WPY 2017

Photograph Details

Finalist 2017

Behaviour: Mammals

Laurent Ballesta, France

Swim gym

‘We were still a few metres from the surface, when I heard strange noises,’ explains Laurent. Curious, he approached slowly and was rewarded with the glorious sight of two Weddell seals – a mother and her newborn pup. ‘They looked so at ease, where I felt so inappropriate.’

Weddell seals give birth on ice and take their offspring for their first frosty swim a few weeks later. Eventually, the pups will grow up to be accomplished divers with excellent underwater vision. After familiarising themselves with their watery surroundings, adult seals can reach depths of 600 metres, staying submerged for up to 80 minutes.

Technical specification

Nikon D4S; 17–35mm f2.8 lens; 1/640 sec at f11; ISO 200; Seacam housing.


Îlot de la Dent, Terre Adélie, Antarctica: latitude -66.66623, longitude 140.00162 Îlot de la Dent, Terre Adélie, Antarctica: latitude -66.66623, longitude 140.00162

Îlot de la Dent, Terre Adélie, Antarctica

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Laurent Ballesta

Laurent Ballesta, France

Coming from the coastal region of Montpellier in France, Laurent discovered the sea at an early age. While studying benthic ecology at university he discovered a new species of fish in the Mediterranean. He has published portfolios in many international magazines and appears on French television as a scientific advisor in marine environment for the show Ushuaïa Nature.

  • The ice monster