Close-up Photographer of the Year: Take a tiny peek at these breathtaking winning images

Close-up Photographer of the Year: Take a tiny peek at these breathtaking winning images

Celebrating the teeny tiny details most people overlook, the Close-up Photographer of the Year (CUPOTY) competition, devoted to macro and micro photography, has selected this year’s winners from nearly 12,000 entries from 67 countries.

Established in 2018 by photojournalists Tracy and Dan Calder, the Close-up Photographer of the Year is an annual competition made in collaboration with Affinity Photo. 

Трубочисты Петербурга

Photographers competed in the following 11 categories: Animals, Insects, Butterflies & Dragonflies, Invertebrate Portrait, Underwater, Plants, Fungi & Slime Moulds, Intimate Landscape, Human Made, Micro (for images created using a microscope) and Young Close-up Photographer of the Year (for entrants aged 17 or under.)

Hungarian photographer Csaba Daróczi has been awarded the title of Close-up Photographer of the Year for his mesmerising shot of a Eurasian nuthatch bird in flight, taken from within the confines of a hollowed-out tree stump. 

Below are all the winning entries from this years competition:

‘The Bird Of The Forest’ by Csaba Daróczi

(Animals 1st Place & Overall Winner)

The Bird Of The Forest by Csaba DarócziCredit: Csaba Daróczi |

In the winter of 2023, I took a lot of photographs in a forest close to my home in Hungary. I found something new to photograph almost every week, and I spent several days exploring ideas and perfecting techniques. Staying curious and open-minded led me to this hollowed out tree stump, which measured around half a metre in diameter. I carefully positioned my GoPro 11 camera inside the trunk and took a few shots. I was amazed by the results. After a few days, however, I decided the composition might be improved if I included an animal in the frame. So, I returned to the spot and placed a sunflower near the hole, which the mice and birds soon found.

Csaba Daróczi Hungarian photographer

‘The Wedding Guest’ by Csaba Daróczi

(Butterflies & Dragonflies 1st Place)

The Wedding Guest by Csaba DarócziCredit: Csaba Daróczi |

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.

Csaba Daróczi Hungarian photographer

‘Wood Ants Firing Acid Secretion’ by René Krekels

(Insects 1st Place)

Wood Ants Firing Acid Secretion by René KrekelsCredit: René Krekels |

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.

René Krekels

‘Undertow’ by Csaba Daróczi

(Intimate Landscape 1st Place)

Undertow by Csaba DarócziCredit: Csaba Daróczi|

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.

Csaba Daróczi Hungarian photographer

‘Beach Grass’ by Gerhard Vlcek

(Micro 1st Place)

Beach Grass by Gerhard VlcekCredit: Gerhard Vlcek |

This image shows a 30mm 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 were placed in a microtome and sliced with a sharp blade.

Gerhard Vlcek

‘Reflexion’ by Ria Bloemendaal

(Plants 1st Place)

Reflexion by Ria BloemendaalCredit: Ria Bloemendaal |

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

Ria Bloemendaal Dutch retired remedial educationalist

‘Dreamtime’ by Simon Theuma

(Underwater 1st Place)

Dreamtime by Simon TheumaCredit: Simon Theuma |

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.

Simon Theuma Australian education trainer

‘Asymmetrical Threads’ by Elizabeth Kazda

(Human Made 1st Place)

Asymmetrical Threads by Elizabeth KazdaCredit: Elizabeth Kazda |

I enjoy pushing the limits of my camera’s capabilities and experimenting with new techniques to capture ordinary objects. My collection of art supplies includes numerous spools of coloured thread from previous projects. I wanted to photograph this thread in a unique way and came up with the idea of wrapping coloured strands around an open picture frame. I placed the frame on a motorised rotating platform and set my camera to multiple-exposure mode. I captured 64 photos of the thread at 64 equidistant positions as I rotated the platform. Since I didn’t complete a 360° rotation, the design is asymmetrical. This is a meticulous process that requires patience.

Elizabeth Kazda American artist

‘The Ice Crown’ by Barry Webb

(Fungi & Slime Moulds 1st Place)

The Ice Crown by Barry WebbCredit: Barry Webb|

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.

Barry Webb


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