Incredible photos and breathtaking images from the Unsplash Awards 2017

Unsplash started life a little over four years ago as a humble Tumblr blog and has since grown into a massive photography community with over 300,000 images and astounding photos in its library.

With over 1 billion photos viewed per month and three images downloaded per second, Unsplash is surely a photography community that knows its stuff.

The Unsplash Awards are the result of a month-long celebration of the community and its contributors. Over 57,000 photos were submitted for judging across 13 different categories giving the judges the incredible task of whittling down the list of astounding images to choose some final winners.

We’ve been through the categories and picked out some of our favourites as well as the winners for each. So join us take a look at some of the best photography on the web.

Aerial Photography

More and more drones and quadcopters are making their way into the skies above us on a monthly basis. For some, it’s just a hobby, for others it’s a way to add a new angle to their photography portfolio.

We’ve seen plenty of impressive and stunning drone photographs from different sources, but the ones submitted to the Unsplash Awards are something special.

Aerial category winner – Untitled, Dorset, UK by Adam Krowitz

Adam Krowitz’s untitled aerial photograph of the Dorset coastline was selected by the Unsplash Awards judges as the category winner. The DJI marketing team said:

“The photographer captured an environment that’s best highlighted from an aerial perspective.

Framing of the shoreline and placement of the horizon line in the upper third of the image brings scale to the landscape while placing focus on the unique land formation in the centre of the photo.

Unique capture of contrasting colours between the blown out sky and deep blue ocean. There is also great contrast from the blue ocean, to the tan sandy beach, to the whites in the cliffside, to the green hilltop.

To the extent of what is seen in the photograph, the photographer is adhering to all legal UAV operation procedures.”

Dividing Lines, Bristol, UK by Ryan Searle 

One of the runner-up photographs shortlisted for the aerial category comes from Bristol, United Kingdom and shows modern capitalism at its finest. A heaving car park looks like something Henry Ford would have been proud of – you can have any colour you like as long as it’s black, white or grey.

Vertical Pools, Newport Australia by Lachlan Dempsey

At the other end of the spectrum is an aerial image showing the wonder of man-made structures meeting nature. Lachlan Dempsey captured this incredible photo of an ocean pool being struck by waves in Newport Australia. The man-made pool acts as a break wall for the cliffs beside it and provides a safe swimming spot for beach visitors with breathtaking views.

Buses in depot at Bishan, Singapore by Chuttersnap

This incredible, yet simple aerial view of a busy bus station in Singapore has had over 3 million views since it was originally uploaded to Unsplash and was a sure-fire contender for the shortlist for this category. A brilliant bit of framing from an aerial drone to boot.

The Lost desert of Gwent, Wales, UK by Samuel Edwards

This winding road through the Welsh countryside looks like something out of a Mad Max film. Samuel Edwards captured this photo with his DJI drone while on his way to a wedding and was trying to make the Welsh Moorland look like an arid desert of sorts. We’re pretty sure he achieved his goal.

Animals and wildlife photography

The next category on our list from the Unsplash Awards shows the wonder of nature and the marvels of wildlife from across the world.

From swimming pigs to majestic Foxes and dangerous jellyfish, there’s a world of wonderful creatures out there waiting to be snapped and we’re sure it was hard selecting a winner from this collection.

Any wildlife photographer knows how tough it is to capture the perfect shot. Patience and timing is everything here.

Wildlife category winner – By Jakob Owens

We love this photo of a happy pig taking a swim. The judges loved it too and this image was chosen as the winner for the animals and wildlife category.

Judge Miguel Cardona from imgix said:

“I like the composition. The colours give it an outer-worldly feel: the contrast of the oranges against the cool blue. It tells the story of two worlds—of air and water—and has a familiar animal in an unfamiliar environment that straddles both worlds while appearing worn, yet soothed. A good photo doesn’t give you all the details of a story, but presents a world with some insight and provokes you to ask more questions. I like the close crop, the minimal background, the detail in textures, the capture of the underwater light, and the use of the horizon.”

Fox Portrait, Cavendish Beach, New Glasgow, Canada, by Jeremy Vessey

A solitary Canadian fox is captured sitting peacefully surveying his surroundings. Majesty and beauty of nature captured in a single photograph. No doubt it took hours of patience to capture this image, so it’s no surprise it made it onto the shortlist.

Untitled, Valencia, Spain, by Joel Filipe

This is just one of a multitude of different Jellyfish photographs snapped and submitted to the Unsplash Awards. These majestic creatures are often as beautiful as they are deadly. This image of a bloom of Jellyfish comes from Valencia, Spain and made it into the shortlist for the animals and wildlife category.

Don’t Upset the Bull, Asheville, United States by Zelle Duda

This photo was captured from the edge of a farm in Asheville, North Carolina. As Zelle Duda snapped photos, the bull moved closer, unhappy with being photographed, until beast was bearing down on man and the photographer decided it was time to leave.

Astrophotography

Capturing the Universe and all its magnificent glory can be an extremely gruelling task. It’s certainly not a point-and-shoot affair, but someone has the time and patience, the results are fantastic.

We’ve seen some incredible snaps of space in the past, so it’s no surprise to see some truly spectacular images in the shortlist.

Astrophotography category winner – A Cloudy Milky Way, June Lake, United States by Jeffrey Hovland

This cloudy image of the Milky Way was originally intended to be the test shot for a timelapse of the night sky over the surroundings of June Lake. The resulting image was so stunning it seemed worthwhile submitting to Unsplash and was chosen by the judges as the winner for this category.

Chris Messina said:

“Although Hovland’s photo isn’t perfectly technical and doesn’t feature an unblemished sky, of all of the selections — and the majority were outstanding — it evoked the greatest emotional response from me. I was brought into the coolly serene wilderness, the composition anchored with the rugged warm tones and heaviness of the rocky earth, set against a whispy hint of the vastness of space. It’s a photo that suggested motion in the heavens and stillness on earth resulting in a kind of alive calm. It’s an image that I want to wear or keep in my pocket, to pull out in  a moment when the disorder and chaos of everyday life is particularly vexing, in order to be reminded that we live on a glorious planet, a mere mote of dust within a strange and wondrous infinite that we barely see, let alone comprehend.”

Milkyway in Maine by Annie Niemaszyk

Another shot of the Milky Way captured over Maine. This photo manages to capture the sky with a slight purple hue. A magnificent view full of shooting stars and majesty of the Universe.

Untitled, Vonore, United States by Matt Nelson

Photos of solar eclipses are nothing new, but this one is both simple and marvellous. Matt Nelson’s image was selected from many others as a shortlist for this category.

Solheimasandur Plane Wreck, Iceland by Thomas Tucker

The ultimate contrast of the wonderful natural Northern lights over a horizon dominated by the ageing hulk of an abandoned plane wreckage. This fantastic image was captured by Thomas Tucker in Iceland and has racked up nearly four million views since it was uploaded to Unsplash.

Camping Under the Stars, Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, United States by Clarisse Meyer

A peaceful campsite under the stars made for not just a great place to lay down a weary head for the night, but a brilliant photograph filled with billions of stars. The contrast of light and dark in this photo is impressive, the warm glow of a fire and the cold chill of outer space.

Black and white

The aim of the black and white category for the Unsplash Awards is to celebrate the original colours of photography. The moody and dramatic images in this category include a range of different photos from incredible photographers located across the globe.

Black and white category winner – Window By Ihor Malytskyi

This simply framed yet magnificently moody photo captures a lone woman staring out of a train window.

Judge Jared Granger from InVision chose this shortlisted image as the category winner saying:

“A great photo for me triggers the viewer’s emotional senses through storytelling. While this shot has great technical qualities, this captured moment evokes a sense of mystery—it poses so many questions with unknown answers. The story is up to the viewer to conclude.” 

Sand Lines, Iceland by Jeremy Bishop

This image captured on the beaches of Iceland nearly could have been taken in colour as it was shot on the famous black sands beaches. In black and white, the ocean looks moody and unforgiving. An incredible photo that we’re not surprised to see on the shortlist.

Abstract spiral pattern, Basel, Switzerland by Samuel Zeller

Abstract swirling patterns hold a certain majesty in black and white imagery that cannot exist in similar colour photographs.

Untitled, Fălticeni, Romania by PICSELI

A simply beautiful photograph of a solitary man walking on an empty road surrounded by the wonder of nature. This image by PICSELI was captured in Romania and selected for the shortlist for this category by the Unsplash judges.

Untitled, Jupiterlaan, Vorst, Belgium by Piron Guillaume

A simple portrait image with incredible use of shadow creating a kind of anonymity for the subject. We love how little there is going on in this photo, it’s clean, simple and beautiful.

Food and drink

Photos of food aren’t just for Instagram. The food and drink category of the Unsplash Awards celebrates all the wonder of food and drink from around the world. Still life, cooking shots and even people’s lunch are all acceptable photographs here.

Food and drink category winner – Purple kale by Monika Grabkowska

Kale is the ultimate in popular superfoods at the moment and this simple, yet astounding image of purple kale was chosen as the category winner for food and drink. With nearly three million downloads it’s no surprise this one is popular.

Unsplash judge Christen Vidanovic from Kodakit said:

“We love the way this image captures the vivid colours of the cabbage, while simultaneously pairing it with, and contrasting it against, the dark background. The circular shape of the bowl helps emphasize the subjects shape, and does not overpower it. The leaves are spread through the image in a clean and balanced way that keeps our eyes looking towards the top of the image – just as leaves grow and move upwards. Overall, a really gorgeous photo that satisfies with its simple structure and vibrant colours.”

Leek-crusted cedar planked salmon, Portland, United States by Christiann Koepke

Food photographs rarely look this good. They say the first bite is with the eye, so we’re sad we won’t get a chance to tuck into this one.

Fruit Tree Harvest, Salt Lake City, United States by Brooke Lark

A bountiful harvest indeed. This image from Brooke Lark captures a simple bowl of fruits collected from around her home in Salt Lake City. A brilliantly colourful and healthy bounty.

Homemade popsicle! By Daniel Hjalmarsson

This snap of delicious lollies was captured for an Instagram user who’s keen on creating art around the home. Simply beautiful, especially for those with a sweet tooth.

Pancakes for breakfast, Heysham, United Kingdom by Calum Lewis

An unusual sight on a British breakfast table, these pancakes covered in syrup are much more likely to be found on an American plate. Nonetheless, the clarity of this photo is making us hungry.

Vegan Vanilla & Blackberry Single Serve Waffles, Springfield, United States by Taylor Kiser

Vegan food might not be for everybody, but this snap of waffles in a bright purple sauce is heavenly. Presentation is everything.

Interiors and architecture

A celebration of man-made structures and fantastic architecture from around the world. The interiors and architecture category of the Unsplash Awards includes everything from simple hallways to tall and magnificent buildings.

Untitled Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain by Efe Kurnaz

A clean, simple and colourful photo from the stadium of legendary football team Barcelona. This image was chosen as the category winner by Oliur from Ultralinx. The judges said:

“The colours are what makes this image. It has an incredible cyberpunk look to it, a style I’ve always been a fan of. I can just imagine seeing it in a film like Blade Runner or Total Recall. The angle which it is shot at is great too, it draws you in down the hallway and makes you wonder what you’re going to see round the corner.”

To the infinity and beyond by Ricardo Gomez Angel

Smooth twisting lines stretching off skyward. This simple photo of a man-made structure gives us a view of the magnificent structures man can create. Clocking up over 164,000 views since it was uploaded to Unsplash, Ricardo Gomez Angel’s image easily made it to the shortlist in this category.

Untitled, Singapore by Raphael Koh

An imposing tower block, a home to the people of Singapore or a work of art for the world to enjoy? This popular Unsplash image was selected from over 7,000 other images in the architecture category to make it into the shortlist for the awards.

Ginza Place, Chūō-ku, Japan by Dmitri Popov

The curvy lines of this structure look more like a work of art than a piece of architecture. This marvellous photo from Japan has had over 3.5 million views since it was uploaded to Unsplash earlier this year.

National Theatre, London, UK by Mirko Nicholson

This superb image looks like the ultimate in urban jungle photography. This nondescript staircase and backdrop are actually from the prestigous National Theatre in London. Peaceful and unusually free of people.

Open Ended, Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, Netherlands by Christian Fregnan

A simple corridor from the halls of the Voorlinden Museum in the Netherlands. Worn and weathered from years of visitors passing through, these walls have plenty of stories to tell, as do the historic artefacts contained within them.

Mobile photography

In the modern age, more photos are snapped with mobile phones than they are with traditional cameras. With constant improvements in phone camera lenses and the processing software behind them, we’re seeing impressive photos being captured from all over the world.

Recognising the increasing trend towards mobile photography, the Unsplash Awards created a category to celebrate the very best they’ve seen.

Mobile category winner – il pontile, Riare, Italia by Michael Martinelli

No doubt the selection for the shortlist in this category was tough, nevermind choosing the winner. This image by Michael Martinelli was chosen as the winner for the mobile photography category and captures a peaceful jetty jetting out into a calm bay in Riare, Italy.

Kari Clark, the Unsplash judge for this category and product manager from Google Accessories said:

“I liked it because it was unexpected. The photo took a classic image of a pier, but combined industrial elements. There is also something very contradictory about the pier being something that is usually so peaceful but being blocked off by a gate. It makes you think!”

September surf session, Costa da Caparica, Portugal by John Jason

A colourful photo from the beach catches a trio of surfers making their way out of the September seas.

Mobile photography Street 01 A, Kowloon, Hong Kong by Jason Wong

From the bustling streets of Hong Kong comes this hazy photo by Jason Wong. Selected as one of the finalists for the shortlist for the mobile photography category, it’s an impressive image captured on an Apple iPhone.

Projector, Fondazione Prada, Milano, Italy by Martino Pietropoli

This photo of a woman in a white dress with a perforated design made for an interesting work of shadow photography. Martino Pietropoli managed to capture the light from high windows casting shadows through her dress and onto the floor behind her. A simple, yet brilliant use of natural lighting with a mobile phone.

Colour by Moren Hsu

This colourful photo was captured on a OnePlus mobile phone and proved popular enough to be shortlisted in this category of the Unsplash Awards.

Bench by the lake on an Autumn’s day by Aaron Burden

A tranquil scene with a peaceful view across a calm lake. The bright green grass is scattered with Autumn leaves providing a wonderful contrast. This simply brilliant image was snapped on an Apple iPhone 6s by Aaron Burden and shortlisted for the mobile photography category after clocking up over 1.8 million views.

Nature and landscape photography

At first glance, landscape photography seems simple enough but these photographers are often dealing with complex lighting, composition considerations and a mass of other variables to capture the perfect picture.

The nature and landscapes category of the Unsplash Awards celebrates all the effort the that goes into these photos and the majesty of a perfect photo.

Nature and landscape winner – Autumn woods across the lake by Sam Ferrara

This unassuming image of Autumnal woods across a calm lake was captured by Sam Ferrara and uploaded to Unsplash earlier this year. With over two million views since then, it’s no wonder this image was shortlisted then chosen as the winner for the nature and landscape category.

Brad Haynes from Lonely Planet chose this image as the winner saying:

“I can almost imagine emerging from the cabin of a sailboat – coffee in my hand – to watch the fog lift from the surrounding mountains. The water is so still, the reflection like a painting starting to take shape. The splashes of fall leaves add additional texture that brings the photo to life.”

Patagonian lake buoy, Bariloche, Argentina by Guille Pozzi

On a cold snowy day, a lone bouy bobs gently on a calm body of water. This photograph captures the wonder and beauty of nature on the shores of Argentina. With 232,026 views, Guille Pozzi’s photo made its way into the shortlist for this category and was close to being chosen as the award winner.

Transmission towers in fog, Bled, Slovenia by Neven Krcmarek

Man and nature collide once more. This photo from Slovenia captures power lines jutting out of the fog swirling through trees below. An astounding image showing the sheer beauty of nature.

Untitled by Kunj Parekh

Kunj Parekh captured this image of sand being tossed through the air. The grains of sand are perfectly highlighted by this black and white image that was shortlisted for the nature and landscape category.

Maldives by Shifaaz Shamoon

When most of us dream of a summer holiday, we probably picture a beach just like this one. Lush blue waters lapping at warm white sands. This aerial photo from the Maldives captures a beautiful empty beach, certainly a rare sight in the summer months.

A world lost in time, Twelve Apostles, Australia by Graham Holtshausen

“The 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is truly a sight to behold. This stunning section of coastline, boasting monoliths protruding from the ocean, is often overcrowded with tourists.” These are the words of Graham Holsthausen, the photographer behind this marvellous image.

People and portrait photography

The range of portrait and people photography submitted to this category includes people from all over the world in everything from candid shots to wedding photographs.

People and portrait winner – Daniel, bw by Sam Burriss

This black and white portrait photograph was selected by the Unsplash judges as the winner for the people and portrait category. The original image taken by Sam Burriss was slightly tweaked to adjust the contrast and highlight the subject’s skin more.

David Lee from Squarespace chose this as the category winner saying:

“Call me a traditionalist, but I’m always taken to black and white photography for portraits. There’s a confidence and comfort to this portrait where you feel the connection between the photographer and the subject.”

Sense of Self, Chicago, United States by Amanda Carlson

With this image, photographer Amanda Carlson attempts to highlight the differences between human beings with different cultures, perspectives and experiences. She also tries to highlight how we can all relate to one another as at the end of the day we are all human.

Untitled by Rafael Romero

This simple photograph captures a lone smoker cast in the neon light of a hairdressers. We can’t help but think this young man could do with a haircut too.

Untitled by Nathan Dumlao

One man and his freckles. This striking photo by Nathan Dumlao has had nearly 200,000 views since it was uploaded to Unsplash and was selected for the shortlist of the people and portraits category.

Feel by Melissa Mjoen

This colourful image of a painted man with a cigarette hanging from his lips looks like the aftermath of the Holi Festival of Colour. We love the bright colours of this one and the mood of the man being photographed too. The judges liked it as well and selected it for the shortlist for the people and portraits category.

Lady in Yellow, Ottawa, Canada by Oladimeji Odunsi

A beautiful subject, superb lighting, wonderful colour, this photo has it all. Oladimeji Odunsi clearly put a lot of effort into this one and the judges showed their appreciation for it by selecting the image for the shortlist.

Sports photography

Sports photography takes a steady hand and careful camera work. With fast moving subjects, capturing a great image isn’t easy, but when it works the results are marvellous.

The Unsplash Awards judges had to wade through a mass of brilliant sports images from a range of games, athletic events and more to pick a winner.

Sports category winner – Diver hand, Maldives by Julian Paul

An underwater shot of a diver in the Maldives. Swimming with the fishes in the warm oceans makes for a cracking photo. The Unsplash judges chose this image as the award winner for the sports category.

The GoPro team said:

“We love how this image really drew us in and gave us the feeling of striving for something greater. The unique perspective with silhouetted fish in the distance is one we have not yet seen and it made us want to dive right in!” 

360 flip out of nowhere, Bandung, Indonesia by Andhika Soreng

A skateboarder captured in the dark doing a 360 flip. This image proved popular enough to make it into the shortlist.

Strength training by Scott Webb

Photos of women working out might be popular on Instagram, but they’re also a strong favourite on Unsplash. This image by Scott Webb has had two million views and has been downloaded 26,448 times. It was also selected for the shortlist of the sports photography category.

Toronto Blue Jays Stadium, Toronto, Canada by Tim Gouw

This aerial photo of the Blue Jays stadium shows hundreds upon hundreds of sports fans enjoying a good game. Tim Gouw’s photo proved popular enough to reach the final selection and we feel it deserves the credit it gets.

Untitled, Bali, Indonesia by Jeremy Bishop

A surfer catches waves in Bali, Indonesia. A perfect wave break like this is no doubt incredibly difficult to capture. This single image is probably one of thousands that Jeremy Bishop had to take before getting the final result.

King Jumper, Königssee, Schönau am Königssee, Germany by Julian Paul

Julian Paul captured this image in Königssee, Germany of a diver moments before he hit the water. Another brilliant image shortlisted for the sports category.

Street photography

The street photography category of the Unsplash Awards encompasses everything from gritty street scenes to those once-in-a-lifetime candid shots. With life in the urban jungle being busy, bright and bustling, there are plenty of interesting opportunities here.

Street photography winner – Cagliari, 2017, Italy by Nicola Fioravanti

Nicola Fioravanti snapped this atmospheric image on the streets of Italy. This dark and brooding image was chosen by the Unsplash judges as the winner for the street photography category.

Dwight Pritie from Airbnb selected this image as the winner saying:

“The use of shadow and light make this a striking shot. It’s interesting in a way that draws you in and invites you to examine all of the elements. Great composition!”

When Hunger Strikes, London by Brunel Johnson

A hungry man browses for some snacks on a busy London street. This simple image of urban life makes for a brilliant photo and found its way into the final selection for the street photography category.

Person Rain Melbourne by Mike Wilson

A miserable day of rain makes for a wonderfully wet photograph from the streets of Melbourne, Australia. With over 370,000 views, this image proved popular enough to reach the shortlist for this category.

Flatiron Building, New York, United States by Denys Nevozhai

A long-exposure shot of the busy New York streets captures the yellow haze of the famous American taxis and the hustle and bustle of people passing by.

Night Squad Competition, Crown Towers Melbourne, Southbank, Australia by Louis Amal

A photograph from the nighttime streets of Melbourne Australia, shows people mingling and smoking outside a cocktail bar. This sort of sight is familiar across the world, but colourful images like this capture its full glory.

Untitled, Montreal, Canada by Guillaume Bolduc

A stairway to heaven? This man-made structure makes excellent use of natural and artificial lighting to create a welcoming sight to those passing through.

Tech and business photography

The tech and business category of the Unsplash awards carries across a wide range of photos from urban workplaces to busy offices.

Celebrating all that the business world has to offer with a selection of high-quality images whittled down to a winning few.

Tech and business category winner – Programming Competition, Kiev, Ukraine by Alex Kotliarskyi

The winner of the tech and business category comes Kiev, Ukraine and was taken by Alex Kotliarskyi. Busy developers beaver away at their desks in a classic capture of modern working life.

Niv Dror from ProductHunt/Angelist chose this photo as the award winner saying:

“In a way, Alex’s photo captures a reflection of modern life: staring at a screen. Our lives, especially in our twenties, feels like a competition. From school, to university, to getting a job and progressing through our careers – it’s a never-ending competition. The photo draws your eyes out across the rows of workers, all seemingly identical – but at the same time, showing small hints of color and personality from every worker that highlight and humanizes their unique history and personality. It makes me think of 20 years from now, what technology will be ubiquitous.”

Project Deadline by Kevin Ku

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines, we all hate them, but this is a pretty cool way to represent the misery of the ticking clock as the deadline draws closer.

This image is one of those selected for the tech and business category.

Shooting film by Adam Birkett

Gone but not forgotten, the humble roll of film lives on in a simple yet wonderful photo from Adam Birkett. This image has over 200,000 views and made it’s way into the shortlist with ease, after all, how many of these rolls were involved in the everyday working lives of photographers across the world.

VR, Geneva, Switzerland by Samuel Zeller

Samuel Zeller shot this photo at the Festival tous écrans, a virtual reality and technology experience in Geneva, Switzerland. Samuel said he felt voyeuristic snapping images of people who were completely unaware he was even there – lost as they were in the immersive world of virtual reality.

Untitled by Oliver Pecker

The clean modern desk packed full of technology, this site is probably a familiar one across the working developed world. We love the contrast of this one and the lines created by the different bits of tech. The judges loved it too and selected it as one of the finalists for this category.

Fix it, Hay, Australia by Christopher Burns

From white collar to blue collar, the tech and business photography category includes it all. There are some great opportunities for photographs in all these environments and this one really made some sparks.

A pretty impressive collection of images we’re sure you’ll agree. If you’d like to see more take a look at the Unsplash site here – https://awards.unsplash.com/.

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