Surreal jellyfish shot wins European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021

european wildlife photographer of the year
(Image credit: Angel Fitor - European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021)

One of the most prestigious wildlife photography competitions has just released its 2021 winners. The European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, hosted by the Germany Society for Nature Photography, received more than 19,000 entries from 36 countries – but the overall winning image was captured by Spanish photographer, photojournalist and author, Angel Fitor. 

Separated into ten categories, the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year celebrates the work of photographers who capture anything from sealife to birds, mammals and the relationship between man and nature. There is also a category for aspiring young photographers aged 14 years and another for those ages 15-17. 

• Read more: Best cameras for wildlife photography

The winning image, Medusa ballet, shows jellyfish in the Spanish lagoon of Mar Menor – Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon, shortly before the area was hit by a massive fish shortage. 

"The powerful image spoke strongly to us jury members on many levels and after the ecological catastrophe that occurred only a short time later at the place where it was taken," remarked Jim Brandenburg, a famous nature photographer and member of the judging team. "It also speaks about the massive environmental problems in the region."

Other standout images included a badger poking his head out of the bonnet of a rusty car from the Man and Nature category, an aerial view of autumnal colored fungi by Luigi Ruoppolo from the Plants and Fungi category, and a picture of a Siberian jay in the flying over a snowy forest shot from underneath it by Young Photographer, Lasse Kurkela.

Forest of the Siberian jay - Young Photographers 15 - 17 years (Image credit: Lasse Kurkela - European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021)

Since the competition started in 2001, it has drawn attention from photographers and nature fanatics all over the world. The jury is made up of top-class photographers as well as wildlife professionals who are experts in their field. All photos entered into the competition can't have been digitally manipulated and the jury use sophisticated systems to ensure that the reputation of the competition remains intact.

As well as recognizing the work of established photographers, the German Society for Nature Photography also encourages young, amateur and novice photographers to take part. It’s as much about uncovering undiscovered talents as it is celebrating the work of seasoned professionals.

Due to the current pandemic, this year’s award ceremony took place virtually on the German Society for Nature Photography social media channels on 28 October. The competition is supported by sponsors from some of the biggest photography brands including Canon, Nikon, Sigma and OM System (Olympus).

Cash prizes of €800 / £675 / $926 and €500 / £422 / $578 euros were awarded to all first and second place winners of each category while the overall winner received a grand total of €3000 / £2532 / $3468. An exhibition of all the winning photos will be held at the German House Museum in Verden near Bremen starting on 07 December.

To see a selection of our favorite images from this year 89 winning photo, scroll below. 

An Arctic dream - Mammals (Image credit: Marco Gaiotti - European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021)

Playing in a vintage car - Men and Nature (Image credit: Nicolas de Vaulx - European Photographer of the Year 2021)

Winter is close - Plants and Fungi (Image credit: Luigi Ruoppolo - European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021)

Aldabra - Other Animals (Image credit: Martin Van Lovken - European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021)

Arctic fox in a swarm of mosquitos - Mammals (Image credit: Arnfinn Johansen - European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021)

Summer - Landscapes (Image credit: Andrei Reinol Sommer - European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021)

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.