Crocodile in mud bath snaps up big prize in world wildlife photography contest

 World Nature Photography Awards 2022
Danger in the Mud (Image credit: © Jens Cullmann / World Nature Photography Awards)

The World Nature Photography Awards has revealed its winners for 2022, and the final selected images are pretty damn awesome. High standards are always present for this annual competition, but this year it's safe to say they've been exceeded. 

A beautiful Snow Leopard, a tall Antillean Iguana, and a huddle of Japanese macaques monkeys are just a few of the images that struck Gold in this year's edition of the competition, showcasing nature and animals in a new light.

• These are the best cameras for wildlife photography in 2023

Awarded Gold in the prestigious Animal Portraits category of the World Nature Photography Awards (WNPAs), as well as the Grand Prize-winning title was photographer Jens Cullmann, from Germany, for his striking image that shows a crocodile submerged in some thick and cracked mud… it looks like it had been turned to stone, with glaring yellow eyes staring directly into the camera. 

The image is titled Danger in the Mud and was captured at the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. Interestingly, Cullmann actually found out about his competition win via a satellite messenger whilst in the middle of a shoot at the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana. He has shared that getting this shot took patience:

“I had to be very careful not to disturb the crocodile, even though it was buried in dry mud. They will launch themselves with tremendous speed and power at any animal foolish enough to come too close.” The extended drought in Zimbabwe had reduced the large pool to consist of rapidly-drying mud.

"During the dry season, temperatures can reach 45° C and crocodiles will attempt to reduce their body temperature by burying themselves in mud. A giant crocodile such as this one could survive submerged for months without eating, by living off its fat reserves. This is a process known as aestivation" he explains. The winning image was shot with a Canon EOS-1DX Mark II with a Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x lens, at its maximum focal length of 540mm.

Winner of Behaviour - Mammals category (Image credit: © Hidetoshi Ogata / World Nature Photography Awards)

Other winners of the competition include Hidetoshi Ogata from Japan, claiming the top spot in the Behaviour - Mammals category, with their image of some baby Japanese Macaques monkeys forming a huddle with their mothers, captured on Awaji Island in Japan. The image is titled Playgroup.

The Behaviour - Amphibians and reptiles category winning image also featured a Japanese species in the form of the Japanese stream toad, which is said to live deep in the mountains of Owase in Mie, Japan, only travelling down from the mountains reaching the river when it is time for them to spawn. The photographer of the image titled Ride on You was Norihiro Ikuma.

Winner of Behaviour - Amphibians and reptiles category (Image credit: © Norihiro Ikuma / World Nature Photography Awards)

Adrian Dinsdale, the co-founder of the WNPAs, has said: “We congratulate all our winners and offer our deepest thanks for capturing such spectacular images of our precious planet. Once again, we hope it provides great motivation to us all to do everything we can to protect the Earth for future generations."

The World is Mine - Animals in their habitat category winner (Image credit: © Sascha Fonseca / World Nature Photography Awards)

I'm Coming for You - Behaviour - Birds winner (Image credit: © Charles Schmidt / World Nature Photography Awards)

Thankfulness - Black and White winner (Image credit: © Ernoult Alain / World Nature Photography Awards)

The Ghost of the Rocks - Behaviour - Invertebrates winner (Image credit: © Javier Herranz Casellas / World Nature Photography Awards)

Injured Fur seal - Nature Photojournalism winner (Image credit: ©Nicolas Remy / World Nature Photography Awards)

Colorful Snowstorm - Nature Art winner (Image credit: © Tom Shlesinger / World Nature Photography Awards)

The guts - People and Nature Winner (Image credit: © Virgil Reglioni / World Nature Photography Awards)

The Grand Tetons - Planet Earth's landscapes and environments winner (Image credit: © Jake Mosher / World Nature Photography Awards)

Tree of Life - Plants and fungi winner (Image credit: ©Julie Kenny / World Nature Photography Awards)

Harlequin shrimps - Underwater winner (Image credit: © Adriano Morettin / World Nature Photography Awards)

The home of the kestrel - Urban Wildlife winner (Image credit: © Vladislav Tasev / World Nature Photography Awards)

The 2023 edition of the competition is now open and accepting entries before the closing deadline of 7pm ET/midnight GMT on June 30, 2023. Be sure to check out the full winner's gallery for some amazing examples of the best nature photography from the 2022 competition.

You may also be interested in the best portable hides and camouflage gear for photographing wildlife, as well as the best action cameras, and the best spotting scopes to never miss a moment

Take a look at our guide to the best lenses for bird photography and wildlife, as well as the best trail cameras and the best cellular trail cameras to capture the more easily spooked or timid subjects.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.