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‘Enigmatic image' sees French biologist named Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Laurent Ballesta has been praised for his underwater image of groupers.

A French biologist and underwater photographer has been named as this year’s Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Laurent Ballesta was selected as the winner of the competition following the submission of his “enigmatic image” Creation, which captures camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia.

Over the past five years, Mr Ballesta and his team returned to the lagoon, diving day and night so they did not miss the annual spawning that only takes place around the full moon in July.

Image entered into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest
Reflections by Justin Gilligan, which won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Plants and Fungi Award (Justin Gilligan/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Image entered into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest
A gorilla image by Majed Ali won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Animal Portraits Award (Majed Ali/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Image entered into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest
Elephant in the room by Adam Oswel won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Photojournalism Award (Adam Oswel/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Image entered into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest
Sunflower songbird was awarded the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year:11-14 Years Award (Andres Luis Dominguez Blanco/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

His image was selected from more than 50,000 entries from 95 countries and was named the winner at a virtual awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum in central London.

Chairwoman of the judging panel, writer and editor Rosamund “Roz” Kidman Cox, said: “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.”

Image entered into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest
This image by Joao Rodrigues won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles Award (Joao Rodrigues/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Image entered into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest
Bedazzled by Alexander Mustard won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Natural Artistry Award (Alexander Mustard/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Image entered into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest
Spinning the cradle by Gil Wizen won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Behaviour: Invertebrate Award (Gil Wizen/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Image entered into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest
Head to head by Stefano Unterthiner won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Behaviour: Mammals Award (Stefano Unterthiner/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

Meanwhile, Vidyun R Hebbar was named Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 at the ceremony.

The 10-year-old’s colourful image, Dome home, shows a tent spider as a tuk-tuk passes.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Dome home by Vidyun R Hebbar (Vidyun R Hebbar/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

The two winners were chosen from 19 categories in total which aim to celebrate the natural world.

Three new categories were introduced this year, including Oceans – The Bigger Picture and Wetlands – The Bigger Picture.

Image entered into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest
Shane Kalyn’s image of two ravens won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Behaviour: Birds Award (Shane Kalyn/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)
Image entered into the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest
High-flying jay by Lasse Kurkela won the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year:15-17 Years Award (Lasse Kurkela/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

A total of 100 images from the competition will be on display at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

It opens on October 15 before touring across the UK and internationally.

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