The annual Close-up Photographer of the Year competition has announced the winning images of its second themed challenge, “Two of a Kind.” These challenges run outside of the competition itself (which opens for entries later this month). Winning shots from the Two of a Kind challenge run the gamut from fascinating to adorable.

What is the CUPOTY: Challenge?

Over the Mineral World Carlos Pérez

Close-up Photographer of the Year (CUPOTY) is a massive competition with nine categories, a £2,500 (~$3,400) top prize, and thousands of entrants. The competition opens in late February and accepts entries through May, with winners announced in October.

The CUPOTY Challenges—which run separate from the contest, during the “off-season”—take a much tighter focus. There’s a single-themed category, lower entry fees (from £10 or ~$14), and a smaller top prize of £300 (~$410) and a feature in Amateur Photographer magazine. The photos, though, are still just as great. 

Two of a Kind

Title: The Kiss Angi Wallace

For this year’s CUPOTY Challenge, photographers were asked to submit “close-up, macro and micro pictures of two similar things—anything from a pair of animals to a duo of cells or flowers.”

Similar to the main competition, we like how a “close-up photo” is officially defined in the rules:

“Any image that shows the subject closer and in greater detail than would be seen with the naked eye is counted as a close-up photograph and can be entered in the competition. 

‘Close-up’ is the spirit of the competition, but not its definition. We aim to show small flora and fauna in the wider environment and slightly wider details of the landscape around us as well as scaling into macro, extreme macro and then to the microscopic.“ 

We felt it leaves the right amount of room for creativity, while not throwing open the door to any snapshot. 

The Challenge Winner

Title: True Love Alex Pansier

Dutch photographer Alex Pansier won the 2021 CUPOTY Challenge for his photo of a pair of European ground squirrels booping snoots in Vienna. I love this shot, and not just for the cute animals. The soft, gorgeous green tones throughout the image are relatively unusual and work really well here.

The Runners Up

Title: Mature Comatricha Barry Webb

British photographer Barry Webb took second place for his shot of a pair of slime molds. According to Webb, each mold is only 2mm (0.08”) tall, so it took a 56-shot focus stack to get them so sharp.

Title: Leaves of lace Julia Briggs

Julia Briggs, another British photographer, took third place for her B&W shot of two “leaf skeletons”. I really like how the leaves manage to be both patterns of abstract shapes, and instantly identifiable.

A few of our other favorites

There are 21 awesome photos included in the winner’s gallery. Here are a few more we particularly loved.

Title: Bee Together Joris-Vegter
Title: Eating Perch Luc Rooman
Title: Toad love Rob Blanken
Title: Blue Beauty Morning Roelof de Hoog

How to enter the next COPTY competition

The next Close-up Photographer of the Year competition opens for entries later this month. Keep an eye on the website for more details including the categories, entrance fees, prizes, and the exact closing date.