The Natural History Museum in London has announced French underwater photographer and biologist, Laurent Ballesta, as winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021.

Laurent Ballesta’s unique capture of a camouflage grouper fish spawning has won him the 2021 Grand Title. Laurent and his team spent thousands of hours planning and preparing for this underwater shoot. © Laurent Ballesta.

The winning image, titled ‘Creation’, captures the rare sight of camouflage groupers leaving a mating frenzy which occurs once a year under a full moon. It was taken in a lagoon in Fakarava, French Polynesia, which has drawn Laurent and his team during mating season for the past five years.

‘Dome home’, the winning image in the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year category. © Vidyun R Hebbar.

The Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 award was won by ten-year-old Vidyun R Hebbar, who lives in Bengaluru, India. Titled ‘ Dome home’ it captures a tent spider weaving its web, illuminated by a passing tuk-tuk. Tent spiders produce non-sticky webs and have adjusted their style accordingly. The centre is anchored upwards while the bottom is covered with another layer of web. Once an insect comes through, the spider quickly repairs the torn area to prevent the prey from escaping.

‘Elephant in the Room’, winner of the Photojournalism category. © Adam Oswell.

Australian photographer, Adam Oswell, won the Photojournalism category with his photograph of a group of visitors watching and taking photos as a young elephant performs tricks underwater at a zoo in Thailand. The image highlights the issues associated with this form of tourist entertainment. Shows like this one are often promoted as educational and advertised as good exercise for the animals, but rights organisations are concerned for the welfare of the elephants involved. The training for this type of show usually starts with the removal of a calf from its mother and uses fear and pain-based punishment.

A collection of the winning images in this year’s competition can be viewed here. An exhibition of 100 of the best images submitted opened at the Natural History Museum on 15 October. It will tour internationally to venues in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany and the US next year.