Incredible photos from the National Sony World Photography Awards 2021

(Pocket-lint) – Each year, the World Photography Organisation celebrates the very best images and photographers on the planet with the Sony World Photography Awards. In 2019 we showed off some of the amazing images from the overall awards where hundreds of thousands of submitted photos had been whittled down to just a few winners. 

In 2020, the organisation celebrated by awarding photographers at a national level with the National Awards. We selected 57 of those images to show off the results of 190,000 submissions from 63 countries. 

This year, 500 photographers entered to show off their skills and the results are just as impressive. 

© Saowanee Suntararak, Thailand, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Autumn Float

  • Image Name: Autumn Float
  • Photographer Name: Saowanee Suntararak
  • Country: Thailand
  • Year: 2021

Taken near Mount Fuji in Japan, this wonderful photo shows a lone leaf floating down to earth with a staggering, peaceful and serene backdrop.

“Autumn season at Lake Kawaguchi in Japan. Mount Fuji with autumn leaves is very popular in the photographers, and I love taking photo in this season, too.”

© Azelda Olivier, South Africa, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Colour Theory

  • Image Name: Colour Theory
  • Photographer Name: Azelda Olivier
  • Country: South Africa
  • Year: 2021

Some of the images submitted to the awards are part of an artist’s own project. In this case, one used to break the norm of gender stereotypes:

“This photograph was taken for a project on colour theory; the objective of this photograph was to use a warm colour palette. My aim was to explore colour further by considering its socially constructed meaning. Pink is a colour that is often associated with femininity, and through this image, I aimed to blur the lines between gender stereotypes such as this.”

© Shai Apeloig, Sweden, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

An Iron Balloon’s Dream

  • Image Name: An Iron Balloon’s Dream
  • Photographer Name: Shai Apeloig
  • Country: Sweden
  • Year: 2021

We love this image by Swedish entrant and winner  Shai Apeloig. It seems to be an otherworldly view of a metal ball floating just above the surface of a snow-covered desolate landscape. 

“Inspired by the expressionist movement, I tried to convey a subjective experience with this image, rather than an objective reality. The image was created by taking individual shots of an oxidised iron structure and recomposing them later into a balloon-like image. During production, I gradually rediscovered and recreated the composition.”

© Naif Albugami, Saudi Arabia, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Hard Life

  • Image Name: Hard Life
  • Photographer Name: Naif Albugami
  • Country: Saudi Arabia
  • Year: 2021

An intriguing vision of a man in a fancy suit sadly sitting on a rusting wreck of a car. The image is actually intended as a visually commentary on the current circumstances:

“…This photo was taken to convey a feeling of despair and everything that we have in life has stopped due to the pandemic.”

© Yoganathan Yoke, Malaysia, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Long-tailed Macaque

  • Image Name: Long-tailed Macaque
  • Photographer Name: Yoganathan Yoke
  • Country: Malaysia
  • Year: 2021

A simple yet fantastic photo of a monkey chilling out in a tree but looking up in a way that makes it look like he’s contemplating some great philosophical thought. 

“This photograph of a long-tailed macaque, also known as the crab-eating macaque, was taken in the mangrove forest of Kuala Gula, Perak. I went there one evening, hoping to photograph birds or snakes, when I saw a group of macaques foraging in the mud for their last meal of the day. A ray of light from the sunset fell on this macaque just as it looked up. I felt it looked like a gesture of hope for the future.”

© Murray Chant, New Zealander, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Wrong Place Wrong Time

  • Image Name: Wrong Place Wrong Time
  • Photographer Name: Murray Chant
  • Country: New Zealand
  • Year: 2021

This black and white image appears to show what looks like a bomb protruding from the mud, but it’s actually an unusual piece of ice. 

“This piece of ice had rolled around in the shallows until it assumed a worn and organic form. I photographed it at dusk and lit it from below.”

© Min Min Zaw, Myanmar, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Foggy Morning Fishing

  • Image Name: Foggy Morning Fishing
  • Photographer Name: Min Min Zaw
  • Country: Myanmar
  • Year: 2021

Some of these images give the viewer a glimpse into a different way of life in far off lands. In this case a peaceful view of nature with man and boy working hard to provide for themselves. 

“This scene shows a father and son catching fish early one winter morning. In Myanmar, children work with their parents to bring in an income for the whole family”

© S. Muramatsu, Japan, 3rd Place, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards


  • Image Name: Fertility
  • Photographer Name: S. Muramatsu
  • Country: Japan
  • Year: 2021

An incredibly serene view that appears almost too perfect to be real. Maybe we’re just cynical because our clouds are usually rain clouds. 

“This picture aims to represent fertility, with floating clouds, wheat fields, snow fields and the earth.”

© Janis Palulis, Latvia, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Glowing Mushroom

  • Image Name: Glowing Mushroom
  • Photographer Name: Janis Palulis
  • Country: Latvia
  • Year: 2021

A couple of mushrooms glowing in the Latvian forests. A perfectly normal photo or the work of a skilled photographer? We suspect the latter. Still, we wouldn’t risk eating them either way. 

© Simas Bernotas, Lithuania, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Portrait of a Toymaker

  • Image Name: Portrait of a Toymaker
  • Photographer Name: Simas Bernotas
  • Country: Lithuania
  • Year: 2021

This photo is a wonderful homage to crafts, hobbies and talented workmen of days gone by. Of trades that have mostly faded into obscurity but are still held onto by a select few: 

“Ancient crafts are imbued with the wisdom of previous generations, with each nation having its own tales and myths about them. For this series, I captured Lithuanian crafters with a mystical spirit in an attempt to show them as devoted caretakers of declining traditions. This image is one of many from that project.”

© Davide Giannetti, Italy, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Fox Portrait

  • Image Name: Fox Portrait
  • Photographer Name: Davide Giannetti
  • Country: Italy
  • Year: 2021

We always have a fondness for these kinds of wildlife photographs. Managing to catch a shot of a wild animal looking perfectly into the camera must be challenging and require endless patience. This one wonderfully captures the majesty of this red fox.  

“Following a hard rainfall in the National Park of Abruzzo, I spotted this wild red fox looking for food.”

© Thoedoros Apeiranthitis, Greece, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Foggy Farming

  • Image Name: Fox Portrait
  • Photographer Name: Davide Giannetti
  • Country: Italy
  • Year: 2021

A magically foggy mountain top offers up a quaint view in the form of a gang of sheep just casually hanging about on the slopes. 

“At 1,003m, Mount Zas (or Zeus) dominates the Greek island of Naxos. One day in early April, I decided to make my way to the top. By the time I was halfway up, the fog had become so dense it completely obscured the base of the mountain, making me feel as if I was flying. I noticed a small herd of sheep grazing peacefully in this strange environment. I took a shot before moving on and becoming lost in the fog.”

© Höije Nuuter, Estonia, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Back to beginning III

  • Image Name: Back to beginning III
  • Photographer Name: Höije Nuuter
  • Country: Estonia
  • Year: 2021

We’re not really sure what the inspiration for this photo was, but we love it and the judges clearly did too as it was selected as one of the winners for this year. The accompanying blurb from photographer Höije Nuuter doesn’t go any further to unveiling the mystery behind it. 

“The ball in this image was originally a Christmas decoration. I couldn’t find a pure matte-white ball in the shops, so I painted one instead, then took a series of images in a quarry, and made a composite of them in Photoshop.”

© Tomislav Veic, Croatia, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Driving Through the Ice Forest

  • Image Name: Driving Through the Ice Forest
  • Photographer Name: Tomislav Veic
  • Country: Croatia
  • Year: 2021

This phone belongs on our list of the best drone photos ever taken. A fantastic aerial view of a white winter wonderland. 

“After the first snowfall towards the end of 2020, I took my camera to the largest old-growth forest in Croatia. This road runs through it.”

© Emil Wieringa Hildebrand, Norway, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Oydis and Gunnar

  • Image Name: Oydis and Gunnar
  • Photographer Name: Emil Wieringa Hildebrand
  • Country: Norway
  • Year: 2021

Another award-winning photo with very little in the way of explanation. This one certainly intrigued us though and apparently, it caught the judge’s eye too. 

“Last picture from a personal shoot this October. 2020 feels like we’re all just bumping our heads against a big wall together.”

© Michaela Steiner, Austria, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Horse Against Black Background

  • Image Name: Horse Against Black Background
  • Photographer Name: Michaela Steiner
  • Country: Austria
  • Year: 2021

We love this photo for the level of detail picked up by the camera including the perfection of the horse’s hairs and the stillness of its gaze. 

“I photographed this beautiful horse in the entrance to its stable, using only natural light and a black background.”

© Lauriane Bieber, France, Winner, National Awards, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Post-Lockdown Cigarette, in the Cold Rain of June

  • Image Name: Post-Lockdown Cigarette, in the Cold Rain of June
  • Photographer Name: Lauriane Bieber
  • Country: France
  • Year: 2021

This simple image of a man smoking tells a longer story of friendship and a passion for photography. 

“This photograph is a story of first times. The first time I shot my dear friend Léo, that I only had met once in my life about ten years ago. The first time I went outside after three months. The first friend I met after the lockdown. The first time I worked with a model so brave and so dedicated to art and creation. The first time I felt how much photography was important to me.”

Writing by Adrian Willings.

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