It’s not hard to find a stressor these days—a global pandemic, new work conditions, virtual school, socialization restrictions, economic uncertainty, raging wildfires, and election drama, just to name a few. Fortunately—and no surprise to nature photographers—research suggests that being in nature dramatically reduces feelings of anger, fear, and stress.
But nature photographers may have another edge in these complex times. Scientists also say that you don’t have to be in nature to reap its benefits. Simply looking at images of open spaces with natural elements such as vegetation can not only relieve anxiety, improve mood, and boost feelings of happiness but also reduce our physical response to stress—lower heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and sweat production, for example.
So perhaps now more than ever, the world needs nature photos. We can help.
The NANPA Showcase is an annual photo competition that recognizes the best nature images produced by NANPA members, including both hobbyists and professional photographers, in six distinct categories. More than 3,750 images were submitted to the 2021 competition earlier this fall. Winners placing in the Top 250 are presented below by category.
Winners in the Top 100 and Top 24, including the Best in Show awards, will be published next month.
2021 Showcase Top 250, Scapes
The “Scapes” category encompasses landscapes, plantscapes, seascapes, atmosphere, weather, and more.
2021 Showcase Top 250, Birds
Birds have long been a favorite subject for nature photographers, and Showcase is rich with examples why. From birds-in-flight and feeding behavior to courtship rituals, nesting, and family vignettes, the winning images prove both beautiful and informative.
2021 Showcase Top 250, Mammals
This category includes all types of mammals, including marine mammals.
2021 Showcase Top 250, Altered Reality
The unconventional “Altered Reality” category may be confusing to some. All images in this category are designated as “photo illustrations,” indicating that they display a change in natural color, form, shape or any combination of these that deny the photographic process. The images haven been enhanced or transformed beyond the way the subjects appear in nature.
2021 Showcase Top 250, Macro/Micro/All Other Wildlife
This category includes images of non-bird, non-mammal wildlife as well as close-ups of any subject. Close-ups are intimate views, tightly framed, or close examinations of subjects in nature.
2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation
The conservation category was added to Showcase in 2020 and recognizes images that illustrate a conservation issue—positive or negative—and the value of conserving a species, place, or ecosystem for the benefit of wild and/or human communities. Entries in this category cannot be designated as photo illustrations—nothing added, removed, or altered.
NANPA’s annual Showcase competition began in 2005. In 16 years, the competition has recognized more than 800 of North America’s most accomplished nature photographers. Nearly 2,500 photographers have entered the competition during that time.
Winning images are published each year in NANPA Expressions, a full-color journal that also includes articles on a wide variety of topics within nature photography, written by nature photographers for nature photographers. NANPA members can access free digital editions of Expressions dating back to 2011 in the Members Area of nanpacontest.org.
Past digital and print editions of Expressions are also available for sale. The new 2021 edition will be released in late winter.
Come back to nanpacontest.org on December 2 to see the 2021 Showcase Top 100 images.