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Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021

Laurent Ballesta named Photographer of the Year 2021. Music Press Asia

Categories: Underwater, and Overall Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Winner. Creation. © Laurent Ballesta (France)/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Music Press Asia selects three highlights from the winners of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021.

The Natural History Museum (NHM), London, has announced the winning images for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 competition. This year, the competition attracted over 50,000 entries from 95 countries.

Underwater, and Overall Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Creation, by Laurent Ballesta (France).

Ballesta is a French underwater photographer and biologist. Titled ‘Creation’, his winning image captured the camouflage groupers in French Polynesia leaving a milky cloud of their eggs and sperm – an event which Ballesta had photographed every year for the last five years. On the few nights that it occurs around the full moon in July.

Spawning happens around the full moon in July, when up to 20,000 fish gather in Fakarava. Overfishing threatens this species, but here the fish are protected within a biosphere reserve.

“The image works on so many levels. It is surprising, energetic, and intriguing and has an otherworldly beauty,” said Rosamund ‘Roz’ Kidman Cox OBE, chair of the judging panel, writer and editor.

“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.”

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,” said Dr Doug Gurr, director of the NHM.

[Above: Juergen Freund’s Mushroom Magic was Highly Commended in the 2021 Plants and Fungi category]

10 years and under
Dome home, by Vidyun R Hebbar (India)

The title of Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year was awarded to Vidyun R Hebbar for his ‘Dome home’ image of a tent spider.

Under the 10 years and under category, Hebbar from India wows the juries capturing a spider’s web in a gap in a wall. A passing tuk-tuk (motorised rickshaw) provided a backdrop of rainbow colours to set off the spider’s silk creation. This image was captured by a Nikon D5000 + 85mm f3.5 lens 1/250 sec at f5 ISO 200 Manfrotto tripod.

“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,” said Cox.

[Category: Photojournalism, Winner. Elephant in the room. © Adam Oswell (Australia)/Wildlife Photographer of the Year]

Photojournalism
Elephant in the room, by Adam Oswell (Australia)

Adam Oswell (Australia) captured an image of zoo visitors watching a young elephant perform underwater.

Although this performance was promoted as educational and as exercise for the elephants, Adam was disturbed by this scene. Animal welfare organisations are concerned over shows similar to this, which is seen as credulous exploitation because they spur unnatural practices.

Today, elephant tourism has played a large role across Asia. While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread, international tourism collapses leading to elephant sanctuaries becoming overwhelmed with the costs needed to care for these animals.


The winning images were revealed on 12 October 2021 in an online Awards show broadcast from the NHM and hosted by conservationists and presenters Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the NHM, London. The exhibition opens on Friday 15 October 2021 at the museum, before embarking on a UK and international tour.

The fifty-eighth Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition will open for entries on Monday 18 October 2021 and close at 11.30am GMT on Thursday 9 December 2021.

View more entries from 2021 here.

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