20 Stunning Images That Won The Hearts Of The Judges Of The ‘Wildlife Photographer Of The Year 2021’

Published 3 years ago

The 57th edition of the ‘Wildlife Photographer Of The Year’ competition received around 50,000 entries from 95 countries around the world.  This contest is organized by The Natural History Museum every year and it awards the best pictures from a wide branch of photography that includes wildlife from land, water, and air.

This year, the grand prize was won by a French underwater photographer and biologist, Laurent Ballesta for his stunning picture “Creation” that captured camouflage groupers coming out of their milky clouds of eggs and sperms in Fakarava, French Polynesia. Scroll below to see this mystifying picture, some other photos that won in different categories, and a few highly commended mentions.

More info: nhm.ac.uk

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#1 Adult Grand Title Winner 2021. Underwater: ‘Creation’ By Laurent Ballesta

Image source: Laurent Ballesta

“For five years Laurent and his team returned to this lagoon, diving day and night to see the annual spawning of camouflage groupers. They were joined after dark by reef sharks hunting the fish. Spawning happens around the full moon in July, when up to 20,000 fish gather in Fakarava in a narrow southern channel linking the lagoon with the ocean. Overfishing threatens this species, but here the fish are protected within a biosphere reserve.”

#2 Category Winner. Photojournalism: ‘Elephant In The Room’ By Adam Oswell

Image source: Adam Oswell

“A group of visitors watch and take photos as a young elephant performs tricks underwater at a zoo in Thailand. Adam uses his photo to draw attention to the crowd watching, rather than the elephant itself, bringing into question this form of tourist entertainment. Shows like this one are often promoted as educational and advertised as good exercise for the animals, but rights organizations are concerned for the welfare of the elephants involved. The training for this type of show usually starts with the removal of a calf from its mother and uses fear and pain-based punishment.

An increase in elephant tourism over the last few years combined with the low birth rate of elephants in captivity has driven a rise in poaching young calves from their mothers. There are now more captive elephants in Thailand (possibly 3,800) than wild ones (fewer than 3,600). Around the world, animals are held captive and deprived of their natural way of life in order to serve as entertainment in zoos and touring shows. As Judge Staffan Widstrand pointed out, ‘It could have been any one of us there in the audience, from anywhere in the world, at pretty much any zoo.’

Since the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused tourist enterprises across every continent to grind to a halt, leaving many elephant owners without the income needed to keep the animals. Consequently, many sanctuaries have been overwhelmed with abandoned elephants.

How you can help

-Question the places you visit as a tourist. Are the animals being looked after? Avoid visiting places that make money from exploiting the natural world.

-Talk to your friends and family about their impact as tourists.

-Support initiatives which are helping to protect elephants in their natural habitats.”

#3 Category Winner. Photojournalist Story Award: ‘Flying Rescue’ By Brent Stirton

Image source: Brent Stirton

“Virunga National Park pilot Anthony flies two orphan chimpanzees to safety at the rehabilitation centre. The babies were rescued from traffickers following a tip-off from locals. Baby chimps have little meat value but are often sold as pets or for animal shows. At this stage they are unlikely to survive without specialist care, needing formula milk and regular balanced meals.”

#4 Category Winner. Behaviour: Mammals: ‘Head To Head’ Bystefano Unterthiner

Image source: Stefano Unterthiner

#5 Category Winner. Animal Portraits: ‘Reflection’ By Majed Ali

Image source: Majed Ali

“Majed trekked for four hours to meet Kibande, an almost-40- year-old mountain gorilla. ‘The more we climbed, the hotter and more humid it got,’ Majed recalls. As cooling rain began to fall, Kibande remained in the open, seeming to enjoy the shower. Mountain gorillas are a subspecies of the eastern gorilla and are found at altitudes over 1,400 meters in two isolated populations – at the Virunga volcanoes and in Bwindi. These gorillas are endangered due to habitat loss, disease, poaching, and habitat disruption caused by human activity.”

#6 Category Winner. Rising Star Portfolio Award: ‘Family At Ease’ By Martin Gregus

Image source: Martin Gregus

“Polar bear cubs are born in winter and may suckle for two years. Once accustomed to Martin’s boat-based camp, the bears often lingered close by. Judging the mother and cubs were untroubled by his presence, Martin left the boat and crept closer. Keeping a respectful distance, he was near enough to hear the cubs suckling and purring, ‘an unbelievable sound, like little helicopters buzzing away’.”

#7 Category Winner. Urban Wildlife: ‘The Spider Room’ By Gil Wizen

Image source: Gil Wizen

“After noticing tiny spiders all over his bedroom, Gil looked under his bed. There, guarding its brood, was one of the world’s most venomous spiders. Before safely relocating it outdoors, he photographed the human-hand-sized Brazilian wandering spider using forced perspective to make it appear even larger. Brazilian wandering spiders roam forest floors at night in search of prey such as frogs and cockroaches. Their toxic venom can be deadly to mammals including humans, but it also has medicinal uses.”

#8 Category Winner. Behaviour: Birds: ‘The Intimate Touch’ By Shane Kalyn

Image source: Shane Kalyn

“It was midwinter, the start of the ravens’ breeding season. Shane lay on the frozen ground using the muted light to capture the detail of the ravens’ iridescent plumage against the contrasting snow to reveal this intimate moment when their thick black bills came together. Ravens probably mate for life. This couple exchanged gifts – moss, twigs and small stones – and preened and serenaded each other with soft warbling sounds to strengthen their relationship or ‘pair bond’.”

#9 Category Winner. Portfolio Award: ‘The Nursery Mouth’ By Angel Fitor

Image source: Angel Fitor

“A female yellow sand cichlid releases its fry from the shelter of its mouth. After spawning, a female carries the eggs in its mouth for about three weeks as the fry develops. Once they are ready to swim, the fry is released. From that moment onward, parents will shelter the fry in their mouths when they need rest or protection.”

#10 Category Winner. 15-17 Years: ‘High-Flying Jay’ By Lasse Kurkela

Image source: Lasse Kurkela

“Lasse wanted to give a sense of scale in his photograph of the Siberian jay, tiny among the old-growth spruce-dominated forest. He used pieces of cheese to get the jays accustomed to his remotely controlled camera and to encourage them along a particular flight path. Siberian jays use old trees as larders. Their sticky saliva helps them glue food such as seeds, berries, small rodents and insects high up in the holes and crevices of the bark and among hanging lichens.”

#11 Category Winner. Animals In Their Environment: ‘Grizzly Leftovers’ By Zack Clothier

Image source: Zack Clothier

“Zack decided these bull elk remains were an ideal spot to set a camera trap. Returning to the scene was challenging. Zack bridged gushing meltwater with fallen trees, only to find his setup trashed. This was the last frame captured on the camera. Grizzlies, a subspecies of brown bears, spend up to seven months in torpor – a light form of hibernation. Emerging in spring, they are hungry and consume a wide variety of food, including mammals.”

#12 Highly Commended. 10 Years And Under: ‘Lockdown Chicks’ By Gagana Mendis Wickramasinghe

Image source: Gagana Mendis Wickramasinghe

“Through the long days of a lockdown in 2020, Gagana watched a pair of rose-ringed parakeets raise their young inside a dead tree left standing outside his family home in Colombo. From his balcony, Gagana captured the moment three chicks peeked out of their nest. Rose-ringed parakeets are native to South Asia and parts of central Africa. Feral populations of these bright green birds have also become established in cities around the world, where they may compete with local species for nesting sites.”

#13 Highly Commended. Plants And Fungi: ‘The Fantastical Rainforest’ By Daniel Rosengren

Image source: Daniel Rosengren

“From a plane, Daniel noticed this almost perfectly round hole in the ground. Inside, huge trees were thriving – a lush mix of palms, broad-leaved trees and climbers – like a ‘full-blown rainforest in a bowl’. Chiribiquete National Park boasts an exceptional diversity of native wildlife but it is threatened by deforestation and mercury pollution from gold mining. Thanks to public and political mobilisation, the park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2018, becoming Colombia’s largest protected area.”

#14 Highly Commended. Natural Artistry: ‘Stardust’ By Christian Spencer

Image source: nhm

“A black jacobin hovers in front of the morning sun and as the light penetrates its wings the feathers become ‘filled with rainbows’. Christian used the high clouds as a secondary filter to reveal this prism effect, otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Hummingbirds have the fastest wingbeats in the bird world – up to 90 beats per second. As light passes through the narrow gaps in-between feathers, it is split – or diffracted – into the colors of the rainbow, creating a shimmer.”

#15 Highly Commended. Animals In Their Environment: ‘Snow Leopard Summer’ By Xiaoyun Luo

Image source: Xiaoyun Luo

“Following a tip-off from local yak herders, Xiaoyun began a daily six-hour round trip to this mountain site. On the ninth day he spotted a snow leopard and three cubs sleeping among rocks. While observing the leopards with his drone, Xiaoyun noticed the remains of a blue sheep on which they had likely just fed. Snow leopards are a vulnerable species. However, the illegalisation of firearms in China in 1989, along with hunting bans in key provinces, seems to be helping stabilise population numbers.”

#16 Highly Commended. Photojournalism: ‘A Caring Hand’ By Douglas Gimesy

Image source: Douglas Gimesy

“This orphaned grey-headed flying fox pup was about three weeks old when it was found on the ground, probably after a fall, and taken to the Black Rock Animal Shelter. After a week of round-the-clock care, the youngster started to recover. Female grey-headed flying foxes carry their pup during foraging flights for the first three weeks, after which they leave them behind. Young are capable of flying at three months old but are not weaned until five to six months”

#17 Highly Commended. Plants And Fungi: ‘Mushroom Magic’ By Juergen Freund

Image source: Juergen Freund

“On a summer’s night Juergen searched the rainforest for bioluminescent ghost fungus. Scanning the darkness for the strange glow, faint to the naked eye, he was rewarded with this magical sight: clusters of ghost fungus seeming to climb the base of a dead tree. The bioluminescence of ghost fungus results from a chemical interaction between a compound known as luciferin and the luciferase enzyme in the presence of oxygen. The function of this glow remains a mystery to be solved.”

#18 Highly Commended. Oceans – The Bigger Picture: ‘Death Of A Reef’ By David Doubilet

Image source: David Doubilet

“David has been diving here for more than 30 years. His images show coral ‘through the lens of time and climate change and are likely to become records of a vanished world. Coral colonies are formed by thousands of tiny animals called polyps, each secreting calcium carbonate to build its own home. Polyps are fuelled by food produced by the algae living within their cells. When corals are stressed by overheating they become bleached, expelling their algae and turning white”

#19 Highly Commended. Urban Wildlife: ‘Lynx On The Threshold’ By Sergio Marijuán

Image source: Sergio Marijuán

“After months of waiting, Sergio’s carefully set camera trap finally gave him the picture he wanted: a young Iberian lynx perfectly framed in the doorway of an abandoned hayloft on a farm in Spain. Lynx were widespread on the Iberian Peninsula before the early 1900s. Hunting and habitat loss pushed this species to the brink of extinction by 2002, when fewer than 100 lynx could be found in Spain. Today, thanks to ongoing conservation efforts, numbers of Iberian lynx are on the rise.”

#20 Highly Commended. 11-14 Years: ‘Apollo Landing’ By Emelin Dupieux

Image source: Emelin Dupieux

“Flower-filled meadows full of fluttering Apollo butterflies surrounded Emelin’s family’s holiday cottage. Discovering the butterflies’ resting spot in wooded hills above the meadows, Emelin achieved his dream of photographing ‘the magnificent Apollo’. Found at high altitudes across the mountains of Europe, Apollo butterflies are vulnerable to climate change because their life cycle relies on snow. Snow forms an insulating layer over the butterflies’ eggs, preventing them from freezing, which means that reduced snowfall can impact the butterflies’ survival.”

Saumya Ratan

Saumya is an explorer of all things beautiful, quirky, and heartwarming. With her knack for art, design, photography, fun trivia, and internet humor, she takes you on a journey through the lighter side of pop culture.

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best wildlife photography, nature photography, photography contest, wildlife photography awards 2021, winning images
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