The winners of this year’s Close-up Photographer of the Year have recently been announced, and there are some truly stunning images with interesting stories behind them.
The overall winner was photographed by Samantha Stephens, for her image of a pair of salamanders that had fallen victim to a carnivorous plant.
“Northern houseplants usually feast on moths and flies, but researchers recently discovered a surprising new item on the plant’s menu: juvenile spotted salamanders,” says Samantha.
“While accompanying scientists on their daily investigations, I saw a pitcher with two salamanders floating on the surface of the pitcher’s liquid, both at the same stage of decay. I knew it was a special and fleeting moment.”
We’ve picked our favorites from the top three in each category, including amazing snakes, slime molds and creepy parasitic worms.
The Close-up Photographer of the Year is a celebration of close-up, macro and micro photography, and is open to amateurs and professionals from around the world.
Winner of animal category and overall winner
Two juvenile spotted salamanders ( Ambystoma maculatum) has been devoured by a northern pitcher plant ( Sarracenia purpurea), a type of carnivorous plant. These salamanders have already begun to decay at the base of the plant’s bell-shaped leaves. Photo by Samantha Stephens/CUPOTY Winner of underwater category
This is a stalked jellyfish ( Lucernaria quadricornis), hiding in the icy waters of the White Sea, Russia. The green algae that surround it indicate that spring is on its way. Photo by Viktor Lyagushkin/CUPOTY Man-made category winner
This macro shot was taken as two drops of oil merged, and the image resembles a very bright face. Photo by Matt Vacca/CUPOTY Winner of the mushroom category
Some mature slime molds, identified as Comatricha, growing on an old rotten fence post. These forms have been encased in ice during the freezing night. The largest slime mold in this image is still only 3mm tall. Photo by Barry Webb/CUPOTY Winner of the butterflies category
A dewy male demoiselle with ribbon ( Calopteryx splendens) resting on a reed trunk, early in the morning in Ede, the Netherlands. Photo by Wim Vooijs/CUPOTY Young category winner
Fruit bodies of slime molds ( Hemitrichia calyculata), photographed on rotten wood. Photo by Nathan Benstead/CUPOTY Winner of the plant category
Snakehead fritillary flower ( Fritillaria meleagris), taken in the city of Toulouse, France. Photo by Sebastien Blomme/CIPOTY Winner of micro category
A type of red algae ( Batrachospermum) taken from a small river in Wigry National Park, Poland, and photographed under a microscope. Photo by Marek Miś Invert portrait category winner
This triangular spider species ( Arkys curtulus) is an ambush predator, not a web-based hunter like most other spider species. To hunt its prey, it sits compactly and curled up on a leaf, imitating bird droppings. Photo by Jamie Hall/CUPOTY Winner of the intimate landscape category
A building is reflected in the water of a nearby water feature, at Canary Wharf, London, UK. Photo by Mike Curry/CUPOTY Winner of the insects category
A swarm of termites flies around a light near a petrol pump in Cooch Behar, India, but unfortunately a drongo (a small bird) comes in and easily eats them. Photo by Anirban DuttaIntruder/CUPOTY
More photos from Science focus: Mushroom category number two
A scarlet wax cap slime mold, photographed in November 2021 in Ebernoe Woods, UK. Dew covers the slime mold, as well as surrounding spider webs, in this eerie image. Photo by Jeremy Lintott/CUPOTY Underwater category number two
A blue-spotted rockfish ( Pavoclinus caeruleopunctatus) resting on top of some Mediterranean mussels, an invasive species in the waters of Steenbras Deep, False Bay, South Africa, where this photo was taken. Photo Kate Jonker/CUPOTY Reverse portrait category number two
This Gordian worm ( Nematomorpha) is a parasitic beast that has just emerged from inside a hunting spider, in the rainforest stream of Australia’s Sunshine Coast. These worms lay their eggs in water, and if an insect is unfortunate enough to consume an egg when drinking, they will soon find such a worm growing inside them. Photo by Ben Revell/CUPOTY Animal category third place
A Sahara sand viper ( Cerastes vipera) make their way across the dunes of the Negev desert, Israel, before getting into a good position to catch prey. Photo by Paul Lennart Schmid/CUPOTY Butterfly category third place
A regular winter pond selfie ( Sympecma fusca) rests on the tip of a blade of grass, in this photo taken in Fribourg, Switzerland. Photo by Kai Rosler/CUPOTY Intimate landscape category third place
Close-up of a sea fan, photographed in the waters of Aruba. Photo by Angelo Richardson/CUPOTY Micro category third place
This incredible moss, identified as Schistidium, is only approx. 1 mm wide at the head, where you can see what are known as peristome teeth. These teeth are common in mosses and allow them to release spores gradually. This was photographed in Ulleråker, Sweden, in the photographer’s front room. Photo Harald Cederlund/CUPOTY