Jelly from the dark side

Laurent Ballesta's Image

Laurent Ballesta (France) endures below-freezing dives to reveal the diversity of life beneath Antarctica’s ice.

Deep below the ice, a helmet jellyfish pulses by Laurent. Exposure to direct sunlight is lethal for it, so it stays in the darkness. Far above, bathed in seeping light is Laurent's team, their tiny silhouettes just visible here.

One of just a few bioluminescent true jellyfish, known as scyphozoans, the helmet jellyfish can emit blue or blue-green light to warn off predators.

Behind the lens

Laurent Ballesta

Laurent Ballesta


Laurent has authored 13 photography books on underwater wildlife. As co-founder of Andromède Océanologie, he’s 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 images 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 D4s
  • 17–35mm f2.8 lens
  • 1/20 sec at f8  •   ISO 800  •   Seacam housing  •   2x Seacam strobes
  • Adélie Land, Antarctica
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.

More images from Laurent Ballesta

View all

Support our important work

Help us harness the power of photography to advance scientific knowledge, spread awareness of important issues and nurture a global love for nature.

Donate now

Discover more

Sign up to our newsletter

Receive email updates about Wildlife Photographer of the Year news, events, science, products, services and fundraising activities. We may occasionally include third-party content from our corporate partners and other museums. We will not share your personal details with these third parties. You must be over the age of 13. Privacy notice.