The Current of Life

Laurent Ballesta's Image

Thousands of convict surgeonfish congregated to spawn in a narrow channel leading to the South Pacific Ocean – and sharks gathered to feed on them. Laurent photographed the fish scattering as the last rays of sun lit their billowing eggs. He spent four years diving around this remote coral reef observing its marine life.

The phenomenon pictured takes place every new moon at sunset, concluding in under an hour. In order for their eggs to be swept away into the ocean by the current ripping out of the lagoon, convict surgeonfish will run the risk of being eaten by grey reef sharks. Far from the shallows, the eggs are protected from a wealth of small predators.

Behind the lens

Laurent Ballesta

Laurent Ballesta


Laurent has authored 13 photography books on underwater wildlife. As co-founder of Andromède Océanologie, he has been leading major expeditions for 10 years. He illustrates the underwater world as both a naturalist and an artist - whether that be capturing the first pictures of a coelacanth taken by a diver at a depth of 120 metres, documenting 700 sharks off Fakarava hunting at night or photographing the deepest and longest dive in Antarctica.

Image details

  • Nikon D5
  • 20–35mm f2.8 lens
  • 1/250 sec at f8  •   ISO 800  •   Seacam housing  •   Under Water strobes
  • Fakarava UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia
Copyright in WPY competition photographs remains the property of the respective photographers. You may not copy, share, reproduce or republish the photographs except as expressly permitted by copyright law. For media image usage enquiries, please contact us.

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