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We're not lion: The 2022 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are a good laugh

Jennifer Hadley's overall winning photo of a 3-month-old cub tumbling out of a tree.
Jennifer Hadley
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Jennifer Hadley's overall winning photo of a 3-month-old cub tumbling out of a tree.

From a salmon punching a bear in the face to a penguin that seems to have no head, the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards announced its winners this year.

The organization fields thousands of submissions for each of its photo categories: creatures of the land, creatures of the air, creatures of the sea, a junior award for photographers 18 years old or under, an internet portfolio award, and a people's choice award.

Jennifer Hadley, a photographer who grew up in Virginia, claimed the top prize as the overall winner for her January 2021 photo of a 3-month-old lion cub tumbling out of a tree in the Serengeti region of Tanzania.

"It was definitely unexpected," Hadley told NPR. "How often do you see cats falling out of trees?"

Though shots like these are often unpredictable, she said photographers prepare themselves for the unexpected.

"What you can anticipate is potentially something happening so you want to position yourself in the way you think that animals will move, where the light is, how that's going to affect the speed of your camera," Hadley said.

Hadley will receive a handmade trophy from the Wonder Workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, two photography bags, and a one-week safari in Kenya. There, she hopes to potentially capture the great migration, when millions of zebras, wildebeests and gazelles roam across the Serengeti during the dry season in search of fresh grass and water.

Despite taking home the top prize, Hadley had only recently begun to pursue photography full time. She left her corporate job in 2021 to pursue wildlife photography. She called it a leap of faith.

"It was a little bit scary, because I had a good job, well paid, and it's what I've done my whole career. So to make that leap and go into the unknown and try something completely different, that I didn't know if I could really do on a professional level or not, was nerve-wracking," she said. "But I just thought, if not now, when?"

John Chaney, a businessman and photographer of over 50 years, was one of the 10 "highly commended winners," recognized for his August 2021 photo of a salmon seemingly punching a bear in the face at the foot of Alaska's Brooks Falls.

John Chaney's photo of a salmon appearing to punch a bear in the face at Alaska's Brooks Falls.
John Chaney / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
John Chaney's photo of a salmon appearing to punch a bear in the face at Alaska's Brooks Falls.

From late June to September, mature salmon make an arduous upriver journey from the ocean to the gravel beds of their birth to spawn every two to three years. The National Park Service estimates 200,000 to 400,000 salmon successfully leap the waterfalls each year.

Chaney said bears planted themselves at the top and bottom of Brooks Falls to feed on the flapping salmon.

"Wherever wildlife is happening, you try to stake out a good spot and you just take pictures for hours trying to get the best image, whether it's a unique facial expression or an animal doing something unique to make the picture special," he told NPR.

Chaney said he does not have any tips or tricks to taking a comedic shot.

"It's just luck," he said.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jean Jacques Alcalay's photo of a hippo yawning next to a heron. The photo won the Spectrum Photo Creatures in the Air Award.
Jean Jacques Alcalay / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Jean Jacques Alcalay's photo of a hippo yawning next to a heron. The photo won the Spectrum Photo Creatures in the Air Award.
Arturo Telle Thiemann's photo of a couple triggerfish looking into the camera. The photo won the Creatures Under the Sea Award.
Arturo Telle Thiemann / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Arturo Telle Thiemann's photo of a couple triggerfish looking into the camera. The photo won the Creatures Under the Sea Award.
Jennifer Hadley's photo of two penguins on the Falkland Islands. The photo won the Affinity Photo 2 People's Choice Award.
Jennifer Hadley / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Jennifer Hadley's photo of two penguins on the Falkland Islands. The photo won the Affinity Photo 2 People's Choice Award.
Arshdeep Singh's photo of an owlet in a pipe in Bikaner, India. The photo won the Junior Award.
Arshdeep Singh / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Arshdeep Singh's photo of an owlet in a pipe in Bikaner, India. The photo won the Junior Award.
Michael Eastwell's photo of two wallabies playing on the beach in Australia's Cape Hillsborough.
Michael Eastwell / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Michael Eastwell's photo of two wallabies playing on the beach in Australia's Cape Hillsborough.
Miroslav Srb.'s photo of a raccoon seemingly thanking Srb. for feeding him shrimp on a Florida beach.
Miroslav Srb. / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Miroslav Srb.'s photo of a raccoon seemingly thanking Srb. for feeding him shrimp on a Florida beach.
Federica Vinci's photo of two monkeys near a Cambodian temple.
Federica Vinci / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Federica Vinci's photo of two monkeys near a Cambodian temple.
Jagdeep Rajput's photo of an Indian sarus crane attacking a blue bull from behind.
Jagdeep Rajput / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Jagdeep Rajput's photo of an Indian sarus crane attacking a blue bull from behind.
Emmanuel Do Linh San's photo of two meerkats on the Kalahari Trails game reserve in South Africa.
Emmanuel Do Linh San / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Emmanuel Do Linh San's photo of two meerkats on the Kalahari Trails game reserve in South Africa.
Ryan Sims' photo of a duckling waddling across a turtle-covered log at the Juanita wetlands in Washington state.
Ryan Sims / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Ryan Sims' photo of a duckling waddling across a turtle-covered log at the Juanita wetlands in Washington state.
Alex Pansier's photo of a red squirrel jumping in a rainstorm.
Alex Pansier / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Alex Pansier's photo of a red squirrel jumping in a rainstorm.
Mark Schocken's photo of two Eastern screech owls squeezed into a nest hole in Florida.
Mark Schocken / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Mark Schocken's photo of two Eastern screech owls squeezed into a nest hole in Florida.
Martin Grace's photo of two king penguins at Volunteer Point in the Falkland Islands.
Martin Grace / Comedy Wildlife 2022
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Comedy Wildlife 2022
Martin Grace's photo of two king penguins at Volunteer Point in the Falkland Islands.

Ashley Ahn
Ashley Ahn is an intern for the Digital News and Graphics desks. She previously covered the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for CNN's health and medical unit and the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's killers for CNN's Atlanta News Bureau. She also wrote pieces for USA TODAY and served as the Executive Editor of her college's student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. Recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Ahn is pursuing a master's degree in computer science at Columbia University.