The winners of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition have been revealed, selected from more than 50,000 entries from 95 countries, and with the Australians among them.
French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta was named the Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his image, Creation, capturing camouflage groups leaving their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia.
Every year for five years, Laurent and his team returned to this lagoon and dived day and night so as not to miss the annual spawning, which only takes place around the full moon in July.
After dark, they were accompanied by hundreds of gray reef sharks chasing the groups in droves.
Chairman of the judging panel, author and editor Rosamund Kidman Cox, said: “The image works on so many levels. It is surprising, energetic and exciting and has a beauty in another world.
“It also captures a magical moment — a truly explosive creation of life — and leaves the end of the migration of eggs hanging for a moment as a symbolic question mark.”
Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, said: “This year’s grand winner reveals a hidden underwater world, a fleeting moment of fascinating animal behavior that very few have witnessed.
“In what may be a crucial year for the planet, where vital discussions take place at COP15 and COP26, Laurent Ballesta’s creation is a compelling reminder of what we will lose if we do not address the influence of humanity on our planet. .
“The protection that the biosphere reserve provides to this endangered species highlights the positive difference we can make.”
Colorful Web Collects Award for Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Vidyun R Hebbar, 10, received the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 award for his colorful image, Dome home, showing a tent spider as a tuk-tuk passes by.
Vidyunfirst appeared in the competition when he was just eight years old and loves to photograph the often overlooked creatures living on streets and parks near his home in the city of Bengaluru, India.
“It’s such an imaginative way to photograph a spider,” Kidman Cox said.
“The picture is perfectly framed, the focus is top notch. You can see the spider’s fangs and the trap’s crazy weaving, the threads like a delicate nerve network attached to the spider’s feet.
“But the really cool bit is the addition of a creative backdrop – the bright colors of a motorized rickshaw.”
Natalie Cooper, researcher at the Natural History Museum and jury member, said: “The jury loved this photo from the beginning of the judging process.
“It’s a good reminder to take a closer look at the little animals we live with every day and to take your camera with you everywhere,” she said. “You never know where the award-winning image is coming from.”
Australians claim prizes
The two big title winners were selected from 19 category winners, with the Australians claiming prizes in two of them: Justin Gilligan in Plants and Fungi and Adam Oswell in Photojournalism.
A number of Australians were highly praised for their contributions.
Discussing Oswell’s winning image, photographer and jury member of the competition, Staffan Widstrand, said it was an “image that asks existential questions. Is it fun? Is this an attraction? Should we bring our children to such places?”
Photographer and competition jury member Britta Jaschinski described Gilligan’s photo as “a beautiful window into one of the planet’s most important ecosystems. A wonderful composition and a new approach to drawing attention to what we need to protect.”
In this year’s competition, three new categories were added, including Oceans – The Bigger Picture and Wetlands – The Bigger Picture, to focus on the crucial ecosystems.
In an intensive process, each post was judged anonymously by an expert panel for its originality, narrative, technical expertise and ethical practices.
The 100 images will be displayed along with insights from natural history museum researchers and experts and will be displayed in lightbox exhibitions at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, opening on 15 October 2021, before touring the UK and internationally to venues in Australia , Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany and the United States.
The 58th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition opens for entries from photographers of all ages, nationalities and levels on Monday 18 October.
This year’s wildlife photographer is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.