Close Up Photographer of the Year 2023 winner features alien-like salamanders

Close Up photographer of the year
(Image credit: Samantha Stephens)

A photo of two juvenile spotted salamanders trapped in a carnivorous pitcher plant has been awarded first place in the annual Close Up Photographer of the Year (CUPOTY) 2023 competition. The first prize winner – Canadian photographer Samantha Stephens – received a £2,500 cash prize (roughly $3,000) plus a CUPOTY trophy for the image.

Samantha captured the winning shot at Algonquin Provincial Park, and the plant's latest meal is a little different from its usual moths and flies. Pitcher plants are a type of carnivorous plant that trap their prey in a cavity filled with digestive liquid, but salamanders aren’t generally on the menu.

• The best microscopes for photography (opens in new tab) capture beyond the naked eye

Close up photographer of the year 04

Metal Wing [Nikon D500, Nikkor 85mm/f3.5 macro lens 1/125, f/16, ISO 640] (Image credit: Minghui Yuan)

On capturing the winning shot, Samantha said, “While following researchers on their daily surveys I saw a pitcher with two salamanders floating at the surface of the pitcher’s fluid, both at the same stage of decay. I knew it was a special and fleeting moment. The next day, both salamanders had sunk to the bottom of the pitch”

Now in its fourth year, the latest CUPOTY contest received more than 9,000 entries from 54 countries across the 11 categories: Animals, Insects, Plants, Fungi, Intimate Landscape, Underwater, Butterflies & Insects, Invertebrate Portrait, Manmade, Micro and Young Close Up Photographer of the Year.

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Space Invaders [Fujifilm X-T3, Fujifilm XF 80mm f/2.8 1/200, f/20, ISO 160] (Image credit: Bruno Miitelli)

close up photographer of the year

Hemitrichia Calyculata [Sony a7rIV, Laowa 100mm f2.8 1/200, f/8, ISO 200] (Image credit: Nathan Benstead)

This year's jury included Wildlife Photographer of the Year winner, Karine Aigner, Amateur Photographer Editor, Nigel Atherton, plus a host of talented and experienced photographers and editors. 

CUPOTY is supported by Affinity Photo 2 and it celebrates photographers who have a passion for capturing things that sometimes our eyes can't even see. From microscopic photos of bacteria and algae to delicate mushrooms and striking insects, the world of the very small is really rather big. 

If you love taking photos of things close up head to the CUPOTY website (opens in new tab) to find out how you can enter next year's competition and view the top 100 entries.

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Batrachospermum Red Algae, Winner in Micro category [Pentax K-1, Olympus 4x S-plan Apo 1/5, ISO 100] (Image credit: Marek Miś)

Check out our top 10 pro macro photography tips (opens in new tab) and discover the best macro lenses (opens in new tab) you can buy

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Smile for the Camera! [Olympus EM1 MkIII, Olympus 60mm 1/40, f/4, ISO 250] (Image credit: Rafael Steinlesberger)

close up photographer of the year

A Rare Moment in Nature - [Olympus EM1 Mark II Olympus Zuiko 60mm f2.8, 1/250, f/18, ISO 200] (Image credit: Raj Bharathi)

close up photographer of the year

Ice Encrusted Comatricha, Winner , Fungi [Olympus OM-D-E-M1 Mk II, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f2.8 Macro 1/15, f/4, ISO 200] (Image credit: Barry Webb)

Close up photographer of the year 04

Veiled [Sony A7III, Laowa 100mm f2.8 2x Ultra-Macro 1/500, f/2.8, ISO 500] (Image credit: Wim Vooijs)

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.