates and fending off potential threats. In the midst of this coastal drama, I captured a spellbinding moment as the crab struck a defensive pose, seamlessly merging with its surroundings. The creamy white sands of Guanacaste blend harmoniously with the crab’s brown and pastel hues.”

#16 1st Place In The Category Of Micro: “Beach Grass” By Gerhard Vlcek

Image source: © Gerhard Vlcek | cupoty.com

“This image shows a 30μm cross-section of beach grass (Ammophila arenaria) stained with Auramin O and Safranin and viewed under fluorescence blue excitation. The grass came from a friend’s garden in Vienna. For the best results, I had to slice the sample as thinly as possible. First, I fixed some stems in warm liquid polyethylene glycol. As it cools down, it turns solid, and the embedded stems are placed in a microtome and sliced with a sharp blade. Staining and preparing the sample was very tricky. I had to use the tiniest brush to manipulate the less than 1mm parts in different staining and chemical solutions before positioning the stems on the slide. After that, taking the photograph was the easy part!”

#17 2nd Place In The Category Of Micro: “Amoeba” By Håkan Kvarnström

Image source: © Håkan Kvarnström | cupoty.com

“This tiny Arcella amoeba was found in a water sample collected from the English ponds of Drottningholm Castle in Stockholm. The amoeba was photographed as it moved around with the internal organelles in constant motion. The stack of 120 images captures the different features of interest, such as nuclei, vacuoles, food, pseudopods, shells, etc. When putting together the final stack, I tried to recreate the feeling of a schoolbook illustration of an amoeba.”

#18 2nd Place In The Category Of Fungi And Slime Moulds: “Autumn Emergence” By Jay Birmingham

Image source: © Jay Birmingham | cupoty.com

“I came across these honey fungi in my local woodland, just as the sun was rising and lighting up the woods with golden hues. The bonus was the bracken behind – which gave the picture a wonderfully warm
autumnal feel. I captured it with a wide aperture, to isolate the subject, and to maximize the bokeh background.”

#19 1st Place In The Category Of Underwater: “Dreamtime” By Simon Theuma

Image source: © Simon Theuma | cupoty.com

“Like an intricate tapestry of the marine ecosystem, this image captures the relationship between a commensal shrimp and a mosaic sea star. Dreamtime Aboriginal art reminds us of the delicate balance that exists in the grand tapestry of our natural world – this ancient wisdom serves as an important reminder to preserve what we have. To capture this image, I needed to use a snooted strobe, which was set at an acute angle to the subject. This set-up accentuated the depth and beautiful texture of the two organisms. Additionally, I enhanced magnification by using a +15 wet lens dioptre.”

#20 2nd Place In The Category Of Invertebrate Portrait: “Orange Isopod” By Manfred Auer

Image source: © Manfred Auer | cupoty.com

“I captured this shot during my early days as a macro photographer back in April. Just three months after getting my Olympus camera, I stumbled upon this incredible isopod in the woods behind my house in the beautiful south of Austria. This image is a result of merging 91 individual shots with varying focus points.”

#21 2nd Place In The Category Of Plants: “Tears In My Eyes” By Wim Vooijs

Image source: © Wim Vooijs | cupoty.com

“I discovered a field covered with sundew, a small carnivorous plant. There were lots of silver-studded blue butterflies flying around and occasionally one would get caught and trapped in the sundew. Instead of photographing one of those poor victims, I favored another approach. I wanted to capture the innocent and alluring beauty of the plant, the way a butterfly might see it in its last moments. To do this, I used a vintage Pentacon lens to capture the sundew as a pair of eyelashes on seductive eyes – the beauty of your last view.”

#22 3rd Place In The Category Of Insects: “Circular Trenching Behavior By A Leaf Beetle” By Liang Fu

Image source: © Liang Fu | cupoty.com

“The leaf beetle Aplosonyx ancora cuts circular trenches on the underside of leaves of their host plants before feeding. By doing so, the toxins in the leaf veins are cut off and the beetle can feed happily within.”

#23 1st Place In The Category Of Intimate Landscape: “Undertow” By Csaba Daróczi

Image source: © Csaba Daróczi | cupoty.com

“In the first days of May, I always return to a small canal near Izsák, Hungary, where the water violet (Hottonia palustris) blooms in huge numbers. Unfortunately, flowering was delayed this year and only the leaves were still underwater. I was about to go home when I saw a tree had fallen over the canal and under its reflection the plants were clearly visible. I found it a very exciting subject and played with it for a while.”

#24 3rd Place In The Category Of Young: “Dicyrtomina Ornata” By Alexis Tinker-Tsavalas

Image source: © Alexis Tinker-Tsavalas | cupoty.com

“While on a walk in the forest in winter I came across a fallen log covered in moss, and upon looking closer noticed a bunch of globular springtails in the moss. Most of them were quite active which made photographing difficult, but after looking around for a while I spotted this individual staying still. By carefully moving some moss out of the way I was able to get a good angle for a portrait with a bit of moss in the foreground for more depth.”

#25 3rd Place In The Category Of Underwater: “Pinkaboo” By Chris Gug

Image source: © Chris Gug | cupoty.com

“For years, I had been wanting to make a relatively simple image of a golden damselfish set against a background of red sea whip coral. But on multiple trips to various South Pacific diving locations, there was always some problem with the sea whips – one branch would be broken, lack of current caused the polyps to be retracted, the damselfish was too rough… just always something to make me cringe with OCD! So when I found this little gem living in what is clearly NOT red sea whips, I had to twist my mind out of its rigidity, and realize that the gorgonian coral background I was searching for was indeed a different species, and was right in front of me!
As a traditional fisheye lens shooter, water-contact optics have been a game-changer in underwater wide-angle photography. While not quite as wide as a fisheye lens, they still cover a large field of vision, while maintaining far superior corner sharpness and don’t introduce the extreme barrel distortion of a fisheye lens. Using Nauticam’s revolutionary WACP-1 lens/port allowed me to use a medium zoom, and create a close-focus wide-angle view from just a few inches away that, unlike a fisheye lens, appears flat and maintains focus on the entire coral environment.”

Saumya Ratan

Saumya is an explorer of all things beautiful, quirky, and heartwarming. With her knack for art, design, photography, fun trivia, and internet humor, she takes you on a journey through the lighter side of pop culture.

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Close-up Photographer of the Year, Close-Up Photographer of the Year winners, close-up photography, photographer, photography
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