12 wildlife photos showing the metal, serene, and cheeky side of nature

A sperm whale calf nursing from its mother, a great blue heron gobbling up a fishy breakfast, and a pair of otters splashing in the water: The wildlife images from the 2024 Sony World Photography Awards showcase the tenderness, brutality, and beauty of the animal kingdom.

This week, the World Photography Organisation announced the year’s category winners of the Sony World Photography Awards, honoring photographers across 10 categories. Ian Ford of the United Kingdom took home the top spot in the Wildlife category for his breathtaking image of a jaguar taking a bite out of a caiman crocodile on the banks of the São Lourenço river in South America.

The overall winner will be announced on April 18. More than 395,000 images from around the world were submitted for this year’s competition.

“Otters at Play.” Two otters playing together just under the surface of the water. The photograph was taken during golden hour, as the sun was setting behind the otter enclosure at Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas. Image: © Jonathan McSwain, United States, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2024
a blue bird with a yellow beak open and a fish inside its mouth
“Down the Hatch.” A great blue heron swallows its early morning catch at the base of a small spillway that flows into wetlands in Madison, Alabama. Image: © Christopher Baker, United States, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2024
three musk ox with snow on their faces
“Musketeers.” A close-up portrait of three male muskox captured during a snowstorm. The muskox is perfectly adapted to cold environments and is covered with an underlayer of qiviut – a wool as warm as cashmere – and a dark fur of about 50 cm long. Image: © Chris Schmid, Switzerland, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2024
a large orangutan stands in the woods holding a tree
“The Alpha Male Orangutan.” On my last trip to Indonesia we were looking for orangutans to photograph. They are mostly arboreal and rarely come down to the ground, but this male was foraging for ant nests. Image: © Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan, India, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2024
a baby whale facing up towards its mother underwater
“Mother Love.” A rare scene of a sperm whale calf nursing from its mother in the Indian Ocean. The young calf pushes its lower jaw into the nipple cavity and the mother squirts milk into the baby’s mouth underwater. As young whales cannot breathe and nurse at the same time, these feeding events are typically quite short. Image: © Thien Nguyen Ngoc, Vietnam, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2024
a solitary zebra standing amongst a herd of grey wildebeests
“Untitled.” This zebra was walking peacefully among a group of wildebeest in Kenya’s Masai Mara during the Great Migration. Image: © Pui Sun Tang, Malaysia, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2024
extreme closeup of a bee's eye and antenna
“Bumblebee.” A close-up portrait of a bumblebee. This shows part of the right side of the bee’s face with the eye and antenna clearly visible. Image: © Francis Principe-Gillespie, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2024
two black bats cuddled close together with one bat's mouth ajar and tongue sticking out
“The Scream.” There are two characteristics that clearly distinguish bats from other mammals: they are the only ones that can fly and they rest hanging upside down. Unlike birds, bats cannot take flight from the ground because their wings are not strong enough, so they hang from trees to facilitate their flight. Image: © Pedro Jarque Krebs, Peru, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2024
eight white, brown, and black horses run through the snow
“Leap of Faith.” These horses in Inner Mongolia, China, decided to take a short-cut from the high ground, running through the thick snow. Image: © Chee Kin Wong, Malaysia, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2024
a larger mother elephants touches tusks with her calf
“Saludo Sony.” A mother elephant greets her daughter. I called the little one Sonia, or Sony. Image: © Jesus Frias, Spain, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2024
a fluffy brown fox stares at the camera
“The Fiery Fox.” This was taken in Washington, and my main goal was to photograph foxes in their natural environment. As the light was fading I got very lucky, as a parent and pup appeared on the path with a brilliant sunset glow behind them. Image: © Christopher Ratcliff Iverson, United States, Shortlist, Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2024