THE YEAR IN PICTURES
For many of us 2022 has raced by, as a return to our pre-pandemic lives has brought newfound freedom, and fresh appreciation for the finer things in life. Here at Nature Picture Library, the dizzying ride of the last year is one we are excited to look back on with this collection of nature photographs that we’ve chosen, unranked, as some of our favourites from 2022.
Our photographers are fuelled by a tireless passion for the natural world, seeking out wildlife all over the globe in search of unique perspectives. Alex Hyde discovered a microscopic marvel living in an ordinary clump of moss. Nick Garbutt and Lucas Bustamante created breath-taking images of wild pumas. And Tony Wu tackled near-hopeless odds to bring us one-of-a-kind images of the enchanting (and elusive) Ezo flying squirrel.
These photographs, and many others you will discover here and in our extended gallery, demonstrate a staggering breadth of skill, and a deep reverence for nature. We hope they will inspire, intrigue, and serve as a reminder that we are all connected to the amazing species we share our planet with.
PEAK DISTRICT, UK: Looking like a creature from outer space, a tardigrade cuts an fierce-looking figure. Seen here under a scanning electron microscope it’s hard to believe that the tardigrade was just 0.1 of a millimetre long. Alex Hyde found this specimen in a clump of damp moss, a favourite habitat for these moisture-loving animals (also known as water bears or moss piglets).
These eight-legged creatures may be small, but they’re nearly indestructible. You can boil them, deep-freeze them, crush them, dehydrate them—it doesn’t matter. Scientists have even blasted them into space more than once. One of the tricks tardigrades employ to survive such extreme environmental stress is to curl up into a dry ball called a tun. They can persist like this for decades, in an extreme form of hibernation. All a tardigrade needs to reanimate itself is a little water. These amazing animals are so successful that they are found in almost every environment on the planet, from the deepest seas to the tallest mountains.
HOKKAIDO, JAPAN: Limpets are usually seen clamped to rocks, their cone-shaped shells benign and unmoving. But when it comes to breeding, these static sea snails suddenly live life in the fast lane. The behaviour seen here is known as broadcast spawning. In order to achieve high rates of fertilisation, female limpets must eject their gametes at the same time as the males release milky-white clouds of sperm into the water. Here a female has peeled herself from the rock into a vertical position, in order to release a stream of bright red eggs into the water.
When Tony Wu first entered the water, there were only a few limpets scattered around in the shallows. An hour later, hundreds had gathered, in a throng that appeared to be gaining momentum. But ultimately, only a handful of limpets spawned. “Exactly why they had gathered, seemingly without a mass synchronised spawning event, is a mystery,” says Wu.
HAWAII, PACIFIC OCEAN: “Octopus are spectacular, intelligent creatures with blue blood, three hearts and the ability to regrow lost limbs,” says David Fleetham. “Each individual has a unique character. In most cases, they retreat to their nearby lair and wait until the bubble-blowing intruder (that’s me) has moved on. In some cases though they can prove to be curious, as was the case here.”
“I had parked my housing with its large reflective dome port firmly on the seafloor outside this octopus’s hiding spot. It did not take long for it to begin inspecting the smooth surface. I stayed low behind the housing, mostly hidden from view. It eventually moved onto the front of the housing, perhaps curious of its own reflection. I tilted upwards to get a blue background and snapped some frames. I was now very much visible and the octopus chose to leave this strange object and return to the reef. My two strobes managed to get some light through the side of the dome port to illuminate the subject clinging to the curved surface.”
[LEFT] AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK, KENYA: This elephant is ‘Craig’, the largest of the famous big tuskers in Amboseli National Park. Will Burrard-Lucas was lucky to come across him while the pachyderm was feeding in long grass with several other bulls. There were also quite a few egrets following the elephants around. “The egrets were feeding on insects, such as crickets, that were disturbed by the elephants,” says Will. “One egret was having a productive time sitting on Craig’s head and dropping down whenever it spotted a tasty titbit.
[RIGHT] HIMALAYAS, INDIA: Ripan Biswas found this handsome praying mantis in a small Himalayan village. It was a chilly night and the air was thick with water droplets from high altitude cloud vapour. Biswas had the idea of backlighting the scene. With his torch in one hand and his camera in the other, he attempted to focus on the subject. “I adjusted the shutter speed to capture the trail of the droplets and to my surprise they came out really well,” says Biswas. “Eventually, I managed to get some shots where the subject is in focus and the water droplets created this special effect. As a wildlife photographer, with an interest in small creatures, I have always had a soft spot for praying mantises. They are vicious and yet so cute. I will never tire of them!”
THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR: “The Galapagos Islands represent the only location in the entire Pacific basin where flamingos are resident. But the population is very small (historically between 400-500) and getting smaller. The birds live in saline lagoons behind sandy beaches. These low-lying filtration ponds are fed by seawater and provide nutrients supporting the small crustaceans and insects flamingos feed on. With sea level rise, these lagoons are increasingly being flooded by high tides, bringing fish that devour the flamingos’ food.”
“It was a rare treat to see this group courting enthusiastically in the largest lagoon remaining,” says Tui de Roy, who shot this image in January. “When I was a child in Galapagos, flamingos were extremely shy, but with full protection in the national park, they have lost all their fear. I was able to stand ankle deep as they strutted closer and closer, oblivious to my presence. Males are taller than females, with four of them making up the centre of this group.”
REVILLAGIGEDO ISLANDS, MEXICO: This scene of six whitetip reef sharks resting together was shot by Alex Mustard in May. Unlike most sharks, which need to keep swimming to breathe, whitetips are one of the few that can settle on the seabed. Mustard says it was “funny seeing the sharks piled together like this” and speculates that it afforded them some protection, as they are far from the largest predators at this oceanic outpost. One thousand kilometres out into the Pacific, Roca Partida is an island formed from an eroded volcanic plug, little bigger than a church. It is totally out of sight of any other land, but a mecca for marine life. Mustard was pleased to see that there were more than 100 sharks resting at this site, when there had only been around 20 on his last visit 15 years ago.
MASAI MARA, KENYA: A lion pride rests in the shade of a tree as the last rays of the setting sun are fractured by its canopy. Photographers Jean-Louis Klein and Marie-Luce Hubert waited 3 hours for the sun to move into the optimal position for this photograph. The lions had full bellies and were in no hurry to move from their resting place. As the light took on a golden quality, a passing safari jeep kicked dust into the air. The resulting haze of particles scattered the sunlight, generating the radiant beams that appear to burst through the tree. Klein & Hubert say that “the magic lasted for just a few seconds before the dust dispersed.”
EASTERN PACIFIC, COSTA RICA: Spotting tiny 3cm invertebrates in the open ocean requires a trained eye. When Henley Spiers first spotted this “blue button” hydroid colony in February, he thought it was litter: a bit of plastic or a plaster, perhaps. But the perfectly circular float which lies at its centre gave it away. “An in-water inspection revealed an extraordinarily beautiful specimen,” says Spiers. “The animal is made up of a colony of zooids which serve the various functions necessary for its existence. Blue buttons spend their lives floating at the ocean surface, using their stinging tentacles to catch prey. Unusually, this large blue button had a guest. Hiding under it was a juvenile fish, most likely a species of jack. Scientists have discovered that juvenile fish panic when removed from their host, returning as swiftly as possible, and even show an attachment to specific blue buttons. The protection the tiny invertebrate offers is minimal and perhaps more of a safety blanket for the little fish. To the best of my knowledge, this image is the first taken of the association between a juvenile fish and a blue button.”
ARAGON, SPAIN: After a long summer of raising chicks in northern Europe, common cranes migrate away and many gather at Gallocanta Lake in Spain. The lake is like a holiday destination, a place for the cranes to escape cold European winters and enjoy the buffet of food on offer. Photographer Eduardo Blanco seized the opportunity to photograph the birds before they migrated back to their breeding grounds. On this occasion, “it was a cold morning and the cranes had just come out of their roost,” says Blanco. “Although I always look for the typical V-shaped flocks, this solitary bird caught my eye and I captured it just as warm lenticular clouds perfectly framed its silhouette.”
PATAGONIA, ARGENTINA: Using a drone, Gabriel Rojo captured tourists watching a mother Southern right whale and her calf patrolling shallow water near El Doradillo beach. Situated near the city of Puerto Madryn, this is one of the best places in the world to observe whales from the coast. From July to September every year, the whales are a daily presence. Mothers with calves cruise the shallows of this sheltered bay, whose calm, warm waters provide protection against predators and harassment from males looking to mate. In 2022, 1,300 whales were counted at El Doradillo. Despite being hunted extensively by pre-modern whalers, the advent of legal protections in 1935 has led to a strong recovery for this species.
YASUNI NATIONAL PARK, ECUADOR: Lucas Bustamante was walking in the Amazonian rainforest in September when something suddenly caught his attention. This peacock katydid was not only perfectly perched on a leaf but had a very cool leaf-litter colour and pattern. After taking just one image, Bustamante’s luck stretched further, when the katydid opened its wings in an explosion of colour. “Camouflage is the first line of defence for katydids, but if that doesn’t work, they resort to plan B,” Bustamante explains. “They expose their hind wings, displaying two conspicuous and colourful eye spots, designed to make them look like larger, more intimidating animals. The Amazon rainforest will never cease to amaze me with all its unique and exotic species and behaviours.”
OUR PERSONAL FAVOURITES
TIM ALDRED – Senior Media Researcher
EZO FLYING SQUIRREL BY TONY WU: “A wild flying squirrel, gliding in its natural habitat, and photographed up-close. This was not an image I thought I would ever get to see. Tony spent years trying to capture the shot – and nearly turned himself into an icicle in the process!”
PELICANS BY GUY EDWARDES: “Guy’s image evokes a sense of unspoiled nature. I like the idea that flock of cormorants flying over the mountains is looking down at the Dalmatian pelicans below. The soft colours of dawn breaking on the distant peaks adds impact.”
COMMON BLUE BUTTERFLY BY ROSS HODDINOTT: “This photo is a brilliant example of the rule of odds in photography (where an odd number of subjects produces a more interesting and visually pleasing composition). I love how Ross has focused on the central butterfly and framed it between the two in the background. The early morning light adds a vivid pop of colour to the scene.”
TIM HARRIS – Sales and Marketing Manager
OWL WITH ATTITUDE BY NICK GARBUTT
“Why do the tiniest owls always look the fiercest? In this case, the piercing stare of the Austral pygmy owl’s bright yellow eyes may have something to do with it, and the plumage fluffed up against the cold, making the bird more impressive. Nick has achieved very effective isolation of the subject too!”
ENTER THE SUPERPOD BY HENLEY SPIERS
“I love the dynamism and composition of this image by Henley Spiers, which make you feel as if you are entering the dolphins’ world.”
LITTLE AND LARGE BY ANDY ROUSE
“When this submission came in from Andy, this image immediately stood out. The comparison of size is so striking – the sword-billed humming bird’s bill being longer than the whole body of the woodstar!”
AMY MILSOM – Media Researcher
TINY ELEPHANT BY WIM VAN DER HEEVER: “I love the simple effectiveness of this perfectly composed image. I am drawn to every detail: the soft tones and symmetry; the warm, joyful feeling the elephant radiates with its raised trunk; and the juxtaposition of an elephant appearing to be so tiny. Wim has captured an incredible moment that makes you wish you were there.”
GUANACOS BY NICK GARBUTT: “The friendly, smiley greeting this Guanaco gives the camera is hard to resist. This characterful trio has to be one of my favourites.”
PUMA BY LUCAS BUSTAMANTE: “This puma exudes power. I like the way the colour of the cat’s coat matches the golden light on the mountains behind. This balances the image and creates a real sense of the puama belonging in this dramatic, jagged landscape. The puma walks with great purpose out of frame, but where is it headed?”
ALEX GREENWOOD – Accounts Assistant
FLUORESCENT SCORPION BY WILL BURRARD-LUCAS: “I chose this image because it looks other-worldly. It’s the sort of image that makes you question whether it’s genuine or has been altered using software.”
RUTTING DEER BY BEN HALL: “This is just a dramatic shot. Something which captures the action of the natural world in a way that we impatient, non-photographers never really can.”
MACAQUES AND PLASTIC POLLUTION BY NICK GARBUTT: “This is an image that makes you look twice. Initially it appears quite funny but then you realise how grim it actually is. It’s the sort of shot that can highlight global issues in a way that will reach a lot of people very efficiently.”
LAURA SUTHERLAND – Media Researcher
PENGUIN REFLECTION BY MARK CARWARDINE: “I had to look very closely to work out if this image was actually the wrong way up, so I had to include it in my choices! I love a picture that makes you look twice, and you can’t beat a good reflection shot.”
BLUEBELL WOODS BY GUY EDWARDES: “I spend a lot of time working on selections for calendar clients, and I can see this image being very popular so I think I was drawn to it for that reason. With its atmospheric light and calming colours I could happily look at it for a month, and I’d quite like to escape to this bluebell carpeted wood for some peace and quiet.”
STOMATA BY ALEX HYDE: “This image is fascinating and bizarre. The textures and colours make it seem other-worldly, so it’s a surprise to discover it’s actually the underside of an ash leaf! Stomata (pictured) are responsible for the exchange of gasses as part of photosynthesis, so this would be a perfect image for a biology textbook.”
EWAN FLYNN – Video Editor
“Guy c aptured some great action here. The dark tones of the nutcracker against a white/snowy background creates a good contrast. The light is very low and delicate, which retains the details.”
LEOPARD DRINKING BY ANN & STEVE TOON: “I really like the kiss of light that hits the leopard’s side and front of the head, elevating the eyes. The reflection adds to the image and the symmetry complements the composition- making the image very eye pleasing.”
“I like this image because of the juxtaposition it presents: the seemingly sharp spines and tough durable skin of the iguana contrast with the delicate and soft fronds of the algae.”
ROSAMUND KIDMAN-COX – Author and Photo Editor
HUMMINGBIRD BY ANDY ROUSE:It’s a superlative hummingbird picture – a perfect pose perfectly framed, displaying both the beauty of the male’s iridescence and the signature ‘ears’ that give the sparkling violetear its name. A hint of whirring wings adds to the feeling of exuberance.” “
With such perfect composition and lighting, this is a Jack Dykinga signature shot. The arrangement of poses and ‘expressions’ is remarkable. Overseeing the performance on this saguaro cactus nursery stage is the female Harris hawk as one youngster tests out its developing wing feathers, gripping flower buds for balance, while its siblings watch intently.” “
OSTRICH CHICK BY ANN & STEVE TOON: “It’s a tender moment caught with skill. The parent appears to be showing the chick what to look for – termites, in this case, one delicately held in its beak – a scene that keeps your attention.”
therworldly scene, lit to perfection so the little fish, a crested sculpin, shines out against the eerie, almost bioluminescent glow of the sinister mob of moon jellyfish. There’s mystery here as well as beauty. The little fish is hiding out, but how does it avoid being stung and consumed by the carnivorous jellies?” “An o
HELEN GILKS – Managing Director
BANDED DEMOISELLE BY GUY EDWARDES: Helen chose Guy’s image of damselflies for its “symmetry and simplicity.”
FLYING SQUIRREL DEFECATING BY TONY WU: Helen selected Tony’s amusing image of a defecating squirrel which she says is “cute and real!”
KING EIDER BY MARKUS VARESVUO: This enchanting image of a King eider is one of Helen’s favourites because it is “So sparkly and of such a beautiful bird.”
PUMA CUB BY NICK GARBUTT: A puma cub aged nine months explores Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia in deep fresh snow. Helen says this image is “made by the cat in the background.”
NINA FULLBROOK – Cataloguer
fter many snorkelling trips on coral reefs, this image brings back great memories and gives a glimpse into the magical underwater world.” “A
LEAPING RED GROUSE BY BEN HALL: “I love the colours in this image, especially the pink heather contrasting against the sky. The grouse is caught in a great moment with a startled look on its face.”
“I love the sense of serenity in this image and the muted colours, creating a peaceful mood.”
KATHRYN HYMAN – Office Manager and Accounts
Kathryn and her son enjoyed choosing their favourite images together, settling on shots that radiate impact and colour.
MATHILDE DUCROZ – Cataloguer
GOLDEN POLAR BEAR BY OLE JORGEN LIODDEN:The golden light on the polar bear centres the viewer’s eyes onto it. The polar seems at home crossing this snow covered landscape.” “
“Hoopoes have always been a favourite of mine. This picture of a backlit hoopoe at sunset shows this beautiful bird’s silhouette in all simplicity.”
FLYING SQUIRREL BY TONY WU: “A cute fluff ball with big eyes. How could you not fall in love with this flying squirrel? Tony Wu’s patience to capture the species also has to be applauded.”
MORE OF OUR FAVOURITES…
If you’d like to see more of our favourite images from the past year, you can view the full collection right here, or simply browse the taster gallery below.
Did a particular image catch your eye? If so, why not take a look at our prints gallery here where you can order framed prints, cushions and mugs featuring these images – as well as many more gift ideas. Use the code NPLTHANKS for 15% off any orders made before 31st January 2023!
What are your favourite images from this blog? Email your choices to email@example.com and we’ll send a free NPL 2023 desk calendar to the first 100 respondents.
And from all of us at Nature Picture Library, we wish you a restful Christmas and happy fortunes in the coming year!