© Laurent Ballesta, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021

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Explosive creation: extraordinary underwater scene wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021

Selected from more than 50,000 entries from 95 countries, the winners of the Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition were revealed today at an online awards ceremony.

French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta was announced as this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his enigmatic image, Creation, that captures camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia. Every year, for five years, Laurent and his team returned to this lagoon, diving day and night so as not to miss the annual spawning that only takes place around the full moon in July. After dark, they were joined by hundreds of grey reef sharks, hunting the groupers in packs. Overfishing threatens this vulnerable species, but here the fish are protected within a special biosphere reserve.

Chair of the judging panel, writer and editor, Rosamund 'Roz' Kidman Cox OBE says, 'The image works on so many levels. It is surprising, energetic, and intriguing and has an otherworldly beauty. 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.'

Dr Doug Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum says,'This year’s Grand Title winner reveals a hidden underwater world, a fleeting moment of fascinating animal behaviour that very few have witnessed. 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. The protection provided to this endangered species by the biosphere reserve highlights the positive difference we can make.'

© Laurent Ballesta, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021

Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021

Ten-year old Vidyun R Hebbar was awarded the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 for his colourful image, Dome home, of a tent spider as a tuk-tuk passes by. Vidyun first featured in the competition when he was just eight years old and loves to photograph the often-over looked creatures that live in the streets and parks near his home in the city of Bengaluru, India.

'It's such an imaginative way of photographing a spider. The picture is perfectly framed, the focus is spot on. 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,' says Rosamund 'Roz' Kidman Cox OBE.

Dr Natalie Cooper, a researcher with the Natural History Museum and jury member, says 'The jury loved this photo from the beginning of the judging process. It is a great reminder to look more closely at the small animals we live with every day, and to take your camera with you everywhere. You never know where that award winning image is going to come from.'

© Vidyun R Hebbar, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021

Global Platform

The two Grand Title winners were selected from 19 category winners that celebrate the captivating beauty of our natural world with rich habitats, enthralling animal behaviour and extraordinary species. This year's competition saw three new categories added, including 'Oceans -The Bigger Picture' and 'Wetlands -The Bigger Picture' to shine a spotlight on these crucial ecosystems. In an intensive process, each entry was judged anonymously by a panel of experts for its originality, narrative, technical excellence and ethical practice.

Displayed alongside insights from Natural History Museum scientists and experts, the 100 images will be showcased in spectacular lightbox displays at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Museum, opening on 15 October 2021, before touring across the UK and internationally to venues in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, USA and more.

The fifty-eighth Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition will open for entries from photographers of all ages, nationalities, and levels on Monday 18 October 2021. The international jury of industry experts has been announced, and the entry fee for photographers entering from 50 countries will be waived.

Associate sponsors for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London are renewable energy company Ørsted and non-alcoholic spirits brand Seedlip.


Exhibition at Natural History Museum, London

Opens Friday 15 October 2021 and closes Sunday 5 June 2022.

The exhibition is open Monday – Sunday, 10.00-17.50 (last admission at 16.30), and weekends sell out quickly.

Adult tickets £17.25*, concession tickets £13.75*, and child £10.25* (*Prices including optional Gift Aid donation to the Museum.)

Book your tickets: www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/wildlife-photographer-of-the-year 


Fifty-eighth Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition

Opens for entries on Monday 18 October 2021.

Closing for entries at 11.30am GMT on Thursday 9 December 2021.

Entrants to the adult competition may enter up to 25 images for a £30 fee, which increases to £35 in the final week of the entry period from 11.30am GMT 2 December to 11.30am GMT 9 December.

An entry fee waiver has been introduced for photographers entering the adult competition who live in these 50 countries.

Entrants aged 17 and under may enter up to 10 images for free. • Find out how to enter: www.nhm.ac.uk/wpy/competition

South Kensington exhibition sponsors

About Ørsted

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Ørsted develops, constructsand operates offshore and onshore wind farms, solar farms, energy storage facilities, and bioenergy plants, and provides energy products to its customers. Globally, Ørsted is the market leader in offshore wind and it is constructing the world’s biggest offshore wind farms off the East Coast of the UK. Its UK offshore wind farms generate enough clean electricity for over three million UK homes. Ørsted ranks as the world’s most sustainable energy company in Corporate Knights' 2021 index of the Global 100 most sustainable corporations in the world and is recognised on the CDP Climate Change A List as a global leader on climate action. Headquartered in Denmark, Ørsted employs 6,179 people, including over 1000 in the UK. Ørsted's shares are listed on Nasdaq Copenhagen (Orsted). In 2020, the group’s revenue was DKK 52.6 billion (EUR 7.1 billion).


About Seedlip

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Seedlip connects people to the wonders of nature, through the world’s first non-alcoholic spirits with distilled botanicals. Solving the dilemma of ‘What to drink when you’re not drinking ®’ Seedlip offers a sophisticated alternative for non-alcoholic options & is served around the world in over 40 countries. Available in three expressions, Seedlip Garden 108 captures the essence of the English countryside with sophisticated top notes of peas & hay blended with herbs (Rosemary, Thyme & Spearmint). Seedlip Spice 94is aromatic with strong spice (All Spice Berries & Cardamom) & citrus (Lemon & Grapefruit peel) top notes & a long bitter finish from the highest quality barks (Oak & Cascarilla). The latest addition to the range is Seedlip Grove 42, a celebration of the Orange; an adult, citrus blend of distillates including three varieties of Orange and uplifting spices (Lemongrass & Ginger).Seedlip is best mixed with tonic or as the base for non-alcoholic cocktails. Seedlip contains zero alcohol, zero sugar, zero calories and is free from allergens and artificial flavours.

For more information, please visit www.seedlipdrinks.com, Facebook at www.facebook.com/seedlipdrinks/, or Instagram at @SeedlipDrinks

Media contact

For access to high-resolution images or to arrange interviews with photographers, jury members, or Museum spokespeople, please contact Josephine Higgins at the Natural History Museum Press Office.

Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5106

Mobile: +44 (0) 7799 690151

Email: wildpress@nhm.ac.uk

About Wildlife Photographer of the Year:

Wildlife Photographer of the Year was founded in 1965 by BBC Wildlife Magazine, then called Animals. The Natural History Museum joined forces in 1984 to create the competition as it is known today. The competition is now run and owned by the Natural History Museum, London.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 31, edited by Rosamund Kidman-Cox and witha foreword by Chris Packham, is published by the Natural History Museum and will be on sale as of 14 October 2021, priced £25.

About the Natural History Museum:

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited natural history museum in Europe. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.

It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens. The scale of this collection enables researchers from all over the world to document how species have and continue to respond to environmental changes -which is vital in helping predict what might happen in the future and informing future policies and plans to help the planet.

The Museum’s 300 scientists continue to represent one of the largest groups in the world studying and enabling research into every aspect of the natural world. Their science is contributing critical data to help the global fight to save the future of the planet from the major threats of climate change and biodiversity loss through to finding solutions such as the sustainable extraction of natural resources.The Museum uses its enormous global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet -to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome over five million visitors each year; our digital output reaches hundreds of thousands of people in over 200 countries each month and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 30 million people in the last 10 years.