A mind-bending orangutan image, a lone peregrine falcon swooping at a straling murmuration, a particularly grumpy looking Pallas's cat – the winning images in this year's Nature TTL Photographer of the Year contest range from the head-scratching to the awe-inspiring. Over 8,000 photos were entered into the competition from photographers across the globe.

The top prize was awarded to Canadian photographer Thomas Vijayan for his unique and intimate portrait of an orangutan in Borneo. 

The World is Going Upside Down – Overall winner and winner in Animal Behaviour category
© Nature TTL/Thomas Vijayan

“Thomas’ image is really unique, and immediately stood out to the judging panel,” said Will Nicholls, Founder of Nature TTL. “It’s one of those photos where you can’t skim past it. The unique perspective and composition means you are immediately trying to figure out what exactly you are looking at.”

Vijayan explains how he was able to get this shot: "I selected a tree that was in the water so that I could get a good reflection of the sky and its leaves on the tree. The water formed a mirror, making the image look upside-down. Then I climbed up on the tree and waited for hours. This is a regular path for the orangutans to use, so patience would surely pay off."

“This image means a lot to me because presently the orangutan population is reducing at an alarming rate,” says Vijayan of his winning image. “Deforestation and humans are the key cause behind this. Trees over 1,000 years old - which are a major asset to our planet - are being cut down for palm oil plantation. As humans we have a lot of alternative choices to replace the oil, but the orangutans don’t have any options other than losing their home. I am very happy to see this image be successful, as it gives me an opportunity to spread the issue to the wider world.”

Also on the awards list was 13-year-old Thomas Easterbrook who claimed the title of Young Nature TTL Photographer of the Year 2021 for his image of a peregrine falcon preying on starlings.

Spoilt for Choice – Young overall winner and winner in Under 16 category
© Nature TTL/Thomas Easterbrook

Take a look at a selection of the winning and highly commended images:

Dust Bath – Highly commended in Animal Behaviour category
© Nature TTL/Bence Máté
Floral Bath Tub – Highly commended in the Animal Behaviour category
© Nature TTL/Mousam Ray
Silhouetted Wood Mouse – Winner in the Camera Traps category
© Nature TTL/John Formstone
Moonwalker – Highly commended in the Camera Traps category
© Nature TTL/Vladimir Cech Jr.
Tree of Life – Winner in the Landscapes category
© Nature TTL/Jay Roode
Dance of the Termites – Winner in the Small World category
© Nature TTL/James Gifford
3… 2… 1… Takeoff! – Highly commended in the Small World category
© Nature TTL/Christian Brockes
Under Aurora Bridge – Highly commended in The Night Sky category
© Nature TTL/Yevhen Samuchenko
Manta Space Ship – Winner in the Underwater category
© Nature TTL/Grant Thomas
My New Toy – Highly commended in the Underwater category
© Nature TTL/Celia Kujala

The Door – Highly commended in the Urban Wildlife category
© Nature TTL/Jose Luis Ruiz Jimenez

The Race – Highly commended in the Urban Wildlife category
© Nature TTL/Yevhen Samuchenko
Sleepy Polar Bear – Winner in the Wild Portraits category
© Nature TTL/Dennis Stogsdill
The Cauldron of Creation – Runner-up in the Wild Portraits category
© Nature TTL/James Gifford
Snow Monster – Highly commended in the Wild Portraits category
© Nature TTL/Amit Eshel
A Predator’s Playground – Highly commended in the Wild Portraits category
© Nature TTL/Charl Stols