Skyscapes act to remind of us of our connection to space: our world is just a tiny speck within the vast and growing expanse of the universe.
From flat horizons created by fields and oceans to curved dunes and jagged mountains, the Earth has a selection of stunning compositions to frame the night sky. But we have mirrored nature’s innate charm and elegance with some of our own engineering feats, such as modern skyscrapers and historic castles, which equally serve to enhance the beauty of the sky captured behind them.
With the universal expanse above us and a plethora of landscapes, both natural and artificial, to pick from, the shortlisted entrants have risen to the challenge of taking their blank canvas and transforming it into a masterpiece.
Find out more about the winning images and explore the full shortlist below.
The winning image
Luna Dunes by Jeffrey Lovelace
Image taken in Death Valley National Park, California, USA
A floating crescent Moon, flowing sand dunes, an empty wilderness – looking at Jeffrey's image, it's easy to forget the effort that must have gone into capturing this serene skyscape.
"I hiked deep into the dunes and eventually found the foreground I had imagined for this shot," he says. "As I set up my gear, the red of the sunset faded into the blue twilight. Once everything was assembled, I looked up and there hung a shining sliver of a crescent moon outlining its dark but visible face. After a long moment of appreciation, I got busy shooting."
Equipment used: Sony ILCE-7RM4 camera; Sand and sky: 70 mm f/8 lens, ISO 400, Sand: 30-second exposure, Sky: 1-second exposure; Moon: 200 mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 100, Moon face: 2.5-second exposure, Moon edge: 1/100-second exposure
This image was one of my favourites this year. It is beautifully composed with the subtle textures in the sand and sky complementing the crescent well. I loved the colours too – navy blue and gold – giving this picture a regal touchImad Ahmed, competition judge
Moon over Mount Etna South-East Crater by Dario Giannobile
Image taken in Milo, Sicily, Italy
"In February 2021, Etna showed intense volcanic activity spewing ash columns and lava fountains more than 500 metres high. These were mostly located near the new south-east crater which poured numerous lava flows into the Bove Valley," Dario recalls.
"They were short in duration but accompanied by intense activity that fractured the structure of the crater from which the flows poured. On 25 February, Mount Etna again showed intense activity and I placed myself at the Piano Bello refuge, calculating the exact position so that the Moon would set near the crater, aligning itself just above."
Equipment used: Canon EOS 6D camera, Sigma 150–600 mm lens at 347 mm f/5.6; Foreground: ISO 800, 5-second exposure; Moon: ISO 100, 1/125-second exposure
Artists have long-attempted to emphasise the power of the Earth and our fragility in the face of its might. This image, with its striking capture of extremes, does so with great skillSue Prichard, competition judge
Watch the epic story behind Dario Giannobile's photograph of the Moon over an erupting Mount Etna.
Van Gogh's Sketchpad by Jin Yang
Image taken in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China
"At the beginning of 2021, a cluster of charming and beautiful iridescent clouds occasionally appeared at Lugu Lake in Yunnan Province, China," Jin remembers.
"This incredible phenomenon lasted for ten days in total and promised good luck for the New Year in Chinese folklore. If Van Gogh saw this beautiful scenery, he would certainly marvel at the extraordinary craftsmanship of nature saying how fantastic it is."
Equipment used: Canon 6D2 camera, Sigma 546 mm f/8 lens, ISO 100, 1/640-second exposure
If you didn't know it, you'd likely wonder what this is and probably wouldn't guess it's a cloudy sky. But these aren't ordinary clouds and their colours are not easy to reproduce in such a stunning, understated yet vibrant fashionSteve Marsh, competition judge
See the full shortlist
Explore all the photographs in the Skyscapes category
By Stefan Liebermann
Image location: Valensole, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
Equipment used: Sony ILCE-7M3 camera, Fornax Mounts LighTrack II mount, 16 mm f/2.8 lens; Foreground: ISO 2500, 15 x 0.8-second exposures; Sky: ISO 2000, 5 x 120-second exposures
By Marcin Zajac
Image location: Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area, New Mexico, USA
Equipment used: Nikon D600 camera; Foreground: 15 mm f/11 lens, ISO 100, 30-second exposure; Sky: 24 mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 4 x 2-minute exposures
By Ivan Vucetic
Image location: Mala Rava, Rava, Croatia
Equipment used: Nikon D600 camera, 20 mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 1600; Foreground: 526-second exposure; Sky: 247 x 25-seconds
By Anthony Sullivan
Image location: West Lulworth, Dorset, UK
Equipment used: Canon 6D camera; Foreground: 20 mm f/8 lens, ISO 100, 244-second exposure; Sky: 20 mm f/4 lens, ISO 1600, 4 x 240-second exposures
By Wenhan Hong
Image location: Gongga Mountain, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, China
Equipment used: Pentax K1 camera, 35 mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 2 x 247-second exposures
By Fei Xue
Image location: Dunhuang, Gansu Province, China
Equipment used: Canon EOS R5 camera, 14 mm f/1.8 lens, ISO 4000, 20-second exposure
By Pauline Woolley
Image location: Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, UK
Equipment used: Celestron 5SE telescope, Computerized Altitude-Azimuth Single Fork Arm mount, Canon 600D camera, 1250 mm f/10 Schmidt-Cassegrain lens with Baader Astro filter, ISO 100, 1/640-second exposure, Kodak APM folding camera, f/22, ISO 3, 6-hour exposure
By Masoud Ghadiri
Image location: Mount Damavand, Mazandaran, Iran
Equipment used: Nikon D850 camera, Vixen Polarie mount, 24 mm f/4 lens, ISO 6400, 10 x 30-second exposures
By Wang Zheng
Image location: Minqin County, Wuwei City, China
Equipment used: Canon EOS 6D Mark II camera, 14 mm f/1.8 lens, ISO 5000, 8-second exposure
By Evan McKay
Image location: Tongapōrutu, Taranaki, New Zealand
Equipment used: Nikon D750 camera, 40 mm f/1.4 lens at f/2, ISO 3200; Panorama: 40 x 120-second exposures; Sky: 6 x 8-second exposures
By Daning Kai
Image location: Shanghai, East China
Equipment used: Sony ILCE-7RM3 camera, 16 mm f/5.6 lens, ISO 100, 305 x 15-second exposures
By Matt Naylor
Image location: Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, UK
Equipment used: Canon EOS 90D camera, Canon EF 100–400 mm lens at 286 mm f/14, ISO 100, 1/15-second exposure
By Dong Han
Image location: Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, Germany
Equipment used: Sony ILCE-7M2 camera, 119 mm f/7.1 lens, ISO 500, 6-second exposure
By Benjamin Barakat
Image location: Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France
Equipment used: Sigma Art 40 mm telescope, iOptron SkyTracker Pro mount, Canon 6D Baader modified camera. Foreground: 40 mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 4 x 30-second exposures. Sky: 40 mm f/2 lens, ISO 1600, 8 x 30-second exposures
By Dong Han
Image location: Noir Flohay, Mont Rigi, Belgium
Equipment used: Sony ILCE-7M2 camera, 14 mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 8000, 8 x 10-second exposures