Under the motto “see the world anew,” more than 9,000 photographers from 56 countries entered this year’s Close-up Photographer of the Year (CUPOTY) competition devoted to close-up, macro and micro photography.
Close-up Photographer of the Year, founded in 2018 by photojournalists Tracy and Dan Calder, is an annual competition organized in association with Affinity Photo to encourage photographers to slow down, enjoy their craft, and make long-lasting connections with the world around them.
The international contest, now in its third year, awarded the title to photographer Pål Hermansen for a remarkable image of insects discovered in a defective lamp on the side of his house in Norway (below).
“I emptied the lamp and spread the contents onto a large light-table I had left over from my slide days,” explained Hermansen. “I wanted to express the chaos and diversity of this discovery, but also to find some kind of composition. To me, it’s a visual reminder of the important and extreme diversity of animals around us that we take for granted.”
Hermansen takes home £2,500 and the CUPOTY trophy. He also sees his work displayed to a global audience in the Top 100 online gallery.
The competition also selected winners in nine categories: Animals, Insects, Plants & Fungi, Intimate Landscape, Underwater, Butterflies & Insects, Manmade, Micro (for images created using a microscope) and Young Close-up Photographer of the Year (for entrants aged 17 or younger).
The title of Young Close-up Photographer of the Year was won by 16-year old Ezra Boulton for his wonderful image (top of story) of a rat peering out of an abandoned car wheel close to his home, which he had spotted the day before. “It was framed so pleasingly by the concentric circles of the tire that I came back the next morning with my camera in the hope of capturing the moment,” he said. “I like how the rat’s beady eyes echo the holes in the tire.”
“The standard this year was incredible,” said Tracy Calder, co-founder of CUPOTY. “Yet again, entrants have shown that close-up photography can help us see the world anew and discover beauty in subjects that are often overlooked.”
Over the past three years, the bacterium Mycobacterium sherrisii has caused the mass death of the Noble Pen Shell (Pinna nobilis) throughout the Mediterranean Sea.
Most of the empty shells of the large bivalve have been colonized by other marine species. In this case, an octopus takes advantage of the large shell to create its den and protect itself from predators.
This harvestman, or daddy long legs, spider moves along a dry branch in a small hollow created by a landslip on the hillside of Sierra Blanca, Andalusia, Spain. These creatures are blind and use their front legs to guide themselves in the dark.
During spring, these secret toadhead agamas battle over territory. It’s difficult to capture these short and intense conflicts. The temperature in Kalmykia, Russia, doesn’t help either, as it often rises above 30 °C.
Plants and Fungi
“Last December, while cutting the hedge in my garden, I spotted what I thought were slime moulds, growing on this dead holly leaf,” said Webb. On closer inspection, I noticed amazing spikes coming out of the cap of these small, rare, Holly Parachute fungi, Marasmius hudsonii.”
Tiny cup fungi around 1/2mm tall captures water droplets in hairs on its stem in order to stay moist.
‘This is a wet cyanotype, which uses the sun to expose chemicals on paper,” the photographer explains.
“Dill seed heads grown in my garden were placed on top of the treated paper, followed by bubbles of soap suds, some red wine vinegar and salt,” said Cooper. “This was then covered with glass and placed outside to expose. Once I was happy with the exposure I washed the paper off and immediately photographed it while the paper was still wet and the colors were strong.”
Liometopum ants live in large colonies on huge trees and feed on many different types of food. In the picture, a group of ants in Lednice Castle Park in Czech Republic, work together in hunting and overwhelming a hornet.
During a night hike in the tropics of Borneo, the photographer observed a bracket fungus releasing masses of spores which caused the refraction of light, while a cockroach feeds.
Intrigued by the large variety of animal tracks found while exploring beach sand dunes, the photographer returned at night to find out which species were creating them.
After MacGregor followed a wolf spider, then photographed it and the trail it had left behind, a large earwig happened to crawl up the dune and into frame, narrowly avoiding the spider.
The photo of a spider web in a winged bean plant was taken during lockdown in Sri Lanka. The golden color is from the sunlight coming through a tiny hole in the plant leaf, bouncing off the spider’s web.
“This green algae Spirogyra has one of the most fascinating chloroplast shapes of all algae – a helical shape, or spiral,” the photographer explained. “Spirogyras thrive in almost any freshwater environment and are a common species easy to find in shallow ponds, ditches and lakes.
“For this photograph, I stained some of the Spirogyra strands with a number of fluorescent dyes to highlight the spirally shaped chloroplasts. They were then mixed with natural strands and placed next to each other on a glass slide and photographed in fluorescent light.”
Butterflies and Dragonflies
For some species of damselfly, egg laying is a difficult task. They lay the eggs on submerged vegetation so they don’t get exposed to the air. The female climbs down deep in the water while the male clasps the neck of the female with a special organ on the tip of its tail. This is a difficult time for the pair as they become vulnerable to predators.
“As I put my camera just above the water to start taking shots, a water strider came close to the pair in search of food,” the photographer said. “After inspecting the mating pair, he decided they would not make a good meal.”
It was late summer and lots of butterflies came to our garden, including Verbena bonariensis or ‘painted lady’,” said Peters. “I wanted to photograph butterflies in flight and sports action sequences were my inspiration.
“I got a set of shots at 60 frames per second from the moment the painted lady took off until it left the frame.”
A gin bottle transformed into a painterly landscape, complete with stormy sky and sea: The photographer’s lockdown photography project over the past 12 months involved using colored glass bottles and macro lens to capture the reflections and the light cast through the glass to created abstract and impressionistic seascapes and landscapes.
“By photographing a turquoise blue gin bottle close up and capturing reflections from a foil reflector, I could see waves crashing on the sand with imposingly dark storm clouds overhead,” she said.
A soap bubble lasts mere seconds before it bursts. This image seeks not only to portray the ephemeral life of an apparent common physical phenomenon, but also to show the most diverse colors and mesmerizing patterns. The psychedelic effect contained in the movement of water and soap was captured against the light .
Shot on Lake Baikal in Siberia, the image shows the intersecting lines in a small feathery crack in the ice.
“I am inspired by form and composition in nature – beautiful lines, textures or shapes that become a work of art when you look closely,” the photographer explained.