2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners and finalists

The winners and finalists for the 2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, put on by the Natural History Museum, were recently announced. Over 50,000 images were submitted from 95 countries. French underwater photographer Laurent Ballesta was declared the Overall Winner for his image of camouflage groupers gathering during mating season.

‘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,’ says Rosamund ‘Roz’ Kidman Cox, editor and chair of the Jury.

An exhibition will begin October 15th at the Natural History Museum and embark on an international tour including the United States, Denmark, Canada, and Australia. All winning and finalist images can be viewed here.

Overall Winner: ‘Creation’ by Laurent Ballesta (France)

About this Image: 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.

Gear and Specs: Nikon D5, 17–35mm f2.8 lens at 17mm, 1/200 sec at f11, ISO 1600 Seacam housing Seacam strobes, 1/200 sec at f11, ISO 1600 Seacam housing Seacam strobes.

Young Grand Title Winner 2021: ‘Dome Home’ by Vidyun R Hebbar (India)

About this Image: Exploring his local theme park, Vidyun found an occupied spider’s web in a gap in a wall. A passing tuk-tuk (motorised rickshaw) provided a backdrop of rainbow colours to set off the spider’s silk creation.

Tent spiders are tiny – this one had legs spanning less than 15 millimetres. They weave non-sticky, square-meshed domes, surrounded by tangled networks of threads that make it difficult for prey to escape. Instead of spinning new webs every day, the spiders repair existing ones.

Gear and Specs: Nikon D5000, 85mm f3.5 lens, 1/250 sec at f5, ISO 200 Manfrotto tripod.

Winner: ‘The Spider Room’ by Gil Wizen (Israel/Canada)

About this Image: 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.

Gear and Specs: Canon EOS 7D, 14mm f2.8 lens, 1/250 sec at f11, ISO 400 Macro Twin Lite flash.

Winner: ‘Road to Ruin’ by Javier Lafuente (Spain)

About this Image: Javier illustrates the disregard we show for the natural world with his aerial shot of an artificially straight tarmac road slicing through this wetland landscape.

The Odiel Marshes, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, are the second largest wetland in southern Spain and the country’s most important tidal wetland. The area where the mouths of the Odiel and Tinto rivers meet is home to more than a hundred species of birds including flamingos, spoonbills, hoopoes and black-winged stilts, with ospreys and bee-eaters among many migratory visitors.

The road was constructed in the 1980s and is mostly used to provide access to a beach. It divides the wetland reserve in two and has altered the drainage of the tidal marshes and lagoons while disturbing the wildlife that lives there.

Gear and Specs: DJI Mavic 2 Pro, Hasselblad L1D-20c, 1/500 sec at f2.8 (+0.3 e/v), ISO 100

Winner: ‘Elephant in the Room’ by Adam Oswell (Australia)

About this Image: 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 organisations 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.

Gear and Specs: Nikon D810, 24–70mm lens, 1/640 sec at f2.8, ISO 1250.

Winner: ‘Chimp Check-up’ by Brent Stirton (South Africa)

About this Image: Vets perform a health check on a rescued chimpanzee.

The chimps are likely to have lived lives of isolation and suffering. Most are malnourished and sick, and may be carrying infectious diseases. This youngster lost its hand to a snare. A varied diet aids recovery and the centre provides fruits, vegetables and beans purchased from local farmers, supporting the surrounding community.

Gear and Specs: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 16–35mm lens, 1/160 sec at f2.8, ISO 3200.

Winner: ‘Grizzly Leftovers’ by Zack Clothier (United States)

About this Image: 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.

Gear and Specs: Nikon D610, 18–35mm f3.5–4.5 lens at 25mm, 1/160 sec at f10 (-1.7 e/v), ISO 1000 two Nikon SB-28 flashes self-made camera-trap system.

Winner: ‘Head to Head’ by Stefano Unterthiner (Italy)

About this Image: Reindeer are widespread around the Arctic, but this subspecies occurs only in Svalbard. Populations are affected by climate change, where increased rainfall can freeze on the ground, preventing access to plants that would otherwise sit under soft snow.

Stefano followed these reindeer during the rutting season. Watching the fight, he felt immersed in ‘the smell, the noise, the fatigue and the pain’. The reindeer clashed antlers until the dominant male (left) chased its rival away, securing the opportunity to breed.

Gear and Specs: Nikon D5, 180–400mm f4 lens at 400mm, 1/640 sec at f4, ISO 3200.

Winner: ‘High-flying Jay’ by Lasse Kurkela (Finland)

About this Image: 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.

Gear and Specs: Nikon D5, 14–24mm f2.8 lens, 1/800 sec at f4 (+0.7 e/v), ISO 6400 Vello remote control.

Highly Commended: ‘The Great Swim’ by Buddhilini de Soyza (Sri Lanka/Australia)

About this Image: Five male cheetahs strain against the current of the raging Talek River in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve.

A period of relentless, unseasonable rain at the end of 2019 caused the worst flooding local elders had ever known. Cheetahs are usually strong swimmers, but the unusually turbulent water of the flooded river posed a serious threat.

Dilini spent hours watching nervously from the opposite bank as the coalition, led by the lead male, searched for a suitable place to cross. Calmer stretches of water were likely to conceal lurking crocodiles while the more rapid parts could drag the cheetahs downstream with ease.

‘Suddenly, the leader jumped in,’ Dilini says, followed loyally by the other four. The strong torrents and underwater currents dragged the cheetahs almost 100 metres downstream.

Eventually, and to Dilini’s relief, all five cheetahs made it safely to the other side.

This group is known as the Tano Bora, or ‘magnificent five’ by the Massai. It is rare to see a coalition as large as this, as male cheetahs are usually solitary or work in pairs, so this group have earned themselves fame on the world stage.

As a changing climate impacts weather patterns worldwide, this unique pack of cheetahs is likely to face more of these perilous situations.

Gear and Specs: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 100–400mm f4.5–5.6 lens at 400mm, 1/2000 sec at f5.6, ISO 640.

Highly Commended: ‘A Distressing Matter’ by Michael Watson (United Kingdom)

About this Image: A young grey seal cries out in pain as lengths of plastic fishing rope cut deeper into its body.

Michael was photographing a seal colony along the Lincolnshire beach when he heard the agonising screams of the seal. The unlucky animal probably became entangled in this rope when it was just a pup, and it has cut deeper and deeper into its body as it grew.

Michael says, ‘The suffering and pain can be seen on its face as it screams in pain.’

He and two other photographers quickly called the local Wildlife Trust and Seal Sanctuary to free the seal and treat its wounds so that it could be released safely.

The Donna Nook National Nature Reserve on the Lincolnshire coast in the UK is a major breeding colony, with more than 2,000 pups born every year.

Gear and Specs: Canon EOS-1D X Mark I, 500mm f4 lens, + 1.4x extender 1/320 sec at f10 (+1.67 e/v), ISO 1000 Gitzo tripod + Wimberley head.

Highly Commended: ‘Stardust’ by Christian Spencer (Australia)

About this Image: 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 colours of the rainbow, creating a shimmer.

Gear and Specs: Canon EOS Rebel T6i, 18–135mm f3.5–5.6 lens at 59mm, 1/3200 sec at f20, ISO 100 tripod.

Author: Go to Source
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