Extraordinary underwater scene wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021
Selected from more than 50,000 entries from 95 countries, the winners of the Natural History Museum’s
Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition were revealed today at an online awards ceremony.
French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta was announced as this year’s Wildlife
Photographer of the Year for his enigmatic image, Creation, that captures camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia. Every year, for five years, Laurent and his team returned to this lagoon, diving day and night so as not to miss the annual spawning that only takes place around the full moon in July. After dark, they were joined by hundreds of grey reef sharks, hunting the groupers in packs. Overfishing threatens this vulnerable species, but here the fish are protected within a special biosphere reserve.
Chair of the judging panel, writer and editor, Rosamund ‘Roz’ Kidman Cox OBE says: ‘The image works on so many levels. It is surprising, energetic, and intriguing and has an otherworldly beauty. It also captures a magical moment – a truly explosive creation of life – leaving the tail–end of the exodus of eggs hanging for a moment like a symbolic question mark.’
Dr Doug Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum says: ‘This year’s Grand Title winner reveals a hidden underwater world, a fleeting moment of fascinating animal behaviour that very few have witnessed. In what could be a pivotal year for the planet, with vital discussions taking place at COP15 and COP26, Laurent Ballesta’s Creation is a compelling reminder of what we stand to lose if we do not address humanity’s impact on our planet. The protection provided to this endangered species by the biosphere reserve highlights the positive difference we can make.’
Laurent Ballesta (France) peers into the depths as a trio of camouflage groupers exit their milky cloud of eggs and sperm. For five years Laurent and his team returned to this lagoon, diving day and night to see the annual spawning of camouflage groupers. They were joined after dark by reef sharks hunting the fish.
Spawning happens around the full moon in July, when up to 20,000 fish gather in Fakarava in a narrow southern channel linking the lagoon with the ocean.
Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021
Ten–year old Vidyun R Hebbar was awarded the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 for his
colourful image, Dome home, of a tent spider as a tuk–tuk passes by. Vidyun first featured in the competition when he was just eight years old and loves to photograph the often–overlooked creatures that live in the streets and parks near his home in the city of Bengaluru, India.
‘It’s such an imaginative way of photographing a spider. The picture is perfectly framed, the focus is spot on. You can see the spider’s fangs and the crazy weave of the trap, the threads like some delicate nerve network linked to the spider’s feet. But the really clever bit is the addition of a creative backdrop – the bright colours of a motorised rickshaw,’ says Rosamund ‘Roz’ Kidman Cox OBE.
Dr Natalie Cooper, a researcher with the Natural History Museum and jury member, says ‘The jury loved this photo from the beginning of the judging process. It is a great reminder to look more closely at the small animals we live with every day, and to take your camera with you everywhere. You never know where that award winning image is going to come from.’
The two Grand Title winners were selected from 19 category winners that celebrate the captivating beauty of our natural world with rich habitats, enthralling animal behaviour and extraordinary species. This year’s
competition saw three new categories added, including ‘Oceans – The Bigger Picture’ and ‘Wetlands – The
Bigger Picture’ to shine a spotlight on these crucial ecosystems. In an intensive process, each entry was
judged anonymously by a panel of experts for its originality, narrative, technical excellence and ethical
Displayed alongside insights from Natural History Museum scientists and experts, the 100 images will be
showcased in spectacular lightbox displays at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, opening on 15 October 2021, before touring across the UK and internationally to venues in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, USA and more.
Sunflower songbird by Andrés Luis Dominguez Blanco, Spain, Winner, 11-14 Years
Andrés Luis Dominguez Blanco (Spain) enjoys the splendour of the sunflowers and a melodious warbler singing its heart out.
As light faded at the end of a warm May afternoon, Andrés’s attention was drawn to a warbler flitting from flower to flower. From his hide in his father’s car, Andrés photographed the singer, ‘the king of its territory’.
Melodious warblers are one of more than 400 species of songbird known as Old World warblers, which each have a distinctive song. The song of a melodious warbler is a pleasant babbling and without the mimicked sounds that other warblers sometimes make.
High-flying jay by Lasse Kurkela, Finland, Winner, 15-17 Years
Lasse Kurkela (Finland) watches a Siberian jay fly to the top of a spruce tree to stash its food.
Lasse wanted to give a sense of scale in his photograph of the Siberian jay, tiny among the old-growth spruce-dominated forest. He used pieces of cheese to get the jays accustomed to his remotely controlled camera and to encourage them along a particular flight path.
Siberian jays use old trees as larders. Their sticky saliva helps them glue food such as seeds, berries, small rodents and insects high up in the holes and crevices of the bark and among hanging lichens.