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Explosion creation: Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 won by shot of fish mating frenzy

Laurent Ballesta's winning image, Creation, captures the rare sight of camouflage groupers leaving a mating frenzy which occurs once a year under a full moon (Image credit: Laurent Ballesta / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Now in its 57th cycle, Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the world's ultimate competition for showcasing the magic, wonder and also weirdness of nature.

Selected from more than 50,000 entries from 95 countries, the winners of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition have now been revealed in an online awards ceremony.

This year, the contest was won by French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta. His winning image, titled Creation, captures the rare sight of camouflage groupers leaving a mating frenzy. Laurent and his team spent thousands of hours planning and preparing for this underwater shoot, as the mating season is fleeting, lasting only one hour under a full moon and with a waning tide.

"The image works on so many levels: it is surprising, energetic and intriguing, and has an otherworldly beauty," says Rosamund Kidman Cox, editor and Chair of the Jury. "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."

Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year winner

Dome home by Vidyun R Hebbar, India Exploring his local theme park, Vidyun found an occupied 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. (Image credit: Vidyun R Hebbar / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Vidyun R Hebbar won the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 award, with his image of a tent spider weaving its web, illuminated by a passing tuk-tuk. 

Vidyan lives in Bengaluru, India, and enjoys capturing everyday city creatures that are often overlooked. He first entered the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition two years ago and earned a Highly Commended title.

Other category winners

Reflection by Majed Ali, Kuwait Winner, Animal Portraits (Image credit: Majed Ali / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Bedazzled by Alex Mustard, UK Winner, Natural Artistry (Image credit: Alex Mustard / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

High-flying jay by Lasse Kurkela, Finland Winner, 15-17 Years (Image credit: Lasse Kurkela / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

The intimate touch by Shane Kalyn, Canada Winner, Behaviour: Birds (Image credit: Shane Kalyn / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Grizzly leftovers by Zack Clothier, USA Winner, Animals in their Environment (Image credit: Zack Clothier / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Head to head by Stefano Unterthiner, Italy Winner, Behaviour: Mammals (Image credit: Stefano Unterthiner / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Rich reflections by Justin Gilligan, Australia Winner, Plants and Fungi (Image credit: Justin Gilligan / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

See the exhibition and enter the next competition

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. The 100 shortlisted images will be showcased in the usual stunning lightbox displays at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

The exhibition opens on 15 October 2021, and advance booking is highly recommended to secure a ticket. Wildlife Photographer of the Year will also tour across the UK and internationally to venues in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, USA.

The next Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition opens for entries from photographers of all ages, nationalities, and levels on Monday 18 October 2021.

The closing date is 9 December 2021, and an entry fee waiver has been introduced for photographers entering the adult competition who live in 50 nominated countries. Entrants aged 17 and under can enter up to 10 free images.

Find out how to enter here: www.nhm.ac.uk/wpy/competition 

Lauren Scott

Lauren is the editor of Digital Photographer magazine, a practical-focused publication that inspires hobbyists and seasoned pros alike to take truly phenomenal shots and get the best results from their kit. 


An experienced photography journalist who has been covering the industry for over seven years, she has served as technique editor for both PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine

PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and DCW's sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine


In addition to techniques and tutorials that enable you to achieve great results from your cameras, lenses, tripods and other photography equipment, Lauren can regularly be found interviewing some of the biggest names in the industry, sharing tips and guides on subjects like landscape and wildlife photography, and raising awareness for subjects such as mental health and women in photography.