Have you ever marveled at the dynamic nature documentaries on your favorite nature channel, or wondered how nature photographers manage to capture such breathtaking photographs? Nature photography is a type of photography that encompasses the art of photographing some of nature’s best assets, and has been an ongoing practice that has provided us with some of the best views of Mother Earth. Only the best of the best nature photographers have been able to immortalize the beauty of the Earth and its wonderful elements, and these include icons such as Ansel Adams and Sebastião Salgado. In this article, we will introduce you to the top 10 most famous nature photographers, whose stunning works will completely inspire you and leave you ready to venture out into the wild!
- 1 An Introduction to Nature Photography
- 2 The Top 10 Most Famous Nature Photographers
- 2.1 William Henry Jackson (1843 – 1942)
- 2.2 Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984)
- 2.3 Philip Hyde (1921 – 2006)
- 2.4 Sebastião Salgado (1944 – Present)
- 2.5 Robert Glenn Ketchum (1947 – Present)
- 2.6 Joel Sartore (1962 – Present)
- 2.7 Joshua Cripps (1981 – Present)
- 2.8 Cath Simard (1989 – Present)
- 2.9 Marco Grassi (n.d. – Present)
- 2.10 Erin Babnik (n.d. – Present)
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
An Introduction to Nature Photography
What is nature photography? And when did it first emerge? Nature photography can be defined as a type of photography that focuses on capturing the elements of nature, including plants, wildlife, natural phenomena, and landscapes. Nature photography is aimed at highlighting the beauty of nature and is an art form in itself. Many nature photographers often employ narrative photographic styles that are aimed at telling engaging stories about the subjects or landscapes they photograph. In fine art and any other photographic-based practice, the artist has to consider a variety of technical details to ensure that they capture the desired story.
Panoramic view of a small city in a valley, identified as Zacatecas, Mexico (1880s) by William Henry Jackson; William Henry Jackson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Some of the best natural photography artists are not confined to the studio space and spend a great deal of time outdoors, experimenting and exploring the boundaries of the camera with the natural light. In nature, nothing is controlled by the human and as such, the artist behind the lens can only control their tools, presence, and timing when photographing natural subjects.
Nature Photography as a Fine Art Practice
You may find yourself wondering “how does nature photography fit into the fine art world? And what makes nature photography a fine art?”. Well, luckily for you, we have broken it down simply for you to understand! Nature photography is a specialist genre of photography that can be incorporated into your fine art practice by applying the same principles found in fine art photography. This includes photography elements such as lighting, composition, perspective, and other fine art points of analysis, which you can use to frame your image and develop your narrative on the natural elements. What distinguishes nature photography as fine art from simply documentary photography is that nature photography in fine arts aims to express a personal or deeper emotion in the image, whereas documentary photography aims to capture the natural world as it appears.
Nature photography as a fine art practice can involve the creation of compelling imagery and narratives that offer room for reflection on the environment or inspire the audience by highlighting the splendor of the outdoor world.
Nature photography as a fine art practice can also be identified by techniques such as long exposure, unusual new angles, or other post-processing and editing methods that differ from a documentary visual language. Artists who practice nature photography often produce photo books or series that promote environmental awareness or highlight existing issues related to climate change, conservation, and a connection to the natural world. Other popular themes and concepts found in many famous nature photographs include beauty, fragility, environmental awareness, human consumption, the effects of pollution, and many other relationships that artists identify with human impact on the natural world.
The Top 10 Most Famous Nature Photographers
Below, we will explore the top 10 best nature photographers of all time whose works will have you in awe of the natural world around us. Hopefully, this will inspire you to step outside and safely venture out to witness the beauty that is already present in the forests, parks, skies, and mountains around you!
Photographic portrait of nature photographer Ansel Adams (1950); J. Malcolm Greany, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
William Henry Jackson (1843 – 1942)
|Name||William Henry Jackson|
|Date of Birth||4 April 1843|
|Date of Death||30 June 1942|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Modern art, landscape photography, and nature photography|
|Famous Artworks||● Yellowstone Lake (1871)|
● The Henry Mountains (1872)
● The Tetons and the Snake River (1872)
● Mt. of the Holy Cross (1873)
● Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park (1898)
William Henry Jackson was among the most highly-acclaimed American nature photographers who was famous for his stunning landscape photographs of the American West and documentary images of Native American communities. Jackson was active throughout the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century and was introduced to photography in the 1860s. Many of his nature images feature snapshots of the Western landscape as well as the many wonderful geological formations, which contributed significantly to his widespread popularity and recognition. Jackson’s nature photographs also helped propel the establishment of the first National Parks while shaping the general perception of the American West.
Among Jackson’s most famous nature photographs include The Tetons and the Snake River (1872) and Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park (1898).
View of sandstone rock formations at Garden of the Gods, near Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado (1878) by William Henry Jackson; William Henry Jackson (published by W.H. Jackson & Co.), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984)
|Name||Ansel Easton Adams|
|Date of Birth||20 February 1902|
|Date of Death||22 April 1984|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Nature photography, landscape photography, environmental art, Modern art, and Contemporary art|
|Famous Artworks||● Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1941)|
● The Tetons and the Snake River (1942)
● Clearing Winter Storm (1944)
● Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake (1948)
● Aspens, Northern New Mexico (1958)
Ansel Adams was one of the most famous nature photographers of the 20th century who was celebrated along with other notable photographers of his time such as Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston. Adams’ contribution to nature photography is evident in his approach, which was inspired by his passion for environmental awareness and an active environmentalist who became one of the best nature photographers of all time. Adams’ introduction to photography began in the 1920s and his first subject was Yosemite Valley. This was where Adams’ first explored the potential of nature photography and later developed an interest in science and art, which resulted in many famous nature photographs such as Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1941) and Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake (1948). His style was aimed at clarity and grandiosity while artistically honing in on a diverse tonal range to truly bring out the beauty of nature.
Adams was also an environmental conservationist while serving as a member of the Sierra Club board. He also supported the idea that nature was to be protected for future generations to appreciate.
Grand Canyon National Park (1941) by Ansel Adams; Ansel Adams, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Philip Hyde (1921 – 2006)
|Date of Birth||1921|
|Date of Death||30 March 2006|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Modern art, nature photography, and Contemporary art|
|Famous Artworks||● Monolith, The Face of Half Dome (1960)|
● Aspens, Northern New Mexico (1967)
● Cloud and Clearing Storm, Canyon de Chelly (1972)
● Sunrise Reflection, Mono Lake (1984)
Philip Hyde was a popular American nature photographer who was best known for his captivating landscape photographs of the American West. Hyde was a pioneer of the Modern Environmental movement and his best nature photography not only documented the majesty of many iconic American landscapes but also highlighted the beauty of the 20th-century American West. Hyde’s work celebrates the beauty in acknowledging our connection to the natural environment and employs a detailed approach to capturing the richness of the landscape.
Among his best nature photographs and iconic landscapes are Monolith, The Face of Half Dome (1960), Aspens, Northern New Mexico (1967), and Sunrise Reflection, Mono Lake (1984).
Sebastião Salgado (1944 – Present)
|Name||Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado|
|Date of Birth||8 February 1944|
|Date of Death||Present|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Contemporary art, landscape photography, nature photography, photojournalism, wildlife photography, and documentary photography|
|Famous Artworks||● Untitled, Serra Pelada, Brazil (1990)|
● Antarctic Peninsula (2005)
● Anavilhanas National Park, State of Amazonas, Brazil (2009)
● Sea Lions at Puerto Egas in James Bay, The Galapagos from Genesis (2010)
● Rain pouring over the Amazon forest, Acre, Brazil (2016)
● Anavilhanas archipelago, Anavilhanas National Park, Lower Rio Negro. State of Amazonas, Brazil (2019)
Brazilian nature photographer and photojournalist Sebastião Salgado is one of the world’s best social documentary photographers who has captured the many magnificent wonders of the world across 120 countries. The nature photographer also focuses on capturing the human condition and is most famous for his contributions to documentary photography. His venture into nature photography can be seen in his many wildlife images that draw attention to the beauty of the natural environment through a timeless black-and-white approach and curated compositions that offer viewers a glimpse into the emotional side of nature photography.
Before his photography career took off in the 1970s, the Brazilian artist was trained as an economist and graduated from the University of Paris with a Ph.D. in economics.
In the 1980s, he joined Magnum, which is an international photography group established by other leading photography giants such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and David Seymour in the 1940s. Among his most famous documentary series are works such as L’homme en Détresse (1986) and Workers (1993). Salgado’s nature images demonstrate a variety in tonal quality and value and an emphasis on powerful cloud formations and ragged mountains. In photographing natural elements this way, he highlights the unknown power of the elements, which are as old as time itself. A few famous nature photographs by Salgado include Antarctic Peninsula (2005) and Brooks Range, Alaska (2009) from his series Genesis.
Robert Glenn Ketchum (1947 – Present)
|Name||Robert Glenn Ketchum|
|Date of Birth||1 December 1947|
|Date of Death||Present|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Nature photography, Contemporary art, Modern art, and landscape photography|
|Famous Artworks||● Tongass Rainforest (c. 1986)|
● Dead-Calm Sunset Before the Storm, Larsen Sound (1994)
● Ilium Arm of Naknek Lake, Katmai (1998)
● Full Moon Rising, Kanektok (1999)
One will not encounter a nature photographer as inspiring as Robert Glenn Ketchum. Robert Glenn Ketchum is one of the best nature photographers of the Contemporary era whose nature photographs will leave you breathless. His commitment to conservation has established him as one of the most loved figures in nature photography. Ketchum’s career in nature photography spans several decades and features many magnificent landscapes and majestic deserts that have been exhibited in museums around the world.
Among his best nature photographs include scenes and landscapes from the Grand Canyon, the Gates of the Arctic National Park, the Tongass National Forest, Cape Breton Island, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Joel Sartore (1962 – Present)
|Date of Birth||16 June 1962|
|Date of Death||Present|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Contemporary art, landscape photography, aerial, and nature photography|
|Famous Artworks||● Giant Clam (2003)|
● Harpy Eagle (2006)
● Bison in Snowstorm (2008)
● Polar Bear with Cubs (2011)
● Orangutan with Blanket (2013)
National Geographic nature photographer and Photo Ark founder Joel Sartore is one of the world’s best nature photographers who is currently based in Nebraska. Sartore is known for his many documentative and stunning photographs of wildlife, which have been published for over three decades in National Geographic and is quite the achievement for any talented nature photographer. Sartore’s approach to nature photography is informed by his advocacy and passion for environmental conservation, which inspires many others to care a little deeper about the natural world around us. His ability to craft compelling emotive visual narratives is unparalleled and truly inspires a sense of awe that captivates and enthralls viewers.
Today, the artist has over 1.1 million followers on social media, all of whom applaud his talent for aerial photography and bringing light to conservationist stories.
Fisheries technician uses radio antenna to track tagged bull trout (2013) photographed by Joel Sartore; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Joshua Cripps (1981 – Present)
|Date of Birth||1981|
|Date of Death||Present|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Contemporary art, wilderness landscape photography, and nature photography|
|Famous Artworks||● Breathless (2011)|
● Wanaka Dreaming (2012)
● Cooling Down (2014)
● Chalice (2017)
● Electric (2018)
● Ring of Fire (2019)
Wilderness nature photographer Joshua Cripps is one of the most talented Contemporary fine art nature photographers of the 21st century whose works have been reposted by many leading media outlets, including My Modern Met, Nikon USA, and NASA Astronomy Photo of the Day. The globally-renowned artist has also been featured in many nature publications and magazines, including Outdoor Photographer Magazine, Take Your Best Shot, and Landscape Photography Magazine, and has served as a public speaker and presenter at numerous photography conferences. Cripps began his photography journey after releasing himself from an engineering career to pursue travel and nature photography. Cripps is motivated by his love for nature and exercises his platform and public persona to advocate for nature’s conservation and protection while highlighting its beauty by capturing unique views on his travel journeys.
Among the photographer’s most loved sites to work with include the Sierra Nevada, South Island, New Zealand, and the Gardiner Basin.
Cath Simard (1989 – Present)
|Date of Birth||1989|
|Date of Death||Present|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Contemporary art, nature photography, NFT art, and landscape photography|
|Medium||Photography and digital art|
|Famous Artworks||● Continuum (2018)|
● Les parts du Soi (2019)
● Blue Patagonia (2022)
Canadian nature photographer Cath Simard is renowned for her ability to capture the essence of nature through her digital photography. Her work is widely regarded as some of the best natural photography in the world of NFT art inspired by nature’s monuments and the mountains. Simard’s creative process involves significant physical labor as she hikes for up to 18 days in mountainous landscapes reaching heights of up to 5,900 meters. Her process is lengthy, however, her resulting artwork, which amounts to five to seven images per year, is incredibly stunning and well worth the wait! Simard has photographed the natural landscapes of many serene and meditative environments, including the Canadian Rockies, Quebec, Nepal, and Iceland.
Among her many stunning visuals of nature, include photographs and digital artwork such as Continuum (2018) and Blue Patagonia (2022).
Marco Grassi (n.d. – Present)
|Date of Birth||Unavailable|
|Date of Death||Present|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Contemporary art, landscape photography, nature photography, aerial photography, travel photography, and NFT art|
|Medium||Photography and digital art|
|Famous Artworks||● Present (2018)|
● Midgard (2019)
● Lenticular Roy (2019)
● Mountain Road, Dolomites (n.d.)
● Heaven’s Door, Lofoten (n.d.)
Award-winning Italian nature photographer Marco Grassi is among the globally-celebrated nature photographers who specialize in digital art, as well as landscape and travel photography. Grassi’s photography style focuses on amplifying the mightiness of the natural world and often features remote landscapes and destinations with vast open spaces that not many have the opportunity to see and appreciate. Among the many leading media outlets and publications that have published his works include GEO Magazine, National Geographic, and CNN. Grassi’s artistic approach to capturing cascading waterfalls and serene monumental natural elements can also be appreciated for its cinematic qualities, which introduce one to scenes that would not otherwise be widely publicized in mainstream media.
Many of his famous nature photographs are also presented with a sense of atmospheric drama and adventure as seen in his use of vignettes to draw out the smoky hues of mountainous landscapes.
Erin Babnik (n.d. – Present)
|Date of Birth||n.d.|
|Date of Death||Present|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Contemporary art, landscape photography, nature photography, compositional, travel photography, experimental, and art history education|
|Medium||Photography, writing, and public speaking|
|Famous Artworks||● Pearly Gates (2014)|
● Rarefied Air (2017)
● Ripple (2018)
● High Sodium (2018)
● Pillow Talk (2022)
Motivated by her passion for art education, philosophy, and fine art nature photography, globally-renowned photographic artist Erin Babnik is one of the best nature photographers of the decade! Babnik’s photographic style expresses a fusion of dream-like reflective insight observation of nature’s most precious elements featuring vast open stretches of rocky terrain and Surreal landscapes that transport one into nature’s paradise. Babnik is also a public speaker, writer, and educator who grew attached to nature photography while evolving her educational style and approach to enhancing her knowledge and practice as an educator, rooted in art history. She has also worked with both film and digital media and featured in many insightful photography workshops while building her archive of educational imagery. Babnik is also a member of the nature photography groups Canon Explorers of Light and Photo Cascadia.
The way that fine art photographers have captured the beauty of nature is remarkable and truly a moving practice that not only inspires one to admire and protect nature, but to also document its complexity through nature photography. The best natural photography can help transport us to remote landscapes that leave us with a sense of gratitude for all that the planet has to offer. Remember, beauty is also in the eye of the beholder, so, why not be inspired by the natural elements to pick up your camera and be guided by the power of nature photography?
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Nature Photography?
Nature photography can be defined as a category of photography used in fine art that aims to promote the beauty of the natural world and includes images of landscapes, animals, vegetation, and other natural phenomena such as weather events or cloud formations. Nature photography is practiced using a variety of filters, presets, or manual techniques to create visually striking and educational imagery. Used in a fine art context, nature photography can allude to themes such as beauty, fragility, environmental protection, conservation, an appreciation of natural phenomena, and environmental activism.
Who Are the Most Well-Known Nature Photographers?
The most well-known nature photographers include figures such as Ansel Adams, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde, Anna Atkins, Galen Rowell, Chris Burkard, and Joel Sartore, among many other prolific nature photographers.
Who Is the Most Famous Nature Photographer?
The most famous nature photographer is considered to be Ansel Adams. Adams was a leading figure in photography as a fine art practice, as well as a strong advocate for environmental conservation. He was most famous for his black-and-white nature landscapes of the American West, which went on to become defining images of the landscape. He is also credited with developing the zone system, which is an important photographic technique designed to achieve a specific contrast and exposure in an image. Together with his photography, he leveraged his art to support the protection of the environment and raise awareness about the need to conserve it.
Jordan Anthony is a Cape Town-based film photographer, curator, and arts writer. She holds a Bachelor of Art in Fine Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where she explored themes like healing, identity, dreams, and intuitive creation in her Contemporary art practice. Jordan has collaborated with various local art institutions, including the KZNSA Gallery in Durban, the Turbine Art Fair, and the Wits Art Museum. Her photography focuses on abstract color manipulations, portraiture, candid shots, and urban landscapes. She’s intrigued by philosophy, memory, and esotericism, drawing inspiration from Surrealism, Fluxus, and ancient civilizations, as well as childhood influences and found objects. Jordan is working for artfilemagazine since 2022 and writes blog posts about art history and photography.
Cite this Article
Jordan, Anthony, “Famous Nature Photographers – The Best Nature Photographs.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. April 28, 2023. URL: https://artfilemagazine.com/famous-nature-photographers/
Anthony, J. (2023, 28 April). Famous Nature Photographers – The Best Nature Photographs. artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. https://artfilemagazine.com/famous-nature-photographers/